Christian meditation for most is rolled under the subject of prayer. The reason I haven’t finished the first section on prayer for the Prayer and Fasting Guide is twofold. First, I’ve become convicted that I did a very poor job of teaching my teenage daughters how to pray, so the remedy for that takes precedence over finishing the guide. When it is finished, with their input, then it will be more helpful, I hope. Secondly, I’ve been grappling with how to explain the subject of Christian meditation which I think is essential for an effective prayer life.
Having practiced both Eastern and Christian meditation I think it is best to begin a discussion of Christian meditation by describing what it is not. Earlier today I Tweeted, ‘Eastern meditation strives 4 nonexistence; Christian meditation fills us up with God.’ I think this is the most concise way to describe the difference. As I practice traditional meditation, I work to empty my mind to enter a calm state which comes from detachment. This emptying can be very pleasant and relaxing, but unless you backfill this spiritual space with something or someone of importance, I fear the long term consequences may be a state of spiritual numbness. This spiritual numbness we might argue is the precursor to Nirvana which is essentially nonexistence.
In contrast, with Christian meditation we are allowing our mind to become filled with God. Instead of emptiness, we want fullness. Rather than detachment, we want empowerment. Instead of numbness, we want transcendence. The difference is hard to explain without experiencing it. Calmness and relaxation still come about but with a deeper sense of hope, power, connection, and victory.
This is why I think Christian meditation is so important to prayer. I’m not sure if it precedes, follows, or runs parallel to Concept of God, but it is a step which is important in grasping the relational (present and eternal) aspects of prayer.
Like traditional meditation, it requires practice. A quiet place and a comfortable stance helps. Starting with 20 to 30 minute periods are best at first. Instead of a mantra, circle, or stone, find a passage, scene, or word in scripture to meditate upon. Think upon the passage repeatedly as the plumb line to your life. Participate in the scene in your imagination as if you are there. Sit watching Christ as he turns and gazes at you. Feel his touch. Embrace him. Sense him filling you up with his presence. Today, I used ‘for God so loved the world’ and ‘love is patient,’ imagining and experiencing these passages.
As I transitioned into prayer, I found myself ready to wait, ready to be obedient, ready to take God’s lessons. Later in the day when I misplaced my wallet, God blessed me by showing me how quickly I turned to him and let go of my panic. In the past, I would have been in a complete, worried frenzy. With him, I was concerned but trusted it would work out. I prayed, and retraced my steps. It was on the corner of my desk. He showed me that he really is making me into a better person and how ridiculous my past behavior had been when I didn’t trust him. For more on this topic, read Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline.
Future posts that are devotional will include a passage for Christian Meditation.