Praying Like Pagans
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” Matthew 6:7 (NIV)
On July 6, 1988, John Stephens, a relief tanker driver working for Bristol-based distribution firm ISC, arrived at Lowermoor Water Treatment Works on Bodmin Moor and found it unmanned. Being unfamiliar with the location, he had been given a key by another driver and instructed simply, ‘...once inside the gate, the aluminum sulphate tank is on the left.’ However, he was unaware that the key he was given fit almost every lock used by the South West Water Authority (SWWA). After twenty minutes of looking for the correct tank, Stephens tried the key on a manhole cover and when it unlocked, he believed that he had accessed the correct tank. He poured the load of 20 tons of aluminum sulphate, (used to remove solid particles from cloudy water), into the tank, which actually held treated water that was ready for distribution to the consumers in Camelford. This immediately contaminated the water supply to 20,000 local people and up to 10,000 tourists. The maximum recorded aluminum concentration was 620,000 micrograms per liter compared with the maximum concentration admissible at the time by the European Community of 200 micrograms per liter.
The sad thing is that within two days the water authority had identified the source of the contamination, but they lied to the public and told them the water was safe to drink. The SWWA district manager, John Lewis, said they had realized within 48 hours that aluminum sulphate was the likely cause of the contamination, but Lewis said he had been instructed by Leslie Nicks, the Head of Operations, not to tell the public. So, for two days they could truly claim ignorance on their claims that the contaminated water was safe to drink. However, when they realized the truth about the aluminum sulphate, their cover-up became a willful deception of the public and caused much more suffering and death.
“In 2006, a post-mortem inquest into the death of Carol Cross at age 58, who was exposed to the contaminated drinking water aged 44, showed that her brain contained 23 micrograms of aluminum per gram of brain, compared to the normal brain levels 0 to 2 micrograms per gram. It also revealed that she died of an unusual form of early-onset beta-amyloid angiopathy, a rare type of Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband believes that 20 other people have died as a result of the disaster and that more cases are emerging. Victim Sarah Sillifant, who was in her twenties when she was exposed, hanged herself in 2005 after suffering dementia and other symptoms similar to those experienced by Carol Cross.’ And a study published in 1999 concluded that hundreds of people who were exposed to the contaminated water at Camelford suffered considerable damage to cerebral function, which was not related to anxiety.”
I share this story because it is a perfect example of what has been going on in the church for many decades. The water of the teaching of God’s Word and even the ministry of prayer has been polluted by Christian leaders. Like the substitute tanker driver at Camelford, some of them may have the best of intentions, but either through ignorance, or negligence, or a faulty belief system, they have mixed eastern religious practices into the foundational spiritual disciplines of Christianity. As I have stated, they call it contemplative prayer or meditation, but any close examination of their “contemplative” practices reveals that they are nothing more than pagan techniques with Christian labels on them. Those promoting this counterfeit spirituality have been deceived and are now deceiving others. Whether they are doing it intentionally or ignorantly there will be serious adverse affects on those who drink in their teachings.
Here are two examples: In an article entitled Mystical Encounters for Christians, well-known Baptist author and minister Tony Campolo wrote,
“Believing the gospel was never a problem for me, but during times of reflection I sensed that believing in Jesus and living out His teachings just wasn’t enough. There was a yearning for something more, and I found that I was increasingly spiritually gratified as I adopted older ways of praying—ways that have largely been ignored by those of us in the Protestant tradition. Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola have become important sources of help as I have begun to learn from them modes of contemplative prayer. I practice what is known as “centering prayer,” in which a SACRED WORD is REPEATED as a way to be in God’s presence.”
The Charismatic prophet and author Jim Goll put it this way in an article that he wrote for Charisma Magazine in 2004:
“Contemplative prayer often has been relegated to ancient church history. But God is restoring it as a means to develop intimacy with Him. I have found that the most direct road to greater intimacy with God has come through the practice or discipline of an almost lost art in the fast-paced church of today--something called contemplative prayer. More than a decade ago this type of prayer came to my attention through some experiences God ordained, and since that time it has become one of the central features of my walk with God.”
He then goes on to quote Richard Foster and Roman Catholic mystics St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Madam Guyon. He also makes a reference to the Egyptian Desert Fathers and the “interior castle” which is a concept from Teresa of Avila. Notice that once again we see the connection and strong influence of Rome. I believe it is safe to say that Jim Goll can be placed firmly among those who advocate repetitive prayer and visualization.
As I stated in previous chapters, Jesus warned that the last days would be filled with deceivers who come in His name and that many people would be deceived. The Greek word for ‘deceived’ that Jesus used in Matthew 24 is ‘planao’ and it means to roam from safety, truth, or virtue (See Strong’s #4105). The Holy Spirit also warned us through the Apostle Paul that “…in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). Mr. Campolo is a good example of someone leaving the truth for Roman Catholic heresy. But, how does that happen? How can a person who knows the truth of God’s Word and Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, end up in deception and possibly even departing from the faith entirely? Where does this deception start?
The Apostle James told us where all deception begins when he wrote,
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22)
In other words, all deception begins when you hear the Word of God and choose not to obey it. That is where it started for Eve. She had to disregard God’s exact command and opt for Satan’s adjusted version. Thus, the moment a person chooses to disobey a Biblical command, they immediately open a door for seducing spirits to get hold of their mind.
Some people have a hard time accepting that their favorite preacher could be deceived in an area and need correction. These people have become too “man” oriented and just blindly follow their guy no matter what. Some even refuse to admit that their guy could fall or be in dangerous error because how God may have used their favorite minister in the past. They fail to realize that he or she may have been walking in truth and the anointing of the Holy Spirit back then, but now a few years down the road, they are way off of the Word of God and flowing in other spirits.
Here are just a few Biblical examples of people who started out godly and used by the Holy Spirit in powerful ways but then disobeyed God and opened doors to deceiving spirits. Of course Adam and Eve are our first and best examples. They were sinless and walked in perfect fellowship with God. They knew Him face to face. Their level of intimacy with the Lord was beyond what we can even imagine. The talked and fellowshipped with Him in person every day, but yet they chose to listen to Satan’s teaching on the forbidden tree instead of God’s very specific command. And in 1 Samuel 13-30, we see King Saul (who God gave a new spiritual heart, was anointed as king, and operating in the gift of prophecy) disobey God’s commands and then an evil spirit began to trouble him. That evil spirit then influenced Saul to kill eighty priests of the Lord and had him chase David to kill him for years. Saul even tried to kill his own son once while under the influence of that evil spirit. Another illustration of godly people falling into deception is the “prophets of the Lord” who compromised with Jezebel. Their compromise with that wicked woman opened the door for a lying spirit to deceive all of them into giving a false prophecy to King Ahab and King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18).
We are given a couple of examples with King David, the man after God’s own heart. In Deuteronomy 7:22-26, we see some very clear commands,
“And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed. And He shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them. The GRAVEN IMAGES of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor TAKE it unto thee, lest thou be SNARED therein: for it is an ABOMINATION to the LORD thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine HOUSE, lest YOU be a CURSED thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”
Nevertheless, when God delivered the King of Ammon into David’s hand, David disobeyed the Word of God and took the crown of the king of Ammon and put it on his own head. There is no doubt that this crown was defiled by the pagan symbols of the Ammonites, but even if it wasn’t, it represented the power and authority of a defiled pagan king. God had told His people to not even to desire the silver and gold on their objects. This particular sin of David allowed Satan to be able to provoke or push him to number (count) the people of Israel...an act of disobedience that brought the anger of God upon Israel (1 Chronicles 20-21).
Another time, David tried to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel in order to restore proper worship and the manifest presence of God (1 Chronicles 13). Unfortunately, he disobeyed the Word of God by putting the Ark on a new cart instead of the shoulders of the priests. The result was that Uzza (a good man) died and true revival was delayed. David’s intentions were good, but he did not pay close attention to God’s Word and he went about pursuing the presence of God the wrong way.
What about Solomon? God chose him to be king and gave him great wisdom and revelation. God even appeared to him twice. Nevertheless, he disobeyed God and married foreign women who were pagans. That disobedience eventually led him into some deep, dark deceptions. He started attending the rituals at pagan temples and his heart turned away from following the Lord.
We find in the New Testament that Judas opened the door to Satan through his issues with money and desire for his own agenda above God’s. This allowed Satan to put it into his heart to betray the Lord Jesus (John 13). And finally, Ananias and his wife Sapphira decided to disobey and disrespect God by being deceptive about their offering. Peter asked them, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” Then, both of them dropped dead in church (Acts 5).
Consequently, we see in both the New and Old Testaments that disobedience to the Word of God is a serious thing. Have we forgotten that Adam and Eve plunged the world into darkness and Satan’s power by one act of disobedience to a clear command of God? So, here’s a news flash: GOD HAS NOT CHANGED! He is still serious about His Word and about His people being diligent to obey it. If we do not then we deceive ourselves and give place to demons.
A Command from Jesus about Prayer
This brings me to the issue of prayer and how we should pray. God made it very clear in His Word how we are to pray and the things that should be avoided in prayer. One command that seems to be getting neglected and blatantly disobeyed by many Christians these days is this one:
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7 KJV)
“And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7 Amplified)
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NIV)
The Greek word in the Matthew 6:7 for ‘heathen’ is ‘ethnikos’ and means foreign, Gentile, or pagan (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #1482 & 1484). In other words, DO NOT PRAY LIKE PAGANS WHO USE REPETITEOUS WORDS OR PHRASES IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO CONNECT WITH GOD! This is a clear command by Jesus about prayer. It could not be any clearer. Yet we see many Christian leaders both in the Evangelical and Charismatic/Pentecostal churches teaching Christians to meditate and pray by getting still and quiet and then repeating a word or phrase until they have a spiritual experience. As I pointed out with Richard Foster, some are even coupling the using of repetitious words with using one’s own imagination to visualize Jesus, light, healings, etc. But no matter how you slice it, these practices are forbidden by the Word of God and are very dangerous. As you will see, they open up the practitioner to demons posing as angels of light.
The practice of repeating words, phrases, or sounds has been used in the prayers and worship of every pagan religion in the world. The term ‘mantra’ is the universally recognized name to describe a word, phrase, or sound repeated over and over in meditation/prayer. This practice can be traced back to the Vedic period in the second and first millennia B.C, continuing up to the 6th century B.C. Some of the earliest written records of this mantra meditation date to 1500 B.C. in Hindu Vedantism. Around 500-600 B.C., Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop these same meditative practices. So, when Jesus was referring to using “vain repetitions” and not praying LIKE the heathen do, His disciples completely understood what He was talking about because this had been a heathen practice for hundreds of years.
Let me be very clear again: Jesus said, “DO NOT PRAY WITH VAIN REPETITIONS LIKE THE HEATHEN (PAGANS) PRAY.” He did not say it is okay if you put His name on it, include scripture in it or He approves only if you are talking to Him in prayer. Remember, Jesus gave this command to people that He knew would be praying to Him and the Father. He told His disciples not to use vain repetitions in prayer LIKE the heathen. It is that simple. Don’t do it! He didn’t say to defend your disobedience by saying, “They have the counterfeit but we have the real thing.” No! Jesus said “When YOU pray to God, do NOT pray LIKE the heathen do!”
Let’s take a look at what is presently taught by the pagan yoga practitioners, gurus, and swamis about how they pray and connect with their “god” or the spirit world:
“Ancient Hindu meditative techniques, aim towards a totally DETACHED frame of mind. These forms encourage the practitioner to RETREAT within the INNER-SELF, into the "real" world, away from the "illusions" (maya) of outside influences. Meditative practices like Mantra yoga, for example, INDUCE THE MIND TO CONCENTRATE ON A SACRED SOUND BY RITUALISTIC CHANTING, until it attains the TRANCE-LIKE state of samadhi (a state of mind, where it is only responsive to subjective impressions).”
“MANTRAS ARE A COMBINATION OF WORDS, SOUNDS, AND PHRASES THAT WHEN CHANTED create positive physical, SPIRITUAL and PSYCHIC effects. The vibrations that are made when you chant mantras affect the chakras. Different mantras do different things. Some clear blocks and obstacles from your path, others help to open and clear chakras, OTHERS HELP YOU TO HEAR AND TO SEE THING ON A SPIRITUAL AND PSYCHIC LEVEL, some can help you to have OUT-OF-BODY experiences, remember dreams, clear karmic residue, etc. I love mantras because put in a simple way I feel there is a sound/vibration for everything and every need.”
“According to Hindu tradition, my personal belief system, mantras are prayers to God (enter your version of a higher spirit) to give the person the thing that he or she desires. IT HAS TO BE REPEATED MANY, MANY TIMES, becoming a part of your being and your spiritual self, AND THEN THE EFFECTS ARE SHOWN.”
In his article, Introduction to Meditation, Michael Castleman explains how to meditate, “Find a quiet place with a comfortable chair. Sit with eyes closed. Select a word or phrase — one, peace, ice cream — whatever. That’s your “mantra.” Silently repeat your mantra. Begin with a minute or two. Work up to 20 minutes once or twice a day. While meditating, try to empty your mind of other thoughts. Assume a passive, accepting, nonjudgmental attitude. When distracting thoughts intrude — they’re inevitable — notice them, accept them, then dismiss them as you refocus on your mantra.”
In another type of meditation, breath meditation, there is no mantra. Practitioners focus on their breath. The other steps remain the same. Beyond deep relaxation, after a while, the relaxation response and all other types of meditation — including prayer — produce something extra, a feeling of wholeness that lingers long after you resume normal activities. Religious meditators describe this as ‘feeling the divine presence.’
In mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process (such as the breath; a sound, such as a mantra, koan or riddle-like question; visualization; or an exercise). The meditator is usually encouraged to maintain an open focus…
Concentration meditation is used in many religions and spiritual practices. Whereas in mindfulness meditation there is an open focus, in concentration meditation the meditator holds attention on a particular object (e.g., a repetitive prayer) while minimizing distractions; bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object…In a form of meditation using visualization, such as Chinese Qi Gong, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy (Qi) in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed…Bahá'í practices are meditative. One of these is the daily repetition of the Arabic phrase Alláhu Abhá (Arabic:) (God is Most Glorious) 95 times preceded by ablutions. Abhá has the same root as Bahá' (Arabic: "splendor" or "glory") which Bahá'ís consider to be the ‘Greatest Name of God’.”
In the Jewish form of occult mysticism called Kabbalah, students are taught the exact same techniques to connect with “God” that are found in Buddhism, Hinduism, and all the other pagan religions. They are taught to recite or chant the divine names, together with breathing techniques and visualization. Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1240) was the founder of the school of “Prophetic Kabbalah.” He strove for spiritual experience which he considered similar or even identical to that of the ancient Jewish prophets. Abulafia taught that the mystic should chant certain letters in conjunction with certain breathing patterns and then enter into steps of “mental imagery.” Basically, these visualization exercises are practiced until the student reaches the final stage and starts having spiritual experiences such as visions of light, trembling, or feelings of intense pleasure and delight.
Of course we expect these types of practices in pagan religions, but what about the church? In a sermon entitled, Breathe, Pastor Rob Bell blends Yoga with his version of Christianity. He said,
“[In Yoga] it's not how flexible you are, it's not whether you can do the poses, it's not how much you can bend yourself, it's can you keep your breath [breathes in and out] consistent [breathes out] through whatever you are doing. And the Yoga Masters say this is how it is when you follow Jesus and surrender to God. If it's your breath being consistent, it’s your connection with God regardless of the pose you find yourself in. That's integrating the divine into the daily.”
Now compare Bell’s teaching to that of Deepak Chopra, an Indian doctor and leading teacher of Yoga and New Age practices,
“In the yogic tradition, the breath is intimately associated with prana, a Sanskrit term that means "primordial impulse" or "life force" . . . the vital energy that animates every molecule in the universe. Pranayama – the formal practice of regulating the breath – allows us to calm, cleanse, or invigorate our body-mind. In fact, many master yogis believe that pranayama is the essence of yoga. There are many pranayama techniques you can use to enhance your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. One of the most valuable practices is simply staying conscious of your breath as you practice your yoga postures. By focusing on the breath, the mind becomes more clear and quiet.”
Consequently, we see that all of these pagan religions focus on their breathing or repetitious words or phrases in their prayers/meditation. And they state that the purpose of using these techniques is to connect with the “divine energy” or until they “…feel the divine presence.” And all of these false religions from Buddhism to Islam testify of experiencing bliss, peace, heat, or even having a visions or healings through these meditation techniques, but these manifestations are not from the One True God and Creator Jesus Christ. They are demonic “angels of light” sent to further deceive the person engaging in these things. We can be sure that ANYONE using pagan techniques (that Jesus said NOT to use) has entered the realm of satanic deception and has opened a door for demons to get a stronghold in them.
As Christians, we should not accept every feeling, vision or healing as being from God. In fact, we are commanded to test the spirits to see if they are really from God (1 John 4:1). This does not mean that our Lord Jesus doesn’t manifest His presence and power in ways that can be felt or perceived by our senses...it just means that we have to beware that powerful deceiving spirits are in the world. This is why Paul told the Christians at Ephesus not to “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27) clearly implying that Christians COULD give place to the devil. And this is why Jesus gave His disciples a command not to use vain repetitions in prayer—He knew it would give place to the devil and his deceptions.
Mike Bickle’s Polluted Prayer Movement
As we saw from the Scriptures through the examples of King Saul, King David, King Solomon and others, disobedience or disregard for anything in the Bible leads to deception and giving place to demons. And it does not matter how famous, anointed, gifted, educated or well-intentioned a person might be: NO ONE IS IMMUNE to falling into error. This brings me to one of the main Christian leaders who is encouraging thousands of young Christians and adults to use vain repetitions and visualization in prayer. His name is Mike Bickle and he is the founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and the Forerunner School of Ministry. He is the former pastor of the Kansas City Prophets during the 1980s and 1990s, has authored several books.
But before I go any further, I want to state clearly that I believe that Mike Bickle has good intentions. Also, I am not saying that everything that he teaches is wrong or that everyone associated with IHOP is a false prophet or a false teacher. They are more than likely just deceived and think they are doing the right thing. However, just because some good may come from a ministry does not mean we should ignore things that are wrong.
Let’s remember, Peter had been an apostle much longer that Paul. Peter had done some great miracles and led many people to Jesus Christ. He was the one who walked on water and whose shadow had healed the sick. However, when Paul saw that Peter “...walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14), Paul rebuked him in front of everyone and then shared it in a letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul did not take Peter off privately and have a talk with him. No...Peter’s public misrepresentation of the gospel had to be corrected publically for the sake of those who had been misled. In the same way, Mike Bickle’s errors of mantra prayer and visualization must be confronted because he is opening up a generation of sincere (but naïve) Christians to demonic spirits and counterfeit spiritual experiences.
Let’s look at a couple of excerpts from Mike Bickle’s sermons. These are taken directly from his website mikebickle.org. I placed the bold font in these quotes to emphasize where he is clearly encouraging the use of vain repetitions of a single word or phrase in prayer and focusing on your breathing which he calls “sighing”:
“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 pauses, praying with our spirit (1 Cor.14:2) along with gently sighing (Rom. 8:26) with gazing in silence for few seconds or minutes…“Less is more” in terms of amount and volume of speaking.”
In this second sermon excerpt, he shares how he has been doing this as far back as 1996 though I have discovered that it goes back even further. Here it is in his words:
“Just after midnight on November 30, 1996, I was touched by God’s presence in an all-night prayer meeting as I continued to speak one statement. From about midnight until 5:00am I said, “Jesus, You are so beautiful.” Every time I said it, I felt a surge of His presence on me. I said, “Body of Christ, open your gates to the beautiful God.” The prayer meeting was over at 5:00am. I went back to the church at 9:00am that day and said, “You are the beautiful God” for another two hours. Again, every time I said it, I felt a surge of His presence on me. I was struck by how clearly the Spirit was bearing witness with His presence to me about declaring Jesus’ beauty.”
Did you see that? He spoke one statement for about five hours in prayer. I had my wife time me for 30 seconds saying “Jesus You are so beautiful” over and over. We counted that I was able to say the phrase 17 times in 30 seconds. So, considering that Mike Bickle may have done it slower, I reduced it to 12 times in 30 seconds. That means that Bickle repeated the same statement in prayer around 7,200 times. Then he went back to the church and repeated another statement over and over for two more hours. That means that he repeated this mantra another 2,880 times.
He talks about how he felt a “surge of His presence” every time he repeated the phrase. However, we have to ask: why would Jesus and His Holy spirit reward someone with a touch of the genuine manifest presence of God when they are clearly disobeying a direct command of Jesus in the Bible? Did not Jesus say, “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 NKJV). Thus, I would have to judge Bickle’s experience here by the Word of God and say that it was a counterfeit “presence” or feeling and not the Holy Spirit. Also, considering that he has had close association with the counterfeit gifts and spirits working through Bob Jones and other false prophets and ministers, I can see where he would be open to other deceiving spirits. And for those of you who want to start screaming, “Don’t judge...you can’t judge, judge not…” the Bible says, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other JUDGE” (1 Cor. 14:29). Therefore, according to the Bible, we are supposed to judge doctrine (what is being taught) and any kind of prophetic revelation or spiritual experience.
One of the reasons, we have to judge spiritual experiences so closely by the Word of God is because many people (saved and unsaved) who practice this Hindu/Buddhists type of meditation have all kinds of spiritual experiences and physical feelings going through their bodies. Just because we get a good feeling from something or something supernatural happens, we can’t automatically assume it is from God. For example, in an article entitled, Signposts of Progress in Meditation: Part II: Mystical Experiences, Swami Adiswarananda Ramakrishna of the Vivekananda Center in New York said of his own experiences in meditation,
“One sees light, feels joy, and experiences the upsurge of a great current in one's chest, like the bursting of a rocket.” Regarding mystical experiences, Swami Svetasvatara Upanishad mentions the following: "When yoga is practiced, the forms which appear first and which gradually manifest Brahman (what Hindus call their idea of the supreme God or Divine energy in the universe) are those of snow-flakes, smoke, sun, wind, fireflies, lightning, crystal, and the moon."
In other words, while practicing meditation the aspirant sees within, one after another, the visions of a snowfall, radiant smoke, and the brilliant sun. Then he feels within him a strong current of wind, followed by intense heat.”
Another swami also talks about creating your own spiritual experiences through meditation. In his book, Yoga and Meditation: Their Real Purpose and How to Get Started the author Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp), has many chapters on the repetitious use of mantras in meditation and states,
“Its ultimate purpose, however, is to purify and raise our consciousness to a level in which we can directly perceive our real identity and the spiritual dimension. Then we can have our own spiritual experiences. This is what many people seem to forget or remain unaware of it. The point is that the more spiritual we become, the more we can perceive that which is spiritual. That is the real goal of yoga. As we develop and grow in this way through yoga, the questions about spiritual life are no longer a mystery to solve, but become a reality to experience. It becomes a practical part of our lives.”
Hence, we are told by two different Hindu/Buddhists swamis that a person can enjoy all kinds of feelings and spiritual experiences by chanting a phrase or word over and over in prayer. What they neglect to mention is that you open yourself up to demons that generate these encounters. Spiritual feelings and experiences are not the only test for truth and it amazes me that this is how Mike Bickle attempts to validate his mantra prayer. All religions have a supernatural element to them and we have been warned in the Bible not to fall for them. We have to stay true to the Bible and obedient if we want the real Holy Spirit of God to manifest in our lives. So, I am not fooled by Bickle’s claim that he could feel a surge of some “presence” go through him every time he repeated the same phrase over and over again…nor should anyone else be.
To further prove that Mike Bickle and his leaders at IHOP advocate the use of vain repetitions in prayer, all you have to do is look at some of the books they promote on their website and sell in their bookstore. Some of these books are required reading for IHOP staff or come highly recommended by Mike Bickle. One such book is The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry by Henri J. M. Nouwen published by Harper San Francisco 1991. I took this comment right off the IHOP bookstore website,
“Corey Russell, an instructor at the Forerunner School of Ministry recommends this book: ‘The two books in our bookstore that have most changed me are Knowledge of the Holy and The Way of the Heart.’ Nouwen's modern classic interweaves the solitude, silence and prayer of the fourth and fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers with our contemporary search for authentic spirituality. Christianity Today describes the book as "…hauntingly relevant for us today" Highly recommended by Mike Bickle.”
For those of you who do not know anything about the late Henri Nouwen, he was a Roman Catholic priest and prolific author who promoted this type of eastern meditation as the highest form of prayer until his death in 1996. He was a disciple of Thomas Merton and is recognized as one of the fathers of the heretical Emerging Church movement. Nouwen stated in his book The Way of the Heart (the book highly recommended by Mike Bickle) on page 81
,“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart…This way of simple prayer…opens us to God’s active presence.” Doesn’t this sound like Bickle’s teaching and spiritual experience that we just read about? There is no doubt that Nouwen got much of his inspiration from eastern religions and non-Christian teachers, much like his mentor Thomas Merton. Nouwen’s endorsement of a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran which teaches mantra meditation, further illustrates his compromise with paganism. On the back cover, Nouwen stated, “This book has helped me a great deal.”
In his writings, Nouwen claimed that he had visions of Jesus and Mary, but also of Ramakrishna and the Dalai Lama. His visions of Mary, Krishna, and the Dali Lama should throw up some red flags even to those of us who believe in having visions through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul warned us that Satan could “transform himself into an angel of light” and do signs and wonders in order to deceive us (2 Cor. 11 & 2 Thess. 2).
Nouwen also wrote extensively about his contact with “God” and experiencing God’s active presence through his contemplative meditations. However, the Bible tells us that for the true Christian the ‘active presence of God’ is the Holy Spirit moving in some way. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes to us that He would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). And in John 17:17, Jesus said that the Word of God is the truth. So, if Nouwen was constantly encountering the Holy Spirit in his meditations, then he would not have accepted visions of Mary, Krishna, or the Dali Lama as being from God. Neither would he have come to the unbiblical conclusion and serious error that a person did not have to know or confess Jesus Christ to be saved and go to heaven. Here is how he put it,
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”
Yet here is what the Bible says about needing to know and confess Jesus to be saved:
Jesus prayed to the Father, “And this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father (God), but by Me” (John 14:6).
“And this is the record that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (Jesus Christ). He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).
“That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9).
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And (Paul and Silas) said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31).
Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest who admitted to having homosexual inclinations, taught universalism (everyone is going to heaven whether they know Jesus or not) and pagan meditative practices. Tragically, his teachings are being promoted and pushed on thousands of unsuspecting young people and Charismatics by IHOP who claims to be a prophetic prayer movement that follows the Bible. Doesn’t this seem strange to anyone? Or are we so watered-down that we don’t care anymore? Do the leaders of IHOP ignore all of the dangerous errors of Nouwen because his writings sound deep and poetic? Is it because he had supernatural experiences and wrote so eloquently about unconditional love? Whatever the case may be, by promoting Nouwen’s books, IHOP has endorsed Henri Nouwen’s ministry and his unbiblical beliefs.
To the contrary and as I mentioned earlier in this book, the Apostle Paul put people out of the church that were teaching error and warned the church of others by naming them publically (1 Tim. 1:18-20 & 2 Timothy 2:15-18). The Bible has been proven as the inspired Word of God over thousands of years by manuscript evidence, archeology, historical references, and hundreds of fulfilled prophesies…so should we obey it or the teachings of some messed up priest? Obviously, the leaders of IHOP are confused about this.
Another one of IHOP’s leaders, Kirk Bennett, tries to justify his use of repetitious words and phrases in prayer by over simplifying the Hebrew definition of the word ‘meditate’ used in Joshua and Psalms. Actually, he changes the meaning completely. I discovered this when I purchased his manual on meditation from one of his conferences at a church in Georgia. It is entitled, Deepening Prophetic Revelation through Meditation. In it he admits to repeating the one word “holy” for a couple of days almost ceaselessly and how his prayer life was transformed from minutes to hours by this type of “meditation.” Of course that is not hard to do if you sit there and repeat the same word or short phrase for hours. Bennett also mentioned how much pleasure and joy he gets from this type meditation. But the Scripture says that God forsook His people for finding satisfaction with pagan practices from the east: “Therefore You have forsaken Your people the house of Jacob because they be replenished (filled and satisfied) from the east and are soothsayers like the Philistines, (operating in demonic prophetic ministry) and they please themselves in the children of strangers (like heretics Nouwen, Dubay, and Merton)” (Isaiah 2:6). Thus, a more fitting name for Kirk Bennett’s manual would be, “Deepening Demonic Soothsaying through Eastern Meditative Techniques.”
To Bennett’s credit, he does offer the full Hebrew and Greek definitions of the word meditate from the Strong’s Dictionary in his manual. The Hebrew word for meditate is hagah which is pronounced haw-gaw and means to murmur (in pleasure or anger); by implication to ponder (Webster’s defines ponder as a careful weighing of a problem and that would denote critical thinking not empty repetition of a word). The Hebrew definition further defines meditate with the words mourn, mutter, roar, speak, and STUDY which Webster’s defines as: to read in detail especially with the intention to learn. Never does the definition say to mindlessly repeat one word over and over for hours, nor do the Greek or English dictionary definitions that Bennett gives in his manual. Bennett then he provides what he calls his “Personal & Simple definition” of meditation which twists the meaning to support his teaching. He writes, “Simple definition: To repeat a Bible verse over and over again.” And then adds what he calls a “Working Definition of Scripture Meditation” and I quote,
“Meditation is a planned repetition of a Scripture verse(s) or phrase(s) by which a person’s spirit is deepened in God. This act of discipline is intentional, walked out by faith, and moving toward a fresh encounter with Christ.”
In my almost 30 years as a minister of Jesus Christ, I have spent many hours actively meditating on Scripture and receiving revelation, understanding, and even memorizing it. I have had the Spirit of God touch me powerfully and speak to me time and again through the Scriptures. I have heard His still small voice as I studied the Bible and most people who know me would say that I know and remember the Bible pretty well. Yet, I never sat around and repeated one word or phrase over and over again for hours until I “manufactured” a supernatural experience.
My definition of and experience with meditation would agree more with the Hebrew dictionary definition. It is studying, pondering, thinking about what a verse means, who wrote it, its context, how does it agree with other passages that touch on the same subject, speaking it out loud (not hundreds or thousands of times in one prayer session), looking at definitions of words in the verse, looking at multiple translations, and then how it applies to me and others around me. Biblical meditation is an active pondering, problem solving by thinking about all of these things I have mentioned. It is not sitting in a corner like a Buddhist monk with our eyes closed chanting the same word or phrase over and over again for hours. That is the vain repetition that Jesus warned about no matter how much you try to convince yourself that it isn’t.
The Bible says,
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane (Greek: heathenish) and vain (empty) babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15-16).
Richard Foster, Mike Bickle & Visualization
“Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar; and ye say, ‘Wherein have we polluted Thee?’” Malachi 1:7a
As I began to research and become familiar with the names of the leaders and forefathers of the Emerging Church movement like Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, and Tony Jones, I stumbled across something that shocked me. This discovery answered questions and validated things I had spiritually discerned about certain Charismatic leaders for many years. Please keep in mind that this is not coming from an outsider who condemns all Charismatic/Pentecostal ways; I have been part of the Charismatic/Pentecostal church for a very long time.
On April 7, 2010, I picked up an old copy of Mike Bickle’s book called Growing in the Prophetic that someone had given me in the late 1990s but I never actually read. (The copyright on the book is 1996 so it is not the 2008 revised version that I saw on Bickle’s website. I only clarify this because I have discovered that IHOP does a lot of revising and editing to hide error they have taught in the past.) As I started reading chapter one THERE IT WAS! God revealed another reason that I have NEVER received peace from the Lord about Mike Bickle’s early ministry or his endeavor to establish a 24/7 prayer ministry called IHOP. You see, my lack of witness from the Holy Spirit about Bickle goes back to 1999 and a Charisma Conference that I attended in Orlando, Florida. It was there that I first heard Bickle share his vision of IHOP and I thought to myself, “Who is this guy? 24/7 prayer sounds like a great thing, but there is not any anointing on him or what he is saying.”
As I mentioned in a previous chapter, the Lakeland Revival debacle in 2008 and some earlier personal encounters with the “prophet” Bob Jones, led me to do some serious research on the teachings, spiritual experiences, and history of Bob Jones and Todd Bentley. That research opened a can of worms so to speak, revealing the occult practices that they were teaching in the name of Jesus. It also led me to take a closer look at Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, Patricia King, John Paul Jackson, John Crowder, Rob Bell and the whole Emerging Church movement. And now to my great disappointment, in Bickle’s book I found a trail of deception that even involved the late John Wimber of the Vineyard Churches.
Like many, in the late 1980s through the 1990s, I had only heard good things about John Wimber in the Charismatic circles. Wimber and the Vineyard Churches were well known for their anointed praise and worship music. They rightly believed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and that Jesus still heals the sick. I heard that Wimber was teaching a class on signs and wonders at the Fuller Theological Seminary and thought that was awesome. However, I had never personally attended a Vineyard meeting, nor read any of Wimber’s books. His ministry was in California and I was busy ministering in Alabama. And of course those were the days before the internet.
When I heard that John Wimber passed away at the age of 63, I was troubled. It was upsetting to me that the man who had advocated the healing power of Jesus had suffered from cancer for years and then died from a massive brain hemorrhage. Something about that just didn’t seem right in my spirit, but I dismissed my concerns because I know that godly Christians can struggle with sickness and go through difficult trials. But I now see that the Lord was alerting me to some underlying problems with Wimber’s spiritual practices that may have contributed to his death.
Some misguided people in the Charismatic movement put forth the idea that God judged Wimber for expelling the Toronto Airport Vineyard from the Vineyard Association after they refused his order to put an end to the strange animalistic manifestations in the services. But looking back, that was one of the good things that he did before he died. Actually, John Wimber’s problems started many years before the Toronto “Revival” issue. Wimber opened doors to demons in his own life as well as thousands of others through some bad associations and a dangerous occult practice disguised in Christian lingo. And it was all there in Mike Bickle’s book.
According to Bickle’s book Growing in the Prophetic, John Wimber was first introduced to the ‘prophet’ named Paul Cain in December 1988. He was impressed by Cain’s prediction of an earthquake the day he arrived in California for the visit and the day he left. Bickle had also shared with Wimber the predictions Bob Jones made of comets and snow in the summer. All of this led to John Wimber promoting Bickle and his band of prophets to the other Vineyard Churches. Wimber also invited them to speak a Vineyard Conference in Anaheim, California in 1989. Bickle shares in his book that there was another well-known guest at the conference that he could not wait to have lunch with after the morning session. Who was this well-known guest? It was none other than the heretic Richard Foster the author of The Celebration of Discipline.
John Wimber had introduced them the day before and Mike Bickle was excited to spend time with Richard Foster because he had read Celebration of Discipline and obviously loved it. As a matter of fact, Bickle was so eager to get to lunch with Foster that he was getting impatient and irritated with people who wanted to talk with him after his teaching session. Here is how he put it,
“I was getting impatient and exasperated with people’s persistence. The fact that I was with Richard Foster, whom I had wanted to meet for a long time, increased my irritation. It was very embarrassing. You’d never guess by reading Celebration of Discipline that Richard is a spontaneous comedian. He roared with laughter when I laid my plate down and said to him, ‘Richard, I’m not a prophetic person! A terrible mistake has been made today.’”
Later, I learned that Richard Foster had written the introduction for John Wimber’s 1991 book entitled The Power of Healing. I also discovered that Wimber was a board member of Richard Foster’s organization called Renovaré. The late Jamie Buckingham who was the editor of Charisma Magazine and author of Daughter of Destiny was also on Foster’s board. Buckingham died of liver cancer at age 59. So, John Wimber and Jamie Buckingham had three things in common: 1) they both preached and believed in Divine healing through faith in Jesus Christ (nothing wrong with that), 2) they endorsed and delved into the occult teachings and practices of Richard Foster and 3) they died sooner than they should have after a battle with cancer. Personally, I believe those occult practices opened the doors to demons in their lives.
But when I saw that Mike Bickle had been so greatly impacted by Foster’s teachings, I started looking at Bickle’s sermons to see if he was endorsing the techniques from eastern religions that I knew Foster teaches. As you already know from the previous chapter, I found that IHOP practices and promotes contemplative prayer with vain repetitions. As I continued to dig I found that it only gets worse.
Visualization: The Path to a False Jesus
To further prove that Mike Bickle teaches and fully embraces a pagan form of prayer and mysticism, we need to look at the next aspect that all pagans and occultists incorporate into their quest for the supernatural. So far we have seen how Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, and many other self-styled New Agers pray and meditate. We have learned that this mantra form of prayer has been going on for thousands of years. We have also discovered that Jesus taught His disciples not to pray like the heathen, using repetitious words. But these heathen religions also include another dangerous practice into their prayer/meditation that Christians should not be copying—it is called visualization.
When a person forms a mental image in their mind using their own imagination it is called visualization. This practice becomes especially dangerous when a person begins conjuring images in their mind of God, angels, light, or what other spiritual beings might look like in order to worship or communicate with the person or entity in the visualization. This is a mental form of idolatry. No one knows for sure what God looks like so we should NOT create an image of Him in our minds and try to interact with it. This is no different than making a statue of Jesus out of stone or wood and talking to it. Creating an image and interacting with it is a big no-no! There are other aspects to visualization, one of which is the person visualizing their own spiritual body moving outside of their physical body until they actually have the real experience. Visualization is the foundation of almost all occult practices and witchcraft.
Marcia Montenegro is a former professional astrologer who sought ought the supernatural, and was involved in paranormal New Age practices until she made Jesus Christ Lord of her life. She is now an author and speaker. She testifies,
“When I took psychic-development classes before I was a Christian, we were taught specific techniques to grow our abilities…WE PRACTICED SEEING THINGS IN OUR MINDS IN ORDER TO DEVELOP PSYCHIC SENSITIVITY.” She writes, “Occult magic attempts to bring into reality that which is on nonmaterial planes. This is done through rituals in which visualization is prominent…The underlying premise of magical ritual is that you represent a circumstance, or act out an event in your mind, it will come to pass in the world.” She continues explaining visualization being used by the occultists, “Before a ritual…the magician may visualize a white light infusing the area where he or she will cast a protective circle.”
A very powerful witness to the danger of mixing pagan practices with Christianity is the true life story of Johanna Michaelson. Her book, The Beautiful Side of Evil, is one of the best books I have ever read and is so needed by this young generation. In the late 1960s, Johanna was a young woman in search of truth. She believed in Jesus, but was never really grounded in the truth of God’s Word. That ignorance of the Bible and the fact that she had been tormented by evil spirits most of her life set her up to be lured into the occult world through a meditation course called The Mind Control Method. She ended up spending 14 months as a personal assistant for a psychic surgeon in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She saw all kinds of amazing miracles of healing take place through a woman named Pachita who channeled a spirit that called itself Hermanito Cuauhtémoc. It is also interesting to note that this woman had two altars in her operating room—one was a picture of Jesus and a crucifix and the other was a statue of an ancient Aztec warrior Cuauhtémoc that they had to pay homage to in order to be there. There was also a Roman Catholic priest that assisted this demon-possessed psychic healer.
Johanna’s father saw the Mind Control course advertized in the newspaper and encouraged her to go. It promised to help a person “overcome depression, relieve insomnia, eliminate negative thinking, avoid irrational fears, relieve nervousness, develop ESP, and even gain peace of mind.” The teacher of this course, Tom (not a Christian at all), promised that in part one they would “learn how to relax at will and begin working in a state of mind that will heighten your creativity and efficiency.” In the second course, Tom promised that they would,
“be shown how to use a large mental screen (like a movie screen), to aid in visualization and continue to expand your consciousness.”
Before I go on with Johanna’s story of deception through meditation and visualization, let’s look at an excerpt from one of Mike Bickle’s sermons entitled Loving God with All Our Minds from his First Commandment Course. Pay attention and note how much it sounds like Tom and the Mind Control Method,
“The language of the mind is images. It is an internal movie screen that provides us with pictures. Our memory is a vast reservoir of near endless visuals. Imagination was given to us by God to visualize His truth and to interact with Him in a deep and continual way throughout eternity. To love God with all our mind is a supernatural possibility. Through meditation, we can take the reins of our mind and write the script of the movie that we continually watch within.”
Visualize His truth and interact with Him throughout eternity? What?!! First of all, why would I have to visualize God in eternity when I will be able to see Him face to face? Do you see what he is teaching? He is plainly saying that WE take the reins of our mind through meditation (as we have seen he means repeating a word or phrase over and over again) and then WE write the script of the movie that we watch within. In other words, we create our own images in our minds and then interact with them. This is very dangerous, as you will see with Johanna and others in the Emerging Church, they are creating spirit guides and opening doors that demons step into and use. The sad thing is that most of them really think they have found the real Jesus through their visualizations.
On the third day of the Mind Control course, Johanna was taught to create a laboratory (which sounds a lot like Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle). Johanna explains,
“This laboratory was a room of our own choosing which we created in our minds. It was to be our haven and refuge—our place for solving problems. It could look anyway we wanted.”
Hers was a cave in which the walls were sparkling amethyst and emeralds. She visualized her entire cave glowing with a golden light. It had a chair, a fire place that always stayed burning, and a file cabinet among other things.
Once their laboratories were complete, they were ready to receive their “counselors.” They were told that the counselors could be anyone they chose, but also that they should not be surprised by who actually showed up. They had to ask for a male and female counselor. Johanna decided to ask for Jesus as one of her counselors and the other was a woman named Sarah. She relates the experience after she meditated down and entered her laboratory that she had created in her mind,
“As my door came down, the room was filled with radiant light that emanated from the figure standing behind it…There! It was Jesus! The door went down now of its own accord, revealing the rest of the figure which was robed in a long white linen garment. He was glowing with a holy radiance and smiling softly. I stood, and then fell at his feet…Again the door inched down this time to reveal an aged Sarah.”
Later that night, she wondered if she had imagined it all and that the Lord and Sarah were not really her counselors. She then decided to meditate down and enter her psychic laboratory and call them again just to see. But this time she did something different. She prayed, “Oh Lord, please reveal the counselors I’m truly meant to have.” Then the radiant figure appeared again, but this time a werewolf face was on the figure that had appeared as Jesus. Later when she went back to class and meditated down to her laboratory and her counselors showed up their faces kept shifting back and forth between good and terrifying faces. I believe this was God trying to show her that she really had been deceived and received a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” in the spirit realm. But, those demons told her an elaborate lie and she believed them. It took some time before she realized that her Jesus was a false Jesus that she had received by getting involved in the pagan practices of meditation and visualization. Once her eyes were opened to the evil behind the healer in Mexico, she got help from real Christians, turned to the true Jesus Christ of the Bible, and went through deliverance.
Of course, most people don’t go as far as Johanna did, but people are opening doors to demonic “angels of light” by tampering with these pagan techniques. They may not see the werewolf faces or the demonic side, but it is still there. Slapping the name Christian on something or putting the name of Jesus or a Bible Scripture into something does not automatically make it okay. I often explain it this way, you can call a crack rock a Christian crack rock but it is still nothing more than cocaine.
Here is an example of Mike Bickle teaching about visualizing the light or glory of God within you,
“We receive the Holy Spirit’s benefits and prophetic activity by beholding Him and knowing Him or by strengthening our relationship with Him over time. I like NAS’ translation of beholding the Spirit more than seeing the Spirit because it suggests gazing into the bonfire of God’s presence…Walking in the Spirit is within the reach of all believers by beholding the Spirit in our inner man. This is for “all” believers. We are all weak and in need to beholding or gazing on the Spirit…As we look at God’s light (at His Throne or in our spirit), God’s light in us is manifest in us in a greater measure. John refers to this as walking in the light which is synonymous with walking in the Spirit. Walking in the light includes several activities such as walking in the light of revelation by meditating on the Word, fellowshipping in the light by sharing our life in God with one another and bringing our sins into the light through confession to one another. We must not limit our concept of walking in the light to any of these important activities.”
He gives more details in another message,
“As we stare into the bonfire of God in our spirit and as we look at God’s light that is brighter than diamonds (at His Throne or in our spirit), then His light is manifest in us in a greater measure. The test for the truth of this is that gazing into the Spirit’s light always leads us to glorify and obey Jesus and His Word…We behold and know the Spirit by beholding (gazing) Him in our inner man. The NAS translates this as beholding or seeing the Spirit. It suggests gazing into the bonfire of God’s presence.”
Thus, when we couple these teachings with his others about using your imagination to write the script that you want in your mind, you realize that he is instructing people to visualize or imagine God’s light or presence within them just like his buddy Richard Foster. And folks, this is as New Age and demonic as it gets. That is why I broke down the verses in 2 Corinthians 3 in the first chapter to show that those passages are not suggesting that we visualize God’s light, glory, or presence, but rather we receive that glory by reading and studying the Word of God. If God decides to give us a vision of His glory, it will not originate in our imaginations by a technique we can manipulate. Mike Bickle makes it clear here that he is not talking about reading the Word of God, but “gazing into the bonfire of God’s presence within us that is brighter than diamonds” all of which comes from Roman Catholic mystics and Emerging apostates like Foster.
If visualizing God on His throne is a real spiritual experience of seeing God or seeing Jesus like Richard Foster teaches and if it was a common practice and teaching of the apostles, then why did they teach things like this: “(Speaking of Jesus) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Peter 1:8)? Did you catch that? Peter taught that we could have full glory and unspeakable joy without seeing God! Not exactly what Mike Bickle and the contemplative crowd teach is it? They insist that we need to use our imagination to connect with God in order to be complete or spiritual.
The Word of God goes on to say, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20) and “For we walk by faith, not by sight:” (2 Corinthians 5:7). How about what Jesus said to Thomas, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Moreover, God’s rebuke to the deceived prophets in Ezekiel was, “Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:7). The Hebrew word for “vain” in this verse is “shav’ shav” in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile); figuratively idolatry (as false, subjectively), uselessness (as deceptive, objectively; also adverbially in vain): - false (-ly), lie, lying, vain, vanity. In other words, God says that their visions were idolatrous, deceptive, destructive, and evil, yet these prophets thought they were hearing from God.
For those of you who might not find his sermons online and need further hard evidence that Mike Bickle teaches guided and or self-induced visualization as the way to connect with God, he spelled it out in his 1993 book Passion for Jesus. You can find it in chapter twelve entitled Gazing on the Throne of God. After a brief introduction to the chapter, Bickle goes on to relate how dead his prayer life was before he learned “a simple devotional aid.” Here is how he put it,
“In the past when I prayed I felt as though I were praying into the air—to some nebulous being, far beyond the grasp of my realities. I had a feeling of disconnectedness, with no real sense of praying to a real person. But my prayer life has been transformed and enriched through a simple devotional aid I discovered some years ago. I call it ‘gazing on God’s throne.”
Before I go on with this, I have to ask the question: Was this man ever saved and filled with Holy Spirit? How could a born again, Holy Spirit-baptized believer (who can pray in tongues) say that they had “no real sense of praying to a real person”? I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1987 with the evidence of speaking in other tongues and though I don’t feel or experience God’s manifest presence every time I pray, I have never felt disconnected or like I was not praying to a real Person. Furthermore, I have had many awesome times with God in prayer that was intimate and powerful and yet, I never needed the “devotional aids” of visualization or chanting a word or phrase over and over.
Bickle continued his teaching by sharing a quote about meditation from A.W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy. Although Tozer does not suggest visualizing God or His throne, Bickle uses the quote as a building block to teach visualization in the rest of the chapter. It seems that he was trying to use Tozer to bring credibility to his teaching. The quote by Tozer was as follows,
“We must practice the art of long and loving meditation on the majesty of God.” If you continue to read the rest of that last chapter you discover that Tozer never suggests creating images of God or His throne in our imagination or trying to create an experience with God. In fact, Tozer taught quite the opposite in the same book. Back in chapter 14 of The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer wrote, “…to the convinced Christian ‘…the practice of the presence of God’ consists NOT of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence.”
However, that is exactly what Bickle went on to teach.
Bickle wrote that to “aid” his meditation, he studied Revelation 4 and other passages about the throne to make his mental picturing more vivid. I noticed that he is very careful not to use the word “visualize” as he knows that would alert certain readers to exactly where he was headed with this teaching. He even gives a disclaimer that his teaching on this picturing God’s throne “…is not some counterfeit New Age visualization technique.” But that is exactly what it is. You see, you can walk around all day long carrying a pig under your arm and tell everyone it’s a chicken but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still a pig. And that is what Bickle does here. He claims that his mental picturing “…is not some counterfeit New Age visualization technique” but then he goes on to not only visualize the Biblical scenes of heaven but also place himself in the mental pictures and then interact with what he is imagining.
Here it is in Bickle’s own words,
“PICTURING the awesome scene John describes in the fourth chapter of Revelation HELPS ME ENJOY HOLY FELLOWSHIP WITH JESUS.” If Bickle left it there some might have an argument that he is just thinking about what the Bible says, but he goes on to say, “I began to realize, that when we pray, God does not want us speaking lightly and nonchalantly into the air as if to no one. He wants us speaking into His heart. Therefore, as I prayed, I talked to a real, glorious person, offering my praise, worship, and self directly to Him. I’d PICTURE MYSELF standing on that sea of glass filled with fire as I gazed on the throne surrounded by the rainbow. WHEN I DID, MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS CHANGED.”
Then, Bickle admits that he has been teaching this kind of prayer for ten years in the numerous prayer meetings that he has led. He explains how he would lead the people in the prayer meeting into the exercise of visualization. He would say to the people,
“Do you ever IMAGINE standing in heaven’s throne room as you worship and intercede?’ Then, without saying a word, I would simply GAZE into that awesome scene that John the Apostle and other holy men of old have described for us. ‘LOOK WITH ME...INTO THIS INVISIBLE WORLD THAT RULES OUR VISIBLE WORLD. PICTURE a mighty throne, immersed in flames, standing in heaven. IMAGINE an indescribably glorious person with hair white as snow seated upon that throne…PICTURE a bright arch that looks like a rainbow…Watch the flashes of lightening and listen to the rumblings and peals of thunder…Look! Do you see Him? Jesus is there at the right hand of His Father…He is welcoming you to the throne of grace, smiling and bidding you to come. The mighty throngs of angels are parting to let you through, for they step aside softly when they see a child of God approaching…That is the scene into which I come to offer my devotional prayers. And you can enter that scene in your prayer life also.”
But as much as this sounds spiritual and exciting, it is nothing more than a New Age style of guided visualization. It is no different than what Johanna Michaelson did in her New Age Mind Control class. Prayer to God is a real thing, but Mike Bickle mixes it with fantasies that are conjured up by his own imagination. There is only one true throne room in heaven but if three hundred people imagine it then you will have three hundred different throne rooms thus it’s nothing but fantasy. This is just another reason why this teaching of visualization is ridiculous and dangerous, but Mike Bickle has convinced many that his New Age visualization techniques are great. Sadly, this occult practice has helped many find a false Jesus in the spirit realm that is really just a demon spirit guide.
If there is any doubt left that Mike Bickle and IHOP promote the errors of mantra prayer and visualization, I found another incriminating book being pushed on their website bookstore. The book is entitled, Fire Within by Father Thomas Dubay. Yes, you read it correctly…FATHER Thomas Dubay who was a Marist Roman Catholic priest. The Marist order that he joined is simply a group of priests unusually devoted to the veneration (worship) of Mary. Their founder wanted the message of “Ad Jesum per Marium” or “To Jesus through Mary” to cross the world.
This particular book, Fire Within, is about a Roman Catholic nun, Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), who delved into visualization in prayer. Some of her mystical experiences through this type of prayer include visions of Mary, Jesus, and an “angel” whom she claimed pierced her with a golden sword with fire on the end of it. She was into torturing herself physically and was seen levitating during Mass on several occasions (something common among witches, sorcerers and Voo Doo shamans). She took Saint Joseph (the husband of Mary) as her patron saint because she claimed that the long dead Joseph healed her when she was young. She also prayed the rosary which is a repetitious prayer to Mary and believed that “holy water” repelled demons.
Sadly, these unbiblical practices and experiences simply reveal that Teresa of Avila was nothing more than a Roman Catholic idolater. She was deceived by the demon spirits that she had given place to through her worship of Mary and other saints. She was, and continues to be through her writings, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But here is what Mike Bickle says about the book Fire Within on his bookstore website, “Mike Bickle, director of the IHOP–KC Missions Base and the Forerunner School of Ministry recommends this book: ‘I want this book to be the manual for IHOP.’ Teresa's words can help you find what you have longed for: the wellsprings of life in Jesus, free-flowing from the courts of heaven into your thirsty soul.”
What Mike?! Are you implying that we can’t find that wellspring of life in Jesus by the Word of God alone and simply being baptized in the Holy Spirit? No...That is not good enough! According to Mike Bickle, we need the teachings of a confused, error-filled, idolatrous nun to satisfy our souls? She tortured herself like the demon-possessed man of Gaderene and had a little demon imp, who was disguised as angel, piercing her with a fiery dart to cause her extreme pain. I am sorry, but it does not take a PhD in Theology to see that the spiritual experiences of Teresa of Avila were not of God.
So, I have to ask: What is wrong with these guys at IHOP? Shouldn’t the Bible be the MANUAL for IHOP? If you want to be Roman Catholic, then go right ahead but at least call it that! Stop pretending to be true Protestant/Biblical Christians. Again, by highly recommending yet another Roman Catholic mystic, Mike Bickle endorses all of their demonic deceptions. This is why my heart grieves for the thousands of enthusiastic young people who are being led into these demonic practices by IHOP, MorningStar, and ministries like them.