Loving God with Our Minds

Last night I heard the tail end of a televised sermon by some preacher I didn’t recognize. What caught my attention was one line. In essence, he said we need to put our minds on hold and believe God with child-like faith.

Well, sure, I know the last part of that statement is true, but put our minds on hold?

If that’s what Jesus meant when he said “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it {at} {all}” (Mark 10:15, NASB), then why did he say we need to love God with all our mind?


– Luke 10:27 (NASB – boldface emphasis is mine)

True, Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament (thus the “all caps” in this translation), but plenty of times in the book of Matthew, He said, You have heard it said …, but I say to you ….

The fact that Jesus left this “love God with all your mind” statement (also quoted in Matthew 22:37) alone implies He agreed with the passage He was quoting.

But last night on the TV screen standing before an audience drinking in his words as he supposedly expounded on Scripture, this preacher was telling those listening to disengage their minds.

Actually that rang a bell.

Several weeks ago, I read about “centering prayer,” a practice that apparently is becoming more and more common. And why wouldn’t it? There are people who teach the technique in workshops and training programs, and there are writers who write about the “discipline.”

Here’s what Mike Morrell said about centering prayer in “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?”:

Part of the ‘inner reflex’ is [sic] Centering Prayer is letting go. For 20 minutes twice a day, it’s a continuous letting go of thoughts and emotions that well up inside – kind of like a fisherman catching fish but not to eat – just for fun. He’s sitting in a boat (the mind) and his pole rests in the water (the field of consciousness). Little fish (thoughts, ideas, emotions) come up and nibble on the line (ordinary awareness) – the fisherman doesn’t shoot the fish with a revolver or cut the line. Instead, he pulls the little fish up, but doesn’t keep them in the boat – it’s catch & release.

Catch and release, catch and release, gently, graciously – because you recognize that even the lake is situated in a much larger ecosystem (God). You can let go because the earth is abundant; you will be fed. Centering Prayer is a journey of trust in God, even on the unconscious level, where all kind of mis-trustful thoughts bubble up to the surface.

While the practice as described above comes closer to Buddhist meditation, it’s cousin, Christian existentialism, isn’t much different:

[Adele Ahlberg] Calhoun [in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, InterVarsity Press] tells us to select a simple word or phrase from Scripture that expresses your desire for God. She gives examples of love, peace, grace, Jesus, great Shepherd. Let this word guard your attention. …

During this time, become quiet. You will probably have many thoughts rushing through your head at first simply because you are thinking about a time limit and getting back to your day. However, you must remain quiet and let these thoughts go. Keep repeating the phrase from above until they do. Calhoun says, “Be with Jesus. Listen. Be Still.”

“Prayer disciplines part 2-Centering Prayers” by Frank Jenkins

So I wonder, if Jesus thought this was a good way to pray, why, when His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, didn’t He give them this model?

And why are we so quick to run to some other source to learn how to enhance our relationship with God than the one He gave us?

Like all false teaching, there is an element of truth in some of the descriptions of centering prayer, thus giving it the sheen of spirituality, but when I look in Scripture to see what God says about prayer, I find that He wants our minds engaged when we meet with Him.

Published in: on February 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. I’m wrestling with the ‘centering prayer’ issue. I think there must be a way for Christians to ‘quiet their minds’ safely. Christ often went off by himself, so there must be merit to it. I also recognize there are health benefits associated to quieting the mind…raising serotonin and dopamine, relieving stress. Since I tend to over think, I do have to tell my mind to be quiet…to quit playing God and just be quiet, wait on the Lord, have faith.


  2. Becky,
    I’m running across some really weird ideas in my reviewing lately. Seems like a lot of folks have become dissatisfied with the Bible…somehow it’s not enough. They want no absolute truth, they want no accountability…they just want to feel loved, feel good and just be…scary stuff! Thanks from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to explore and uncover this bizarre change going on within co-called Christian circles. I’m beginning to get a really clear picture of the deception talked about in Revelation. It is just happening all around us.

    Thanks again for speaking truth!


  3. I don’t know about ‘centering prayer’, sounds a bit new-agey to me, but contemplative forms of prayer have been around in the history of the church and in Bible times. But if one wants to try it I’d look at examples from the Bible and Church history (St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross) rather than anything inspired by Buddhism and Eastern religions.

    And, as you said, when Jesus taught us to pray, it was the Lord’s prayer he taught, not ‘centering prayer’.


  4. Jessica, I don’t think any believer will dispute the benefit of getting alone with God, or even “quieting our hearts.”

    This “centering prayer” is something disparate. From what I’ve read, the Christian version is no different from Zen meditation, except instead of chanting ohm or some other mindless sound, the Christian chants something about Jesus.

    I don’t see how that differs from what the Gentiles did in Jesus’s day—the ones He used as an example to teach His disciples what NOT to do: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7).

    Of course, those who use “centering prayer” aren’t expecting to be heard. They are trying to make themselves an empty vessel. They want to look within and find God there.

    I don’t see anything comparable taught in Scripture. This kind of mindless meditation is an invention of man. Scripture talks about setting our minds on things above and looking unto Jesus and treasuring His word in our hearts and meditating on the law day and night. No emptying in prayer or meditation.



  5. Kim, sadly, you’ve uncovered what I believe is driving much of the false teaching—a desire to be out from under the authority of God, His word, the Church. No one wants to hear about the wages of sin or even the immediate consequences. God, they want to believe, is all about peace and love. Everything else, he just needs to butt out.

    Nissa, “new-agey” is exactly right. The idea of “centering prayer,” can be traced back to ancient Christian writings. However, those who most recently renewed the practice were influenced by Eastern thought:

    The Trappist monk and influential writer Thomas Merton was strongly influenced by Buddhist meditation, particularly as found in Zen — he was a lifetime friend of Buddhist meditation master and Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, and was also an acquaintance of the current Dalai Lama.

    – Wikipedia

    There’s an excellent, though somewhat lengthy, article (written more than 10 years ago!) about it at Catholic Answers. Here’s a taste:

    Centering prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself.



  6. I read a fabulous book on how the occult is stealing our children. The author, whose name I’ve forgotten, was formerly a highly-ranked spiritualist. She actually had a degree in the stuff before her conversion to Christianity.

    And she said…that emptying the mind is a pagan practice that actually prepares it for demon influences. This is as compared to meditation on all that is good, decent, right, and holy as scripture commands us.


  7. […] I read about various kinds of prayer—new postures and different types, not so different from the centering prayer I learned about back in January, but most definitely different from the prayer model Jesus gave His […]


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