Spiritual formation is a phrase that applies to the use of specific techniques such as meditation, contemplative prayer, chanting, visualization and so-called “spiritual disciplines” to find an experience with God. Many of these practices often involve the quest to empty the mind of all thought so that humans can then “experience” the One above all thought. “Seeking the silence,” “breath prayers,” repeating single words or sentences mantra-style, are claimed to cause the soul to connect with the divine. These practices that are found in the New Age and Eastern Mysticism are a subtle form of spiritualism which opposes the Word of God.
Spiritual formation was originated by Ignatious Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, as a method of preparing Jesuit priests for their mission. The modern versions of it apparently came directly from the Papacy. You will find that the Roman Catholic mystics, as well as New Agers and spiritualists, use these practices in their quest for “enlightenment” and communication with spirit entities. To deceive people, spiritual formation is labeled with Christian terminology and claims as its goal to bring people closer to Christ.
The supposed discovery that “all is one,” “God is all” (pantheism), or that “God is in all” (panentheism), is often the outcome of such teachings and doctrines. Spiritual formation is not a healthy addition to the gospel as some claim. Mysticism is deadly because it puts people in direct communication with demonic spirits instead of God and could lead to demon possession.
The scriptures clearly warn against such practices: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31); “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards… I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people”; “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:6,27); “There shall not be found among you any one that … useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deuteronomy 18:10, 11).
A true spiritual experience with Jesus comes by carefully comparing our characters with the scriptures and God’s Law (Romans 3:20; 7:7), by repenting of all sin (Luke 13:3), trusting Christ’s love, grace, and shed blood (Ephesians 1:7,12,13), being “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1), receiving His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), being born again (John 3:5), and becoming “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14) who obey God’s law through His power (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). This is the Biblical doctrine, which was taught by Jesus, the apostles and all the prophets. “Contemplative prayer,” “spiritual formation,” and Catholic-based “spiritual disciplines” are the devil’s counterfeits.
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In His service,