A friend of mine, Caryl Matrisciana of Caryl TV and producer of videos such as Wide Is The Gate recently answered a letter about practicing the presence and Breath Prayer, a contemplative prayer from eastern religions. Sadly, it is the same technique that Saddleback's Rick Warren, through his Pastor's Toolbox site, recently encouraged thousands of pastors to teach to their congregants. Here's why these New Age practices are so incredibly dangerous:
Q: Dear Caryl - We have a friend who recently left the catholic church and joined a community church that is into breath prayers. Is there a sensitive way to show her that this is really from the desert fathers and is part of the emergent church? She is like most people and will not read a lengthy article, but needs to know that using Biblical words as the breath prayer does not make it right. Thank you: Rick
A: Thanks Rick for your inquiry. I'm not sure there is a "sensitive way" as you ask, to tell someone they're involved in pagan rituals or gnosticism which have the power (through mind altering states) to give a supernatural experience.
Any such methodology to merge with the spirit world is in opposition to the Biblical prayer model God revealed in Scripture. Nowhere after Pentecost do we read of Paul encouraging believers in "breath" praying. Such is an option only given in Eastern mysticism through Hinduism's Yoga discipline.(see DVD YOGA UNCOILED: From East To West) The purpose of focusing on breath is to draw the practitioner into what is thought to be the "presence" of divinity. Biblically the only way to "abide" in God the Father is to enter through the Narrow Way of Jesus Christ Himself. (Mat 7:13)
With the resurgence of gnosticism, mysticism and Hindu/Eastern Meditation (Yoga) in our culture, and its entrance into even the Church, there is much confusion over "breath" prayers and "being in the presence" of so-called god". These are really nothing short of pagan ideology repackaged for Christian consumption in Bible language with so-called Christian terminology.
Yoga disciplines teach the practitioner to focus on breath as they inhale and exhale. This exercise results in a type of self-imposed hypnotism. Yoga, a Hindu prayer discipline, has the devotee imagining their breath going in and out and at the same time quietly repeating the names of Hindu deities who the Bible call demons.
Devotees repeat the sound of a "mantra" throughout the breath routine which is an essential prayer invocation derived from Hindu Vedic traditions (texts considered to be Hindu scripture). A mantra is believed to be a powerful sound, set of syllables, collection of phrases, words etc, that have capabilities to enhance spiritual transformation. This "holy sound" is given to the devotee by their master, god-man, guru or "enlightened one". The mantra is believed to have the power to connect the practitioner to the supernatural realm allowing the follower a spiritual experience (also known as "peace"), when the devotee "unites" with "one-ness" and is combined with external god-consciousness which the Hindu understands to be "divinity". Within so-called Christian rationale this mystical experience of merging with the presence is tantamount to experiencing so-called Jesus, called "practicing the presence" of Jesus, and often mentioned in the Contemplative Movement. Within Roman Catholicism a similar mystical type of experience is practiced. I often experienced this "feeling" when being in the presence of the Eucharist (consecrated bread). Within Roman Catholicism, in a doctrine called Transubstantiation, the bread (Eucharist) is believed to be changed into the actual body of Jesus Christ through a ritual performed by a priest during the Mass.. The Eucharist (host) is placed in a monstrance (a vessel) on the altar to be idolised and prayed to by repeating prayers on a Rosary (prayer beads) which would often lead me into a type of ecstasy while being in the "presence". (As a Biblical Christian I now understand this 'presence' to be a lying spirit , another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:4)).
In Yoga, "practicing the presence" is accomplished through the mystical method of repeating yogic breathing and yogic mantras for the purpose of ushering the devotee into "oneness" with cosmic consciousnesses, the eastern understanding of god or divinity, often referred to as the "divine spark", believed to be synonymous with all nature. The idea of god/divinity IN all is known as pantheism, that god is IN all that is material, but panentheism says the divine permeates everything including all eternity, concluding that all spirituality and all spirits are divine and acceptable. The Bible distinguishes between good and evil, claiming in James 1:17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The Creator God is the purity of all Holiness and Righteousness and is therefore the Only One able to be God without any variation of shadow. Since sin entered our world, everything, both nature and man are marred. Certain fallen angels who followed their master's lying voice are of the demonic realm who Jesus saw fall like lightning from heaven (Lk.10:18). These are the spirit guides who come to man's beck and call at his bidding and are demons and lying spirits not to be listened to. God's ministering angels, in obedience to Him only, do His bidding and are not available to the pleas of mere mortals. Jesus Christ on the other hand, Who is the believers High Priest is available and makes intercession for the saints according to God's Will (Heb.4:14 & Rom.8:27).
The yoga devotee, through the mind altering practice of yoga, hopes to get involved in a paradigm mind shift: shifting their old thinking (called ego) into an embrace of an alternative concept of "god within" l, and to be united with "the universal energy in everything". To accept this shift in thinking involves self-hypnotic "breath" meditation. Breath is understood to be the divine tool that created everything in the universe. OM is Hinduism's sound vibration, or breath, or syllable, understood to be the divine vibration at the center of all.
The supernatural "connection" between the yoga practitioner and the embrace of "one with god-consciousness" is attained in the idea that breath and sound combined have power. (This thinking shows itself in the ecumenical embrace of Roman Catholicism which has infiltrated the Contemplative Movement , the Emerging Church and Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer (IHOP) Movement under the umbrella of New Apostolic and Prophetic Reformations).
Eastern mysticism requires the stimulation of both the imagery of the hypnotic breath patterns and the repeating of sounds (e.g. OM) or other names of Hindu deities. Its philosophy teaches that breath is part of divine "energy" and that the "uniting" of one's breath with the encompassing all-around divine "energy" brings an "awakening" of inter-relatedness cosmic god-consciousness. Defined as an "energy" this god concept is contrary to the Biblical God Who is understood to be a Person with attributes of personhood. He is not merely an impersonal "energy" or "force" as in the Star Wars saying, "the force be with you".
The yogic method of "connecting" emotions within (and spirit) to everything that outwardly exists through a mind altering practice of repeated words or phrases, (also a Roman Catholic practise,) has now been embraced by mainline Protestant churches and even Evangelicalism, that justify this pagan ritual as appropriate because the repetition involves the use of names or verses from the Bible.
Such manipulation falsely implies pagan and Christian mysticism is Biblically acceptable when clearly the Bible speaks against being unequally yoked with demons. Today's mystics claim God's breath (His Holy Spirit) is behind the movement. Christian mysticism claims the Creator God Who breathed into Adam, Who made Adam a "living spirit" is the same spirit able to be connected to by anyone of any faith. Scripture clearly distinguishes God's Holy Spirit as One Who can only indwell a Born Again believer after repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Savior of sin Whose work of redemption took place on the cross. This Holy Spirit of God's Who indwells the Born Again sinner is a Person and not merely an impersonal breath energy as understood in eastern philosophy. (see DVD EXPOSING THE QUANTUM LIE: God is NOT in Everything)
The supernatural experience that results through any type of pagan mystical practice is misunderstood when it's labeled a so-called Christian experience just because God's Holy Word is the vehicle. Any attempts to sanctify repetitious pagan breath prayer are not found in the Bible. Many mistakenly think so-called Christian mysticism has the ability to "redeem" pagan practices because either the person claims to be a Christian or the practice uses phrases and names from the Bible but again this is not a Biblical premise but an ecumencial one that allows tolerance towards all faiths as equal. .God does not condone syncretism. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah. 5:20)
In eastern mysticism "breath" is understood to be part of "divinity" as a force and energy both within a person and part of a life-force in everything external. The Bible teaches a personal God breathed His Breath into Adam but God's breath did not make Adam God but gave Adam's spirit the potential of living in fellowship with His Creator for all eternity. After Adam sinned, he lost that privilege due to his disobedience. "For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom.6:23)
In His eternal mercy and grace, God gave mankind an opportunity to be reconciled to Him again for eternity despite Adam and Eve's eternal separation. The redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross became God's solution. 2000 years ago, God entered the body of flesh in Jesus Christ, Who paid the penalty of Adam's disobedience and gives all who believe in Him eternal life with God. "That whosoever believeth in him (Jesus Christ) should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:15) Eternal damnation in Hell was made for Satan and his fallen angels, not for man. But if mankind chooses to reject Jesus Christ and not repent of his sinfulness and God's solution he has brought his own judgment upon himself. "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:47-48)
Jesus Christ told His followers NOT to be involved in repetitious prayers. "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (Mat. 6:7) This pagan method of repeating names of God, or scripture, or any type of repetition must be tested against Scripture, which we are commanded to do in 1 John 4:1 - "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
The Roman Catholic church teaches the practice of repeated prayers for appeasement, indulgences and piety. Rick, It's easy to understand how your friend has moved from Roman Catholicism's prayer techniques to eastern mysticism's breath prayer consequently moving her into another wrong "presence". Sadly any type of prayer used as a conduit to enter "the presence" is unbiblical as you rightly point out. Be encouraged, there is hope for your friend through your presentation of the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16). With a Faithful God leading you and guiding your friend through Scripture, by the Grace of God, she'll understand there is only one way for her to communicate with a personal God and that is through the Person of Jesus Christ, not through breath prayer or any other type of self-effort or technique.