The Christian life isn’t easy. In fact, we are promised that if we want to reign with Christ, there is a price – suffering (2 Cor. 4:10-11). Consequently, when we suffer, it often feels like our world, along with our faith, is coming apart. We become convinced that something is terribly wrong, either with us or our attempts to draw close to God in faith.
Our despair makes us vulnerable to the allurements of false teachers like the Quaker Mystic Richard Foster:
· Often we assume we are in contact [with God] when we are not…Often people will pray and pray with all the faith in the world, but nothing happens. Naturally, they are not contacting the channel [to God]. We begin praying for others by first centering down and listening to the quiet thunder of the Lord of hosts. Attuning ourselves to divine breathings is spiritual work, but without it our praying is vain repetition. Listening to the Lord is the first thing…(Celebration of Disciplines, 34)
Such teaching serves to undermine our confidence in the Lord. Foster insists that if our prayers go unanswered, it means that we are not in contact with our Savior. Once Foster is able to convince us that we are missing out, we become vulnerable to adopting his set of unbiblical techniques.
Meanwhile, Scripture assures us that everything we need to serve the Lord is contained in Scripture:
· All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; ESV)
If Scripture is able to make us “complete, equipped for every good work,” then to teach that we also need additional techniques and gimmicks is to violate Scripture. In this sense, Foster is adding to Scripture (Deut. 4:2) by claiming that his techniques are necessary to make contact with God.
In contrast to Foster, Paul warned “to not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Similarly, Isaiah 8:19-20 taught that we must go to God’s Word for our guidance:
· And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
If we want to glorify God, we must speak according to His Word:
· Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles [the Word] of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:11)
There are no scriptural warnings about not having the right prayer techniques. Instead, Jesus warned against the use of various pagan gimmicks:
· “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
Gimmicks should not be of any concern. Why not? Because, the “Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Therefore, the techniques are of no consequence. Besides, He will give us beyond what we ask for:
· Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
God is able to compensate for us when we pray wrongly (Romans 8:26). Well then, what does God want from us if prayer is not about using the right techniques? Knowing and trusting in our Savior and not in gimmicks:
· "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD…But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” (Jeremiah 17:5-7)
· What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)
· "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.’” (Rev. 3:7-8)
Gimmicks will not open the door to God’s grace. God is not looking for techniques but for “truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6). He wants to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:
· "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Nowhere does Scripture require the popular mystical techniques of repeating one word, visualizations, imaginations, analyzing dreams, changing our brain-states, practicing silence, or listening intently for the voice of God. Instead of such practices, Scripture instructs to know and obey His Word:
· Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3)
· “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (John 14:21)
Instead of gimmicks, it is God’s Word that must direct our prayers and worship. However, we must always put God and His Word first in our lives:
· But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
He will provide for our needs and honor us as we honor Him. No room for gimmicks here!