How many of you are now in churches that are using prayer stations? In your church district? When did it start? What is the purpose? Have you ever asked why, or have you accepted anything that has come in that is new, without question? Are you comfortable with prayer stations? Would you also use prayer labyrinths if your pastor introduced them? How about prayer ropes or prayer beads? What if incense, candles, breath prayers, or yoga were introduced to the church activities? How about ashes to the forehead? Is your trust in your pastor or other leaders so much, that you never wonder about checking with the word of God to see what it says? Do you stop wondering about that little “check in your spirit” because the pastor just tells you, “don’t worry, it’s a biblical practice?” Or, “the Bible does not explicitly say anything about prayer labyrinths, so its okay.”
In re-visiting the Prayer Station, (aka Stations of the Cross, contemplative gathering stations) it seems it is one of the more easily accepted forms of Roman Catholic religious practice that have been incorporated into the Church of the Nazarene. Since faith in Christ and His word is no longer all sufficient for us, this practice has been one of those additions to the church, which I never experienced or saw even once in my New England District 20 years ago, or in my church where my dad pastored. Now it is becoming commonplace in the Nazarene denomination, along with other forms of mysticism. A former District Superintendent from my district has no problem with them. My former pastor told me that, sure, maybe it (prayer labyrinths) will be used someday. Prayer stations have now been used at our New England District Prayer Gatherings.
Lighthouse Trails describes it this way:
“Also called Contemplative Gathering Stations or Journey to the Cross, “Stations of the Cross” is a Catholic ritual with 14 stations, each one with pictures or sculptures that depict the various “stages” of Jesus Christ’s final days. This is a practice that began centuries ago and was sanctioned by the Pope Clement XII in 1731. In more recent days the practice has spilled over from the Catholic church into the evangelical church. Another example of the interspirituality taking place around the world and a further walk into apostasy.”
All over the denomination, churches are starting to use prayer stations, as well as prayer labyrinths. Perhaps because these are a sanitized version of prayer labyrinths, they are more attractive to folks who might think the labyrinth is just too weird for them. After all the prayer labyrinth is clearly derived from pagan practices and is clearly not biblical in nature. (For you emergent pastors, where is the biblical justification for prayer labyrinths, anyway?). Yet, Trevecca Nazarene University has no problem using a prayer labyrinth (although they have changed the name to prayer walk, after I brought up the issue on my blog and had a back and forth dialogue with President Dan Boone. He seemed satisfied with changing the name, but as they say, if you put lipstick on a pig, its still a pig.
There were two prayer stations set up at General Assembly in Orlando in 2009. Here is a short video tour of the larger one. They both had quite the Roman Catholic feel to them, not a Nazarene feel. How many of you walked into this room, and when you left, had no problem whatsoever with this new thing? Is your mindset in such a state, that you automatically accept anything that comes down the pike in the church? Do you ever stop and think, why are we doing this now? Do you ever think about all the new things happening in the denomination, like the new names and faces, such as Rob Bell, Leonard Sweet, Richard Foster, and Tony Campolo? Do you care that Tony Campolo advocates repeating a word over and over like a mantra, and promotes all sorts of mysticism to our Nazarene youth? Do you care about that or do you just turn away hoping everything will be alright? Do you care that we are becoming a church that is focusing more on experiential and mystical-driven methods, and less and less focused on the reliable word of God? Have you noticed a trend in your church for sermons that barely focus on God’s word, and instead tell lots of nice stories that make you feel good inside?
The prayer station is just one instrument that is being used to attract people to something new. That something new is contemplative mysticism. It is the belief by emergent church proponents that you can “experience God” in a way that you never could before. Think about it, you were wrong apparently when you thought that the Bible was sufficient for all our faith and practice, and that God’s word was the only way to really learn about Him. No, silly Christian, you need to REALLY experience God, and the way to do that is to go back and discover anew the old practices of the early church, who really knew how to experience God. What they will not tell you is that, they are really trying to resurrect the unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, which was rejected by countless Christians, sometimes at the risk of their own lives.
Have you really, really thought about this? Have you asked yourself, why did the Nazarene church miss these wonderful things for so many years? Why did we not teach our people years ago about practicing the silence? All these years we missed the “voice of God” because we never practiced the silence. All these years, we could have enhanced our worship “experience” through the use of candles, incense, and walking a circular path. Who knew? Well, now we have it, and apparently these things are here to stay, so get used to it.
After all, if these practices were bad, our leaders by now would have denounced them as unbiblical. Since they have not, and they are charged by the Manual to interpret doctrines of the church, it must be okay. Why would our General Superintendents otherwise ignore something that is bad for the church? So call it what you will, in whatever form you like: prayer stations, prayer labyrinths, prayer walks, prayer beads, it’s all the same in one sense: it is a statement that says our faith in Christ is not enough, what He has ordained in scripture is not enough, and we need to have a deeper, experiential relationship with God, and if we don’t use these systems, we are missing out on a wonderful experience with God.
After all, that’s the goal of a Christian when practicing these things, is it not? Seeking the most ecstatic, mind blowing, close as you can get to God experience that you can have.
Just let me know how I can know for sure whether that experience was with God, or another spirit, okay?