Contemplative prayer is a type of prayer that I believe is an invention of Satan to keep the church from true and correct prayer, and therefore, from following God’s will and from enjoying true intimacy with Him. The basic teaching behind contemplative prayer is that God (the Christian, personal God) is in all things and all people—even non-Christians. They believe that He is located at the very center of every person.
Thomas Merton, one of the chief founders of contemplative prayer wrote, “…At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth…This little point…is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody.”
Contemplative prayer, therefore, is the attempt to contact God at the center of our being and contemplate Him with our soul. The method of contemplative prayer is much like the Raja Yoga and TM, except that Christian words are used for the mantra. Thus they believe that if the sacred words are Christian words it will become a Christian prayer. And so, this is how they justify using a Hindu method. They would say it is just a technique or a tool of prayer. If one uses the name of a Hindu god you will get a Hindu god; but if you use a Christian word you will get Christ.
Of course the Christian must disagree with using this method of prayer. Even if Christian words are used, this method of the mantra is wrong. It is using vain repetitions, which Jesus spoke against in Matthew 6:7.
The reason contemplative prayer uses the same breathing exercises and the mantra as Yoga and TM is because it is after the same result—to empty the mind. And they do this because they say that it is not the mind that must contemplate God; it is the soul. For this reason, they say that the mind must be empty so the soul can be free to contemplate God within them.
I understand, but disagree with what they are saying, because I believe that the mind is part of the soul—that the soul is made up of the mind, the affections and the will. And so I disagree that the mind must be empty. The mind should never be empty. When we contemplate God with our soul we also do it with our mind. Therefore, when we pray we must think and feel and pray in words—words that express our thoughts and feelings. This is the natural and right way to pray.
Another difference from Yoga and TM is that in these the belief is in pantheism—that everything is god (the impersonal god). Hence, they seek to find their own impersonal divine essence. In contemplative prayer, however, they believe in a personal God whom they believe is in everything (this is called panentheism). They seek to find this personal God inside of them and to contemplate Him with their soul.
This post is an excerpt from my books Joy of Prayer and Prayer A to Z.