Connecting Faith and Life

The Art of Meditating

The frenetic pace of our affluent life style has overwhelmed the individual to a point where people look for escape valves and releases. In spite of the human race caught up in a rat race God in His infinite mercy, deigns to speak to His children in a language that they can understand- a language sometimes formed of words, thoughts or nudges in the conscience through reading of the Word of God.

Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan), describes meditation this way: “Meditation is focused thinking. It takes serious effort. You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind…if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate” (190). Warren goes on to say, “No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day”

In Satisfy Your Soul (NavPress), Dr. Bruce Demarest writes, “A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God … Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God’s Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works … So we prayerfully ponder, muse, and ‘chew’ the words of Scripture. …The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God” (133).

Christian meditation is centered on Christ and the Scriptures. Meditation can be cultivated with regular practice. Mere reading of the Word of God is of no use at all when there is no meditation. The Oxford dictionary gives a synonym for meditation that says,”1. to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect
2. to engage in transcendental meditation, devout religious contemplation or quiescent spiritual introspection. 3. To train, calm, or empty the mind, often by achieving an altered state, as by focusing on a single object.” The Bible gives a better picture about where our thinking ought to be directed. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

CHRISTIAN AND TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION (TM)
There are two major differences, however, between traditional forms of meditation and Christian meditation. In traditional forms of meditation, the individual seeks to empty one’s self; in Christian meditation the believer seeks, rather, to be filled. In traditional meditation, the object is self, albeit the higher self, whereas in Christian meditation the object is God, who is high above all. In traditional meditation, the individual is not aware of the external environment(taken into the world of trance), whereas in Christian meditation the individual is aware of the external world and those around him.

During the practice of meditation, the non-christian strives to clear his or her consciousness of all thoughts, concentrating intensely until in a prescribed period of time a bare minimum of thoughts has been allowed or entertained in the consciousness. Often, a tool called a mantra is used which may be a word or a series of sounds that a person repeats continually until they are completely empty. This is supposed to achieve the ultimate relaxation and cessation of stress. When the meditator wants to obtain peace in the midst of a tumultuous situation he or she can just call to mind or repeat the mantra and the desired result is obtained.

In Christian meditation, the believer seeks to fill his or her thoughts with truths about God. Christians can achieve this by focusing on the Word of God, as the psalmist said: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1:2). Rather than emptying himself, the Christian fills his mind with hope and encouragement from the promises that God has given in His Word or on good things that God has done for him. Or he may simply just think on the wonder and awe of God. In so doing, the believer is assured of peace.

In seeking to reach one’s higher self, the traditional meditator may achieve his goal, but has really achieved a state which has no real value. At the pinnacle of his self every individual is but base and low, since all are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore there is no perfection to be obtained from within. Paul rightly said in his epistle to the Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me…” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus Christ alone is our source of righteousness and, therefore, peace. Seeking to reach one’s higher self is to reach for nothing; it may achieve a state of thoughtlessness and cessation from stress, but the individual will still remain empty and unfulfilled. The only path to peace and fulfillment is through God. If an individual, with purpose and intent, will meditate on God, he will achieve the highest of heights, including joy and peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

ELEMENTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

  • Be washed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not have unconfessed sin
  • Do have a teachable attitude. Do not have a pre- conceived attitude
  • Have a dependent attitude, praying ”Lord show me”
  • Do not have independent attitude thinking, “I can”
  • Do not read quickly. Instead slow down, ponder and muse
  • Do not rely on reason and analysis alone
  • Glorify God for insights. Do not take credit for insights.

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION – PROCESS

SELECT A BIBLE PASSAGE

A portion of scripture is selected from the Bible on a regular basis for meditation. It can be a parable, an illustration or a psalm that you read on a regular scheduled calendar.

PRAY
Pray reverently confessing your sins. Surrender your spirit to the wholesome control of the Holy Spirit to listen to His still small voice.

READ AND WRITE
Read the portion repeatedly at least three times. Read it slowly with complete understanding of the meaning of the passage. Note down repetitions, questions, historical background, context of the passage, the author, people involved in the passage, the theme, key verse.

UNDERSTAND
Seek to understand the meaning of your chosen passage in its context. Nothing is worse than misunderstanding a single verse (or even part of a verse) simply because it has been taken out of context. For example, Jesus’ famous statement that, “People need more than bread for their life …” has nothing to do with our physical diet but, as our Lord’s next phrase explains, it has everything to do with what we consume spiritually (see Matthew 4:4). Indeed, quoting Scripture out of context in order to distort its meaning was the method the devil used to tempt Jesus in two of his three temptations (Matthew 4:1-11), but Jesus countered him by quoting the Word of God accurately by affirming the underlying principles involved. This is something we need to learn to do too!

MEDITATE
This is the very heart of the process. Turn each verse – even individual phrases – over and over in your mind, allowing God to show you the different shades of meaning in each one. You may wish to underline some key words in your transcript and note down any thoughts which seem especially significant. Keep musing on the portion of meditation throughout the day. The meditative state of mind begins to become a reality when, in the midst of the hustle and bustle in life, you don’t feel spiritually stale, and instead are able to enjoy a fruitful communication with God and allow him to pour in his thoughts into your mind and spirit. Life then takes on an indescribable dimension of excitement and fulfillment. You begin to realize that you are part of God’s master plan and your two way communication is constantly alive with divine transmission.

PRAY AND ACT
Turn the thoughts and intimations you have received during your meditation into prayer. Use them as talking points with God – to thank him, praise him, confess to him – as you are moved. This will greatly strengthen your prayer life, by making you more aware of the extent of God’s grace, as well enhance your appreciation of the richness of God’s Word. As a result of the prayer which springs from your meditation, may your testimony echo that of the Psalmist in Psalm 66:16-19. If God has shown you anything you need to do – or stop doing – as a result of your meditation, then do not put off taking action. After all, as the apostle James says, it is no use just listening to God’s Word if all we do is then go away and forget all about it. We not only need to listen to God, but also do what he says if we are to receive the full benefit of looking into his Word (see James 1:22-25).

RECALL
In one sense a Bible meditation is never finished! In a quiet moment later the same day, or the next, bring the passage you have meditated upon back into your mind and allow it to remain there. A good time to do this is last thing at night, just before you go to sleep.
Scientists tell us that our unconscious mind carries on working while we sleep. So why not take God’s Word as a nightcap? This not only applies to a passage you may have meditated upon earlier, but also to reflecting on a verse, or even a phrase, from the Scriptures last thing at night. God is well able to speak into our spirits even while we sleep. All we need to do is to give him the opportunity to do so! (see Proverbs 6:20-23).

BENEFITS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
• Keeps us away from sinning(Ps:119:11)
• Guidance for daily living(Ps:119:105)
• Transformation of thinking(Rom:12:2)
• Puts us in the right path(2 Tim:3:16,17)
• Gives peace of mind
• Brings joy into our lives(Ps:119:2)
• Revives the spirit(Ps:119:25)

DO’S OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
• Choose a place with no distraction
• Choose a time when your mind is fresh (preferably early morning)
• Read through passage very slowly
• Rely on the Holy Spirit for insights
• Write down or underline important texts
• Refer to various translations, commentaries and dictionaries

DONT’S OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
• Don’t rush through your meditation.
• Do not neglect any portion of the Word of God
• Do not rely entirely on your intellect
• Do not neglect your personal prayer life
• Do not meditate on the Word of God without knowing its context

Christian meditation is a rewarding and an enriching experience. When practiced on a regular basis, it brings us into a closer walk with the Lord. It enables us to love and obey His word, thus helping us to grow into the very stature of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By Sarah Susannah Sampath

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