Trendy Taize Prayer Services
May 2, 1999
Gary: Now, Religion in the News, a report and commentary on spiritual events and trends reported in the media. Perhaps we could subtitle this segment as “Further Signs of the Apostasy.” In a sense, this is our spiritual thermometer as we evaluate the condition of professing Christianity. This item is from the Arizona Daily Star dated April 18th, 1998, with the headline: “Trendy Taize Prayer Services.”
Since the beginning of time, young people have found reasons to sit close to one another on the floor in the dark. Well, now they are doing it at church at a trendy type of prayer service called Taize. Taize is a group method of Christian prayer that combines Bible readings with repetitive chanting and meditative silences. It presents them in a format that is user friendly. The market research take on Taize is that its elements of chanting and contemplation make it a quintessential ’90s mix of spirituality and individualism. Taizé songs, in contrast, are introspective, sung in harmony, and accompanied by classical instruments or an organ. They are often one sentence or phrase repeated over and over, such as “Lord have compassion.” Now, many US churches and mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations are adding Taizé to their menu of services. Dave and Tom will now comment.
Tom: What do you think? I mean, if it gets people to church, can’t it be okay?
Dave: It’s a community—Taize is a community over there in France. I haven’t visited it, but they’re into mysticism—and the pope has visited it, by the way, and is quite happy with it. Now, what we’re talking about here are the very techniques that we were just refuting. First of all, repetition—they think that’s...it’s like spinning a Buddhist prayer wheel in Tibet. Jesus said, “The heathen use vain repetition, and they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” Actually, in this case—well, “Lord have mercy,” that is a prayer—but in this case it’s more like a mantra to put you into an altered state of consciousness.
Tom: Well, you say it over and over and over and over.
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: You’re not communicating.
Tom: You’re trying to change something within yourself, right?
Dave: You are really tuning yourself out. You’re getting into an altered state of consciousness. But what is the point? Jesus said, “Use not vain repetition as the heathen, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” And then he said—the disciples said, “Well tell us how to pray—no they didn’t say “tell us how to pray.” They said, “Lord teach us to pray.” And there is a big difference. There is no technique. And Jesus didn’t say “Repeat this prayer.” We call it the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s prayer is in John 17 that the Lord prayed. This is the so-called Lord’s Prayer. The Lord would never pray this prayer: “…lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil..,” and so forth. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that trespass against us.”
That’s not a prayer the Lord would pray. But He said to the disciples, “After this manner pray ye.” In other words, this is a pattern. But it has become a mantra also. I mean you were a Catholic once upon a time. How many times did you say the “Our Father” over and over and over? This is what they are doing. So, they are getting into kind of a mood, and they think this is going to accomplish—it could give them a good feeling, but it’s really...I’m not trying to split hairs. I’m not trying to be just a party-pooper for this party they’re trying to have by sitting on the floor in the dark and chanting, but it has nothing to do with getting to know God.
Tom: Right. And that’s the heartbreak of this. Because people are drawn into—from a feeling orientation—that somehow they are going to feel closer or get closer to God. But this isn’t His way. If I would say to somebody, “Well, this is interesting, and it does have a kind of a sense of being religious, but is this what God wants? Is this how He is calling those to draw near to Him? Give me examples. I mean was this good for Paul? Did Paul do any of this? The Apostle Paul?
Dave: Never, ever, would you find it in the Bible. You would find the contrary. In fact, God, in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 9 verse 24, he said...well, in verse 23, He says, “Don’t let the wise glory in his wisdom—the wise shouldn’t glory in his wisdom, the rich in his riches, the mighty in his might, but let him that glorieth glory in this....” Well, you can sit down and chant and get a real religious feeling? No, that’s not what it says. “...that he understandeth and knoweth me.” And then God gives some of His characteristics. “I am the Lord, who exercises mercy and lovingkindness, justice on the earth: for in these things do I delight.”
Jesus in the real Lord’s prayer, in John:17:3, said, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” And one day—well, we quoted it in our earlier segment, Jesus said, “I will say to them ‘I never knew you.’” You don’t get to know somebody by chanting their name, even. I could sit down and chant to my wife, “Have mercy on me, have mercy on me,” or to some person I could chant their name or whatever. That’s not getting to know them! But Christianity is by getting to know God through His Word, through communion with Him, allowing Him to speak to us through His Word—and it doesn’t come through some mystical state. That is never taught in the Word of God.
Tom: Yes, and that’s critical. God has laid out how He wants us to come to Him—how He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him. I would say anyone out there who’s church is into this, and really wants to know the Lord, go to those who are bringing this into the church. Ask them to give you examples from God’s Word of how this relates to what God wants.
Dave: Why didn’t Paul suggest this? Why didn’t Peter? In fact, they talk about the contrary. Paul talks about doctrine. He says, “You have known my doctrine.” He emphasizes doctrine. He emphasizes truth. It’s not a feeling, but it’s through truth that we come to know the Lord, and He is THE truth. So, He said, “If you continue in my Word, then are you my disciples indeed. You will know THE truth and THE truth—not chanting, not therapy—THE truth will set you free.
And how did that come about? Well, we could launch off in a long sermon, but we are running out of time here. But it comes through the Spirit of truth. John:16:13: “When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will lead you into all truth; He will teach you of me.” So, this is what we need rather than chanting. Although my sympathy would be with these people who are trying to get a “religious feeling,” and maybe church didn’t appeal to them in its ordinary form, and they think this goes down a little better. But it’s only leading them into a delusion, and that concerns me.