On teaching spiritual darkness

False teachers and false movements abound. Some do lasting damage. Some false teachings are short-lived. But there is one deceptive “prayer” practice in particular that continues to infect the visible church.

This is contemplative prayer. The practice has a powerful teacher-advocate who has brought contemplative darkness to young believers for two decades. This is Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer. In Fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit: 5 Practical Phrases, Bickle gives instructions on how to experience contemplative prayer–which he calls “communing prayer.” [1]

Like all Christian contemplatives, Bickle works hard at presenting contemplative prayer as biblically acceptable. He attempts to make a distinction between mysticism and what he is teaching. “Eastern mysticism is the counterfeit of this glorious reality,” he insists. [2]

In reality, contemplative prayer, Bickle’s “glorious reality,” is just as deceptive and spiritually unhealthy as Eastern or New Age meditation. Perhaps more so.

Bickle tells his listeners, “We have to quiet our soul, to dial down, to connect with God who leads us mostly by the whisper.” [3]

But….the Lord does not lead us mostly by “the whisper.” Our primary means of guidance is the Word of God in conjunction with the Holy Spirit:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:11)

I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. (Psalm 119:16)

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors. (Psalm 119:24)

According to Bickle’s teaching notes:

As we linger in His presence, speak affectionately (intermittently saying to God, “I love You”). Speak slowly (not rapid fire), softly (not shouting at the indwelling Spirit), briefly (short phrases not paragraphs, even reducing phrases to one word) and minimally (listen twice as much as talking by limiting our speaking to one-third) with many pausespraying with our spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2) along with gently sighing (Rom. 8:26) with gazing in silence for few seconds or minutes. [4] (Emphasis in original)

Note that the conference attendees are taught to “Speak slowly (not rapid fire), softly (not shouting at the indwelling Spirit), briefly (short phrases not paragraphs, even reducing phrases to one word)…” (Emphasis in original)

Contemplative teachers in the Christian camp will not advise believers to focus on a repetitive Eastern style mantra like “Ommm” (for example), but rather on a word or phrase like “Jesus” or “Abba Father,” or a scripture verse. In this way, the contemplative prayer appears “Christian” but nevertheless serves as entrance to the silence.

As with Eastern and New Age meditation, the “Christian” mantra serves to still active thought. This void, this blanking of the mind, results in entrance into the meditative state.

The silence of contemplative prayer is rich ground for false visions, lying “Christs,” and supernatural experiences. This practice can addle or alter theology, and often seems to lead to an inability to distinguish between Catholic teaching on Salvation and the Truth of the Bible. It has also served as a road to interspirituality.

Mike Bickle has even stated he wants Fire Within, a book promoting the teachings of Catholic contemplatives Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, to be the “manual for IHOP-KC.” Fire Within is written by the contemplative, Catholic priest, Father Thomas Dubay.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, (2 Ti 4:3)

Jocelyn Andersen writes that Mike Bickle “claims that God is restoring contemplative prayer to the church. He goes on to claim that contemplative prayer is a God-ordained means of entering into the fullness of God, and that the brightest lights in church history have been Roman Catholic mystics who lived during the dark ages. He went on to say the western church had much to learn from these mystics.” [5]

Long time IHOP-KC leader Dana Candler is the author of Deep Unto Deep. A reviewer writes, “[Deep Unto Deep: The Journey of His Embrace] is inspired by the journal of Dana Candler who spends most of her time in contemplative prayer in KC, Mo. at the Int. House of Prayer.” [6]

In Communion With God: Deep Unto Deep, Candler states, “Contemplative prayer is the way into the Ocean of Divine Love. It is the way that this fire of intimacy ignites within our being. In this love communion, the tremendous experience of God in the inner man takes place. Until this inward fire is ignited, stewarded, and released within us, we will walk as dead men. For we are only alive in the realm of love.” [7]

Contemplative prayer, Candler writes, “is the great missing element of the prayer ministry in the Church today: touching the very core of what the New Covenant is about. This very reality brings the highest transformation in this age.” [8]

What Candler has unknowingly asserted is that the gospel is not enough–we are “dead men” until we experience the “transformation” through contemplative prayer. She, of course, would not see it this way at all. To the contemplatives, this deceptive meditative trance-state is what Jesus intended for us all along.

Since Candler is not only a teacher and leader, but has been influential in missions, are some IHOP-KC missionaries teaching contemplative practices?

If we are to believe Fire Within, Mike Bickle’s desired “manual for IHOP-KC,” we need the Catholic, contemplative teachings of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross to understand some biblical passages. Author Fr. Thomas Dubay quotes 1 Corinthians 2:9: But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Then, incredibly, Dubay writes, “Once again, without the teachings of saints like Teresa and John we would be at a loss to suggest what Paul actually had in mind. This, no doubt, is why the mere biblical technician can say so little about ideas like this one. It is only in the perspective of what the mystics say of the culmination of contemplation on earth that we come to see in concrete terms what the apostle had in mind.” [9] (Emphasis mine)

“[T]he mere biblical technician”…? For contemplatives like DuBay, Candler, and Bickle, traditional Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship are simply not enough to walk in close relationship with God.

Bickle states:

God is calling everyone. Everyone in the Body of Christ is called to live in the contemplative lifestyle—everyone. That’s one of the great strongholds we have to overcome. [10]

Fire Within, incidentally, was one of the prizes offered in an IHOP related contest some years ago! [11] Unfortunately, when it comes to contemplative prayer, it is people who are the prizes, and darkness is the winner.

Ray Yungen writes:

The question may arise–how can credible Christian organizations justify and condone meditative practices that clearly resemble Eastern meditation? … Christian terminology surrounds theses practices. It only takes a few popular Christian leaders with national profiles to embrace a teaching that sounds Christian to bring about big changes in the church. [12]

Make no mistake: Contemplative prayer is not fading away. Many have succumbed to it. Contemplative practices are undeniably foundational to the rising, false church.

Related: What in the world is contemplative prayer??

Source Notes:

1. 33 min 47 sec mp3

2. 8-11 minutes mp3

3. 29 min 28 sec mp3

4. Sermon Notes

5. Jocelyn Andersen’s article 

6. Goodreads review

7. COMMUNION WITH GOD: Deep Unto Deep, pg. 16 Here

8. Ibid., pg. 16.

9. Fire Within, pg.12

10. MIKE BICKLE Session 1 Contemplative Prayer: Journey into Fullness, Transcript: 07/19/01 Page 11

11. Facebook Contest, I’m going to Onething ’09

12. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, pg. 184

3 thoughts on “On teaching spiritual darkness

  1. According to eastern mystics, when teaching this practiceto their disciples,it makes NO difference what the sound is, it’s the repetitiveness that counts, and opens the “way in”. What these are doing isn’t just “like”, it is eastern meditation, opening the soul to all manner of spirits, none of which are Holy or Godly. It’s very like what gets labeled “Christian music” these days, another of the deceptions out there… It’s neither Christian nor “music”; at best it should be called “amusic”, just like its slightly more honest secular counterpart. Again it’s the sound, not the words, that matter. Satan has many avenues and inroads these days.


  2. Very happy with this information about M.B. Because I am working on a list of Deceivers.
    And now I am trying to write down some specific characteristic of these persons.
    And now I can start with the knowledge you send me about M.B.May the Lord bless you.


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