Christian Living

The Dangers of Centering Prayer

Beware the Risks of Clearing Your Mind

Several years ago, my spiritual director recommended I consider centering prayer as a spiritual discipline. About the same time, a dear friend was exploring this technique as well.

The goal of centering prayer is to connect us with God. It’s more about hearing from him then him hearing from us. The idea of connecting with God more deeply on a spiritual level appealed to me. I read the recommended book that taught about centering prayer.

The process the author outlined unfolded as an involved series of steps to follow with exacting precision. As I recall, it would take several minutes, up to an hour each time I tried.

Vital to centering prayer is the instruction to clear your mind. The writer admitted that it would take a few months of concerted effort to achieve the desired results. And even then, the sought-after spiritual outcome might not always occur.

Just reading the book exhausted me.

Instead of approaching my Creator with joy, the prescribed approach would rob me of my delight in connecting with him. I decided not to pursue centering prayer. The whole thing didn’t feel right to me, but it wasn’t until later that I understood why.

Now I have a bit of insight as to why this spiritual practice felt misaligned with Scripture.

Take Every Thought Captive

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul teaches them about spiritual reality. He reminds them that their battle is not in this world but in the spiritual realm. Among his instructions to this congregation, he encourages them to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is the opposite of what centering prayer teaches when it says to clear your mind. Clearing your mind strikes me as the opposite of holding every thought captive, as God’s Word commands.

Always Be Alert

In talking about the future, Jesus tells his followers to always watch and pray. In doing so they will escape what is to come and stand before him (Luke 21:36).

How can we follow Jesus’s command to always watch and pray if we empty our mind of all thoughts? We can’t. We must be alert and watch.

A House Swept Clean

When Jesus’s opponents criticize him for driving out demons, he responds by teaching them about the subject. He wraps up with the hypothetical case of an impure spirit leaving its host. When it finds no place to go, it returns to the person it left, finding “the house swept clean and put in order” (Luke 11:24-28, NIV).

It then goes and finds seven more demons, even more wicked than it. They invade the person, leaving them in even worse shape.

I wonder if the idea of a “house swept clean” is the same thing as a clear mind. If clearing our mind opens us to receive God in the spiritual realm, might it also open us to receive other spiritual beings as well? To open us to unseen supernatural entities that don’t have our best interest in mind?

I don’t know if this is the case, but it’s a risk I’m unwilling to take.

Centering Prayer Conclusion

The idea of connecting with God on a spiritual level to hear him and fellowship with him is a worthy pursuit, which can produce an amazing outcome. But I don’t think centering prayer is the best way to do that.

The way I learned to hear from God is much easier to do and much more effective. As a bonus, I don’t need to clear my mind contrary to what Scripture teaches and risk opening myself to negative spiritual influences.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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