The latest Catholic craze: praydreaming, and discerning why it is false

Today I woke up and read a devotional a friend and pastor wrote on his Facebook page. It was filled with gratitude. It reminded me that it is refreshing to read of gratitude and to be grateful all the day long. The main thing that jumped out at me though was his phrase "pray for wholesome desires." That hit me.

Not that I haven't been praying along those lines, but the succinctness of the phrase was tremendous. It brought clarity to my mind of good desires and bad desires. It was a wonderful thing to meditate on. And meditate I did. No, I didn't go 'OHM' in front of lit candles, I turned to the bible. When you want to read about proper desires and how to slay the old man, where else are you going to go but to the Psalms and Romans? I did a word search on the word desire, I read widely about desires in context, and I prayed. Then I wrote a response to the initial devotional, and it appears here:

Praying for Wholesome Desires

In the midst of that, a blog commenter wanted to know what I thought about the blending of New Age and Roman Catholicism into the world's prophesied final religion. I researched about the RCC Mystics, and put together a long response. It got me thinking about Catholicism and its patron saints, mysticism and how mysticism really points the person back to one's self, the opposite of what praying for wholesome desires does. I did some more thinking on good desires vs. evil desires.

As I finished both the blog entry and the long comment back to the commenter, I started to web surf. Immediately I saw an essay from by Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J., "a spiritual director, retreat director, high school teacher and Jesuit priest. He holds a Master of Divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the author of Armchair Mystic: Easing Into Contemplative Prayer". The essay is called,

Praydreaming: Key to Discernment

Praydreaming? And what does that have to do with discernment? It sounds New Age. It seems like Mysticism.

It turns out that praydreaming is the exact opposite of what I had been researching and thinking of all morning. THAT is how the Spirit works. He is amazing!

Now I will write about "praydreaming". I am writing this to you so that when you hear of this practice, and you will, just like you have by now heard of contemplative prayer, you will know what it really means.

The blog entry I wrote earlier today is an examination of how our internal desires are bad. When we read in the bible the word desires, it is usually spoken of in a negative way. Our heart's desires are only bad and bring us into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

As depraved people we have no hope of changing our desires to good ones that will please the Lord. The only hope we have is first salvation, and then, sanctification. We aid the Spirit in His sanctifying work by relying on HIM and HIS desires for us. We ask Him to instill in us wholesome desires and the strength to resist our own evil ones. This is what it means to be conformed to His likeness. (Romans 8:29). We are gradually transformed by the renewing of our minds and the rejection of being conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 8:22) with all its evil desires.

Praydreaming is the opposite. The. Exact. Opposite. In this way, it is a component of a successful false religion (Catholicism) because it turns our mind and heart from Jesus back to the sinful desires of our own selves. It offers the false notion that our desires are good and we can instill them into our selves by ourselves by searching deep within ourselves. This lie forms the basis of every false doctrine. To be clear: avoid praydreaming like the gangrenous infection that it is. (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Here is why-

Praydreaming comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Catholic priest in the 1500s and a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. The counter-reformation was the push-back to the rejection of the Pope's absolute authority that Martin Luther and others began in the reformation. Loyola's devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope. Ignatius was a Catholic's Catholic. The article in American Catholic about praydreaming explains Loyola's teaching on praydreaming and it begins like this:

"We Christians don’t just decide things, we discern them. That is, we do our best to figure out what God is calling us to in every situation. We do our best to say yes to that divine invitation. But how do we discern God’s will for us? That’s the tricky part."

1. Catholics are not Christians.
2. We do decide things.
3. God's will for us is not tricky to discern. Discernment comes from being in His word, not from any other source, because no other source can be trusted. Within the first sentence he sets up a straw man.

But look how the article goes on.

[Loyola's] insight was this: “Good discernment consists of prayerfully pondering the great desires that well up in my daydreams.”

See how already the Catholic pushes upon us the notion that discerning what is good and what is evil comes back to ourselves? And that what we spontaneously think of in our hearts is worthy? It is a false path he is leading you down. Good discernment prayerfully ponders the WORD, not our desires. The article continues:

"Are desires good or bad? Many spiritual writers of Ignatius’ day spoke of desires as obstacles to God’s will. One solution was to suppress one’s desires—to eliminate them whenever possible. Ignatius, on the other hand, held the radical notion that God dwells in the desires of a good person."

Good people do not exist. "There is no one good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10, Mark 10:18).

The article continues, "Not only are desires not evil, but they are one of God’s primary instruments of communicating his will to his children. God enflames the heart with holy desires, and with attraction toward a life of greater divine praise and service. Ignatius did not seek to squash desires, but rather sought to tap into the deepest desires of the heart, trusting that it is God who has placed them there."

The primary way God communicates His will is the Word who is Jesus Christ. The primary way He communicates to us is the bible, that is where we find His will. It is written down in the bible. Blindly trusting that any particular desire we have comes from God- whatever it is- is a false notion. Satan inflames our hearts with desires, too.

"For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come--sexual immorality, theft, murder..." (Mark 7:21)

Now look how the author redefines what evil desires ARE.

"A teenager may want badly to have sexual relations with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Spouses may become sexually attracted to people outside of their marriage. Are these evil desires? No, they are merely disordered desires. Why do any of these people want intimate sexual relations? Because each craves oneness with another—each is created by God, for the experience of unity."

By his definition, a priest's desire to have sex with an altar boy is not evil, merely disordered.

Yet those are evil desires- they are fornication. They're evil because they do not honor Jesus. The lust of the heart breaks a commandment and that is evil. (Matthew 5:28, Exodus 20:17). Colossians 3:5 says to put to death what is evil in us, and sexual immorality is one of those evil desires. What's more, it is idolatry! "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

Nowhere does it say that all desires are good but some are disordered, to just discern the desire under the desire, and praydream it! The bible is clear in describing what evil desires are, because it lists them. Then we read commands to slay these desires, not coddle them by peeking under them to find more and granting them light of day in God's name.

Anything that does not honor Jesus is evil. There is good, and there is evil. It is an old trick to call evil good and good evil. Isaiah spoke of this in Isaiah 5:20-

"Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!"

Pulpit Commentary explains, "This is the fourth woe. There are persons who gloss over evil deeds and evil habits by fair-sounding names, who call cowardice caution, and rashness courage, niggardliness thrift, and wasteful profusion generosity. The same men are apt also to call good evil; they brand prudence with the name of cunning, call meekness want of proper spirit, sincerity rudeness, and firmness obstinacy. This deadness to moral distinctions is the sign of deep moral corruption, and fully deserves to have a special "woe" pronounced against it."

Doesn't that say it all? The Catholic essay about praydreaming promotes a deadness to moral distinctions, and woe will be upon him. In the article, after giving a couple more examples of how what is clearly sin is not really sin, the article continues,

"We fall into sin when we are ignorant of the desires beneath the desires. Consider this way of understanding personal sin: We sin, not because we are in touch with our desires but precisely because we are not in touch with them! This is one of Ignatius’ most profound insights."

Well he is right- now it is getting tricky. According to praydreaming methods promoted by Loyola, first, I have to discern my desires. Then I have to discern whether the desire is holy by mulling it over within myself. Then if it is unholy I have to discern the desire underneath that desire. How do I do all this? Via praydreaming, as we read next.

"How, then, do I tap into these great desires? I daydream, that’s how! I fantasize about great and beautiful futures. I let God dream in me and I sit in silent awe and wonder as these holy dreams come to life before the eyes and ears of my soul. Now that’s a different approach to prayer than most of us know. But that’s what St. Ignatius taught."

He goes on at length in a teaching manner of how to praydream, by giving many different examples of life scenarios. I don't recommend you read it because it will cause confusion and there is no profit in learning how to praydream. The author unwittingly reveals that Loyola's method always brings a person back to themselves. The phrase "my dreams" occurs a lot. The upshot is, it is a method for dreaming what you want to do in the flesh and using God as a method of permission to accomplish them.

Finally, he says that when you praydream and discern properly what decision to make, a sweet inner peace will be "the telltale sign" that it is the right decision.

I have warned against a so-called 'inner peace' as a tell-tale sign before. There is a difference between confidence in God and an inner peace. Often, I have to do things that are outside my comfort zone, or are difficult, and I have a lot of angst about it. Feeling a sweet inner peace for me often means that I am making a wrong decision, because the calm feeling leads me to my own comfort zone which exists inside the circle of my own desires. Though sometimes I do have an inner peace, I do not have a sweet inner peace about many things I must do, but I do them anyway because I am a slave to Christ and I know that He is with me to help during the hard times.

As an example, do we think that any of the martyrs as they were led to their doom, had what Loyola says is a feeling of "sweetly, lightly, gently, as a drop of water that enters a sponge”? Tradition says that Peter's wife was crucified before his eyes. Do we suppose that Peter's decision to remain true to Jesus at that moment gave soul his gentle drops of water on his heart? Even Paul agonized over doing the right thing, and asked that the thorn in his side be taken from him because it was painful. Paul certainly felt peace, and he certainly felt angst, but neither of those feelings are a telltale sign of proper discernment for any given decision he made.

Beware of relying on feelings as the sole arbiter of discernment. Our feelings usually lead us falsely.

Even at the end of the article as the author explains how Ignatius urges the person to pray for confirmation of their decision, the method once again points the person to their own selves.

"Once we feel that we have reached a point of decision, Ignatius suggests we place that decision before God and await his confirmation. How will this confirmation come? In the same way that our initial discernment came. It will be through pondering the stirrings of our heart as we begin to take the first tentative steps toward our new option."

The stirrings of our hart is the sign that I have made a right decision? But the bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

Not once is the authority of scripture mentioned. Not once was the Catholic person urged to consult the word to see what it has to say implicitly or explicitly about a situation.

However, we born-again believers must believe in sola scriptura, the doctrine that "sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. ... it means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture." (Scripture, Tradition, and Rome")

Discernment comes by knowing the word of God from the bible alone, and obeying it. Jesus is called the Word, and He is The Word of God. (John 1:1, Revelation 19:13). We discern it by reading the word of God and by submitting to that as our sole authority. Not daydreams, not desires, not feelings, not the heart. We are called to be holy, in fact, to be patterned after Jesus who is Holy (1 Peter 1:15). If we can't imagine that Jesus had a certain desire, then it is an evil desire.

There is a famine in the land and is it because of methods like praydreaming that we are hungry. Rev. Matt Slick writes,

"Spiritual discernment is lacking in the Christian community. Though there are faithful pastors and Christians who take the word of God seriously, there is an increasing number of Christians who are abandoning the clarity and commands of Scripture and substituting political correctness, feelings, and tolerance for biblical truth and its sometimes difficult revelations. They want to make Christianity more palatable so that the gospel offends no one, but they fail to realize that the gospel that offends no one is not the gospel of the Bible. Though we are not to purposely offend, in the name of truth offenses will come and we are not to shy away from them."

"So, what do we do to develop better spiritual discernment? First and foremost, you must be born again (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17) so that you may have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Second, you must study the Word of God and believe it. Third, you need to develop a proper biblical theology that includes the sovereignty and holiness of God found in both the person of Christ and in the Bible. Proper theology is the bedrock of discernment."


  1. The Bible was compiled and canonized roughly 1,600 years ago, give or take. Sola Scriptura, a teaching that incidentally cannot be found in the Bible, is roughly 500 years old. The math makes me question the logic of your whole blog post!

  2. The phrase "sola scriptura" was the motto of the Protestant Reformation, which was taking back the concept of the word alone, faith alone, etc from the Catholic Church who had added tradition to the word, making faith involve scriptura PLUS tradition.

    However the concept of sola scriptura, if not the motto, is as old as scripture. You can find it here-

    “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)

    You can question my logic all day long, but the question to you is, do you believe the above verse is all we need, or not?

  3. While that verse from Timothy does say that all scripture is useful it does not say that it is the only source. It stands to reason that if you put your faith into the scriptures you would also put your faith into the tradition that compiled it.

    The blatant dualism of this article struck me! That all desires of the flesh are evil is ridiculous! Where we not created for greatness in his image. Though sin has damaged this relationship it by no means implies we are no longer capable of desiring what God desires.

    Also it is important to understand that the methods Ignatius is talking about discerning right from wrong. But the better of two goods. Is it gods will that I start this business or continue with my steady job. Should I get married or join the seminary. Go for my masters right away or work for a while. These are all examples of things I have discerned myself or that have been discerned by people in my circle of friends. We would not look to our feelings to determine morality.

    This type of discernment should not be confused with moral compassing.

    1. Anonymous,

      You said, "That all desires of the flesh are evil is ridiculous! ... Though sin has damaged this relationship it by no means implies we are no longer capable of desiring what God desires. "

      God disagrees with you:

      "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:8


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