Having read David's answer to How much are psalms and other prayers from Bible understood as actual prayer in Protestantism?, I wonder whether any Protestants practice meditative or contemplative forms of prayer, even if not so-called or even considered to be forms of prayer.

2723 Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.

2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery. (Expressions of Prayer, In Brief)

Meditation, in Catholic terms, is an focusing of the mind beyond simple verbal, communicative constructs. It's an uplifting of the mind to God on a level beyond that of normal verbal conversation. It's an attempt at focusing thought, emotion, imagination, and desire on scripture, God, God's Truths, and is sometimes aided by a sort of mantra or rote prayer like the rosary, the Name of God, a particular verse, etc..

Contemplation, in Catholic terms, might be accurately thought of as the "falling" part of falling in love with God. It is sometimes the "next step" after a period of meditation. It's considered to be 100% grace -- you can't induce contemplation, you can only be "invited" in by God. The mechanics of focus in meditation are generally lost, and the pray-er submits God's awesome, perfect, unifying dialogue (not generally verbal though).

Do some/any denominations condone meditative and/or contemplative practices? If so, do they tend to refrain from calling these practices prayer -- and if so, why are they not considered prayer?

  • Thanks, I wanted to ask similar question quite a long time ago, but I didn't dare to really ask. However, it might be useful to exclude groups on the borderline with Catholicism, such as oecumenical community in Taizé, whose prayers are mainly meditative.
    – Pavel
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 19:46
  • Not really an answer: The individualism common among Protestants allows significant freedom. I have used the Jesus prayer (after reading The Way of the Pilgrim) and the Lord's prayer in a meditative fashion--intellectually and emotionally "savoring" each word with slow breathing. (I also read St. Teresa of Avila's Life and part of Interior Castle, so I am a bit odd.) A (Presbyterian) pastor introduced a class to Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises as one of 20 Christian classics. Med. pr. is probably rare but tolerated; c.p. might be less tolerated by Presbyterians as (falsely) charismatic?
    – user3331
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 23:44
  • A googling of 'Presbyterian contemplative prayer' found this very much against blog post which also mentioned some proponents: lightingtheway.blogspot.com/2009/03/… (It appears I was right that false mysticism [with a reject of Scripture] is a primary concern.) If I did some more research, I could probably form an actual answer. Eep!
    – user3331
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 0:11
  • 1
    Evangelicals (at least the circles my wife and brother-in-law have been part of) have been very wary of these forms of prayer -- or forms of these forms. I'm not 100% sure. So, I know there are those who are vehemently opposed, at least to some aspects of these prayers. I'll probably create a related question for that. For this question, I'm interested in whether any major denominations do condone and practice these forms.
    – svidgen
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 3:18
  • Pentecostals pray in tongues, which bypasses the part of the brain that creates and forms words and sentences, so therefore while they pray in tongues they sometimes meditate on a scripture, or contemplate God.
    – Hello
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


I am unaware of any protestant denominations that have a special focus on contemplative prayer, but I'm also unaware of any that outright ban it. In my experience it is practiced only by a minority of Protestants, and that they are spread throughout many denominations. Of course it is practiced only by a minority of Catholics too.

A good place to start is the book Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. In many ways its the primary handbook for Protestants not just of contemplative prayer, but other 'neglected' (by Protestant) disciplines such as fasting and confession. It has sold over a million copies and was named by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the twentieth century.

The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are also used by a significant minority of Protestants.

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    +1 for the Richard Foster book. I'd also consider Richard Rohr (more liberal) and Dallas Willard in this 'try to bring contemplative practice to Protestants' tradition Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 9:59
  • This answer gives some good insight into common practices and beliefs. I'd be more interested in "official" beliefs though. Do you know of any church resources that condone the book or specifically address the practices outlined therein? My concern is in the possibility that this book (and the exercises, for that matter) or some content therein is to many Protestant denominations like the works of Fr. Anthony Demello are to the Catholic Church -- cautioned against as "not Catholic." That said, a good number of Catholics are still devoted readers of Demello.
    – svidgen
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 18:42

Some evangelicals do practise biblical meditation (Selwyn Hughes, for instance, was very keen on the practice).

  • This doesn't answer the question, which is about denominations. Your answer provides an example of a single individual.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 1:38

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