Twisted Scripture Number 1: Psalm 46:10 Does NOT Teach The Mysticism of Contemplative Prayer

Twisted Scripture Number 1

Psalm 46:10

By Brannon Howse


The Scripture: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The Twist: “Be still, and know that I am God” is used to declare that believers need to be involved in what’s called “contemplative prayer,” or “breath prayers,” or “centering prayers,” or “soaking prayers.”


The cover of Be Still, a DVD produced in 2006, included this: “Be still and know that I am God, Psalm 46:10.” And what is this DVD about? It’s about contemplative prayer; it’s about breath prayers or centering prayers or soaking prayers. Among those appearing on the DVD are popular Christian teachers Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Richard Foster, but the reason to be concerned about how some of these leaders might twist scripture doesn’t begin with this DVD. There’s a track record behind what they have to say.

     In his best-selling book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster proclaims that through the use of one’s imagination a person can actually see and talk to Jesus Christ:


As you enter the story, not as a passive observer but as an active participant, remember that since Jesus lives in the Eternal Now and is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice and be touched by His healing power. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; it can be a genuine confrontation. Jesus Christ will actually come to you.[1]


     Nowhere in the Bible are Christians instructed to use their imaginations to physically see and hear from the Lord. Yet Foster believes “as with meditation, the imagination is a powerful tool in the work of prayer.”[2]

     Foster embraces the “if you can conceive it, you can achieve it” philosophy of shamanism when he writes:


Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ‘see’ in our mind’s eye a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing it will be so.[3]


Foster even believes you can use your imagination to be involved in what sounds like astral projection or astral travel:


In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere….Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence. Listen quietly, anticipating the unanticipated. Note carefully any instruction given.[4]


Note carefully any instruction given? So people are to listen for an audible voice? I wonder who or what would be talking to them. Could it be demons? Foster actually warns of the possibility that those who practice contemplative prayer could encounter demons. In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, he cautions:


I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know… there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection…“All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”[5]


Foster admits he was influenced by Agnes Sanford:


The advice…[of] prayer through the imagination…picture the healing…and much more, was given to me by Agnes Sanford. I have discovered her to be an extremely wise and skillful counselor….Her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit is an excellent resource.[6]


     Sanford taught many pastors and self-professing Christians her philosophy of prayer, but it is clearly steeped in paganism. For example, Sanford recounts:


Wise men of India for many centuries have trod the lofty peaks of meditation, developing their psychospiritual powers and giving birth to their oversouls. Spirits of those [dead] for whom we have prayed on earth are working through us….One conveys that healing force to the inner being [of the sick] through the law of suggestion….He [the person doing the healing] has made a thought-track between his spirit, subconscious mind and body; and the body, the subconscious mind and the spirit of the patient….[7]


     Shamanism and Eastern mysticism are twin sisters, and Foster seems to have little problem with the latter when he writes:


No doubt part of the surge of interest in Eastern meditation is because the churches have abrogated the field. How depressing for a university student, seeking to know the Christian teaching on meditation, to discover that there are so few living masters of contemplative prayer and that nearly all of the serious writings on the subject are seven or more centuries old. No wonder he or she turns to Zen, Yoga, or TM.[8]


     Foster thinks we need spiritual “masters” in our churches? What he fails to say is that once mysticism and the supposed need to gain personal revelations from God are embraced, a new need arises for “masters” who are better at navigating the spirit world. Pagan societies have always had such persons. They are called “shamans.” Eastern religion calls them “gurus.” Deceived Christians call them “spiritual directors.”

     One reason so many churches now have “spiritual directors” that teach “spiritual formation” or “soul care” is that too many church leaders have read Richard Foster’s book. They buy his contention that “in the Middle Ages not even the greatest saints attempted the depths of the inward journey without the help of a spiritual director.”[9]

     People like Richard Foster are particularly known for promoting what is called contemplative prayer. He promotes this idea of entering into the silence and having a physical, literal encounter with God. But we are not supposed to seek mystical experiences to encounter God. There was a time when God spoke through His prophets and the apostles. There were times, as we will see in this study, where the Lord appeared to people, and He spoke to them. But these people weren’t involved in a New Age or occult experience to encounter God. God came to them—often when they were least expecting Him.

But we don’t need to be listening for an audible voice from God today. He speaks to us today through His Word. The Bible is sufficient. We don’t need an audible voice, and we’re not to seek an audible voice because we are not going to hear an audible voice from God. The canon is closed. And people make a big deal about this. God did not speak during the four hundred years between the completion of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. When it became time for the New Testament to be written, the Lord spoke once again—this time through His apostles. Between the Old and New Testaments, God did not give new revelation. After the completion of the New Testament, God again, in this Church Age, has ceased giving new revelation. He still speaks, but not audibly. God speaks to us through His Holy Word.

Why do people have such a difficult time accepting that God is not giving new revelation today? Because for many of them, the Bible is not good enough. Yet 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares:


All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


So, although we’re not to be seeking an audible voice, Richard Foster and many others teach this—and it’s completely unbiblical. This mysticism is also practiced by people in the New Age movement or those involved in Hinduism through participating in transcendental meditation or kundalini yoga. The entities they encounter are demons. Self-professing Christians that practice transcendental meditation—also known as contemplative prayer, breath prayer, centering prayers, or soaking prayers—are not encountering God or hearing from God but are hearing from demons taking on the guise of Jesus or God.

The Bible declares in 1 Corinthians 10:20:


Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.


Many people today think they’re encountering God, but they are having a conversations with demons.

I have some friends who were involved in the New Age movement but who became believers. And after becoming believers, they told me that they would go into silence, and these entities (or master guides or spirit guides) would speak to them. The guides often had different names and different personalities, but these people who are now believers recognize that they had been talking to demons.

Sadly, in this twisting of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” is made to say that “We need to be still and listen for God’s voice, the still small voice of God.” Although I’ll talk more about the meaning of “the still small voice of God” in the next chapter, for now let me be perfectly clear. Psalm 46:10 has absolutely nothing to do with praying. Let’s set up the context, so we can grasp what this verse is saying. (Most of the time, people take a verse and rip it out of context without studying the verses before or after it to understand the situation addressed by the text.) Psalm 46:4 reads, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God.” And what city are we talking about? Jerusalem. This scripture is talking about Jerusalem, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

Now notice Psalm 46:7: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” And Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Then verse 11: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” So, the entire context is talking about Israel. The theme is a proclamation of comfort to Israel.

You know what else it is? It’s a proclamation of warning to Israel’s enemies. That’s what’s going on here in Psalm 46, a proclamation of comfort to Israel. God is their refuge. He will defend them. He is going to protect them. But it is also a warning to Israel’s enemies. Psalm 46:10 is a proclamation that God is in control; God is sovereign.

What does “sovereign” mean? It means complete authority. God has complete authority. God is in complete control. God rules completely–with all authority and control.

God is not caught by surprise. Some people believe in what’s called open theism, that God doesn’t know the future or chooses not to know the future, and, therefore, God is sometimes surprised: “Oops, I didn’t know Brannon was going to do that.” “Oops, I didn’t know that king or that leader was going to do that. Hmm, now what do I do?”

No, God is not caught by surprise. He is all-knowing. He knows the beginning from the end. He is sovereign. He rules with complete authority. And that is what Psalm 46:10 means by “Be still, and know that I am God.”—I am sovereign; I am in control. This is a warning again to Israel’s enemies, but it’s also a word of comfort to Israel for protection. But it’s not a verse that should be construed to say, “Now, we need to be still and enter the silence. Be real still and quiet. Enter the silence, and let’s listen for that still small voice of God.” That’s not the meaning of Psalm 46:10. Don’t buy the twist.


Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. 

[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: Harper, 1978), 26.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 36.

[4] Ibid., 27, 28.

[5] Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), 157.

[6] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 36.

[7] Agnes Sanford, cited in Hunt and McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity, [NEED LOCATION, PUBLISHER, AND DATE], 127.

[8] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 14.