The first Spiritual Discipline is focused on creating the environment for communication with our Creator. The world we live in is filled with so much stimulation of our senses. Brightly colored television, busy traffic, hard work, kids, music, social media, etc. There is so much out there that causes us to lose ourselves in the commotion. This prevents us from being able to have clear and coherent thought, let alone a personal connection to God.
Meditation, What is it for the Christian?
The practice of meditation can aid us in pulling ourselves out of the ruckus, and allows us to focus on listening for God and obeying Him. The objective of meditation is to create in our hearts, minds, and spirit an environment that permits us to be able to hear God speak with us and to apply that Word in our lives. It is often combined with the Spiritual Discipline of solitude, but meditation can be done in any situation as one master’s the practice. While it may sound difficult, or what you have heard from others about meditation may have you think so, but it is something that is really quite simple.
The Christian practice of meditation is quite the opposite of that which is practiced mostly be the eastern religions. While those systems teach a meditation where you are “Clearing your mind,” Christian meditation involves filling your mind. If all you do is empty your mind for a time, when you come to, it will be filled with what was there before. The only benefit one can get from the eastern styles of meditation is if you stay in that state of mind indefinitely, as their goal is complete detachment from the world. Christian meditation is not about detaching from the world, it is about learning from the Creator of the world how to better live in it and manage it to your benefit and His glory.
The overall objective of the Christian way of life is to form a personal relationship with our King and a healthy relationship with our God through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction. This is to prepare us for the eternal life to come that was not earned, but given to us by God’s grace. Christian meditation is a tool for aiding this process, allowing us to receive from God His guidance for our life. When meditating, we seek to clear our mind of the worldly things and fill it with His Word and guidance. While other beliefs seek detachment, we seek attachment to our Lord and Savior. As you continue to practice meditation, it should result in an inward transformation of one’s mind related to the life circumstances you experience.
Where is this in the Bible?
The Bible records many of the followers of God meditating, and it is most commonly in reference to deep contemplation on His Word. In Genesis 24:26, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening.” The Psalms are filled with references to meditation, including Psalm 63 in verse six, “I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee on the watches of the night.” In Psalm 109:148, “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate upon thy promise.” Then of course when talking of a good man, the first Psalm has, “delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His Law he meditates day and night.” In Joshua, it is even given as a command by him to the people in 1:8, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your ways prosperous, and then you will have success.”
Jesus would spend time in meditation and prayer as well. In Luke 5:16, he tells us that, “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.” In Luke 6:12, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Much of the references to Jesus’ seclusion include the understanding of a time of detachment from the situations He was in so that He could be together with His Father. In Matthew 14:23, “After He had sent the crowds away, He went up to the mountain to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” These times of solitude were spent in prayer and meditation, the two key practices of communicating with God. Prayer is us speaking to God, Meditation is us listening for Him speaking to us.
How do I Meditate?
Meditation includes the process of using both our reason and our imagination to draw on both understanding and emotion. It requires one to separate themselves from any distractions and to be in an environment where they can focus without interruption. As you progress in the practice of meditation, you’ll discover that you can meditate anywhere! It is a skill that many of us share but few realize they have. In the military, leaders are trained how to meditate on their situation while taking contact (under fire). Having the ability to separate yourself from what is going on around you so you can think clearly is an incredible tool and is developed through the practice of meditation.
When starting out, be sure to set for yourself a time and place where you can meditate uninterrupted. Going into the time of meditation, you will want to prepare yourself by determining what it is you will be focusing on. This will depend on the type of meditation you plan on doing. Meditation can be done in conjunction with Bible Study, but this is not the only thing. There is re-centering, appreciating, analyzing, and as mentioned, scripture. These four different “forms” of meditation each serve their own purpose but are also a part of the “how to” for meditation.
The re-centering form of meditation is focused on the self. This is a time of meditation where you seek to center yourself while in the midst of a situation. During this form of meditation, you will want to concentrate on giving your situation up to God, and asking for God to guide you through it. This includes times of experiencing extreme difficulty as well as times of experiencing great blessing. This is more than a simple action of confession of sins. It is about giving up what is overwhelming you to God and seeking His guidance and direction. When you begin, clear your mind of other matters and focus on the particular situation. One thing at a time is the goal so we can focus to the best of our ability. Spend time carefully explaining the situation to God. He already knows and is aware, of course, but remember, this is a process of getting yourself setup to receive from the Lord.
Reciting your situation in a specific breakdown and review of it helps you prepare to understand what God has to tell you about the event. After spending time on this, it becomes time to seek guidance from the Lord. If you are keeping your practice of Bible Study, then God’s Word dwells within you, and you will start to remember passages that relate to your circumstance. In some cases, it may seem the passage that comes to mind is in no way related. Instead, it is the eternal principle of the passage that God is communicating to you. Stay focused on trying to hear God explain it to you. It will come with time and practice, and you will be able to hear Him more clearly. The thoughts that come and seem to not come from your own mind may just be your spirit catching what God has to share. When complete, be sure to ease your way out of the meditation slowly.
The next form of meditation is appreciation. This form is about taking into consideration the blessing of the creation and the world the Lord has given you. The goal here is taking the time to take yourself out of your own situations of comfort and home and appreciating what God has given you. This is the form that should take you outside, somewhere away from what man has made and out to the raw creation that our Lord has given us. This can be difficult, mostly for men, but in that sense, it is going out and roughing it for a time. Everyone can appreciate the appeal of a sunset. The beauty of a view overlooking the planes and valleys. This form of meditation and contemplation is on admiring the works of God. For folks who live in the city, this can be incredibly refreshing. It is all about taking in and realizing that the Lord has provided us with a beautiful home. He has given us a world that the sight of it alone fills us with such warmth and love. This form of meditation is about focusing in on that love, and focusing on appreciating what the Lord has done for us all.
The third form of Meditation is analyzing. This particular form of meditation will come naturally to those of us who enjoy staying in tune with what all is happening in the world. For those who are not frequent news watchers, it is important to stay connected with the events that affect our world. Like the previous meditations, this should be done in seclusion, but it can also be done anywhere once you achieve the skill of detaching yourself from the immediate world around you. The focus here is to consider the events going on in the world and setting them before God and seeking to understand what is going on in His context. This is where you can see God’s work in the world. This form of meditation is to help connect you with His wavelength. It allows you to view the world through His lens instead of your own or someone else’s.
Then the final form is the one you will likely want to start out with. This is meditation on scripture. Remember, in all of these different forms of meditation, contemplation is key. However, in scriptural meditation, you include your imagination to put yourself in the Biblical situation. Exercising your mind to comprehend what is going on in this world through the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read the scriptures is the goal here. You are seeking to hear the Lord speak to you, and the ability to hear Him more clearly comes from reading His revelation to man (the Bible).
As you perform the other Spiritual Discipline of Bible study, following it with a time of meditation is an excellent combination of these practices. Focus on the passage you have just read, and seek to understand it. Go over it in your mind and ponder about what the passage has to convey to you. How does it relate to other passages? How does it relate to you today? Now, do not mix this up with what you do in Bible Study. While you will want to have your Bible in front of you, there is no need for other resources such as dictionaries, commentaries, and concordances. Scriptural meditation is just on what God has to share with you about His Word, and using your imagination to place yourself into the Biblical context to allow the spirit to guide you as it did those in the situations you read about.
When meditating on the scriptures, you are just focusing on the Words of God being conveyed to you. You are concentrating on trying to let the spirit guide you in comprehending it. While it is difficult to explain how God speaks, it can best be explained as thoughts that come to your mind that do not seem to come out of your own pattern of thinking. They come to your mind surprisingly, like an epiphany, but usually when your mind is calm and it is not always directly related to what you were originally contemplating. While meditating on the scriptures, it is good to keep a journal while meditating. Allowing your mind to write out what comes to mind is extremely valuable. As you continue in the practice of meditation, you’ll come to discern what thoughts are your own, and what thoughts are those given to you. Those are the Words of God speaking to you the truth He desires for you specifically to know, even though it may be a point shared with others.
Christian Meditation is all about hearing God’s commands and obeying them. When you go into meditation, you are taking yourself out of the world and entering an environment where you can hear God speak. Most periods of meditation will last about thirty minutes or so, but when in deep contemplation with the Lord, it can go for quite a long time. You do not have to be in some strange posture, though sitting in a comfortable position (but not one you’ll fall asleep in) and having your eyes closed helps. Time of contemplation is a rare thing in our culture, so you must set aside time to do it. Contemplation itself is something not practiced commonly in our culture. Understand that it is a time of being in deep thought on spiritual matters, trying to bring your spirit out in the lead over your mind and body. When you come out of meditation, do so slowly. Allow yourself a moment to end the process of thinking, close it out with a moment of clarity. Don’t hesitate to journal what you have gained from the meditation.
Once complete, the next step is obedience to what the Lord has shared with you. In re-centering, go forward and fulfill what God has guided you to do in the situation and circumstance you engaged with Him about. In appreciation, breathe in and let the Lord’s craftsmanship envelope you, and take your time leaving it, but bring back into the world that feeling of comfort and love God gives to you. In analyzing, be comforted knowing that God is in control, and share what the Lord has shown you about the events of the world with others so you may glean wisdom from each other. In scriptural contemplation, remember the principles and apply them in your daily life. Christian Meditation should transform your spirit from a state of uncertainty to a position of clarity. Embrace it, and allow it to build you up, and follow through with what the Lord speaks to you.