What is meditation?
Before getting into the topic of meditation, we need to consider how we define meditation. Just like fasting, meditation is by in large a practice that has become secularized and spiritually practiced by many world religions. So it is important for us to understand that there are great differences in Christian meditation compared to every other worldly or spiritual meditations.
Worldly meditation many times tell us to empty our minds. It desires for mental passivity. Or when worldly meditation desires any mental activity, it calls us to visualize our desired reality and focus on it so intensely that by doing so, somehow it will become our reality as we find the answer hidden within ourselves.
On the contrary, Christian meditation tells us to fill our minds with God’s Truth. It requires mental activity. While worldly meditation calls us to visualize our own desired reality, Christian meditation requires us to visualize, think upon, and focus on the reality of God. It calls us to focus and fill our minds with God’s Truth and not just on the definition and meaning of the words itself but with intention to internalize and externalize it. In other words, coming to Scripture to receive it (internalizing it) and apply it through obedience to it (externalizing it).
So in one sense, worldly meditation is about being stationary, solitary and still while Christian meditation moves our hearts, transforms our hearts by God’s Truth and moves us towards others. It activates us.
The lack of meditation
We live in an age where the lack of meditation has crippled the Christian life. So many truths of the Bible are overly simplified and spoon-fed to us. And in an age of social media, we rely too much on the short inspirational quotes and the opinion and experience of others to guide our own thoughts and decisions in life. And even though their revelation and truth is founded in Scripture, because many people live off of the experience and faith of others, when the trials of life become too hard to bear, our faith is not enough to sustain us or help us get through them.
The greatest benefits of Christian meditation
The greatest benefits to meditation is a deepening of love for God and His Word and a deepening in our prayers.
Regarding God’s Word:
“The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation.”Thomas Watson, 17th Century Puritan
“The great reason why our prayers are ineffectual, is because we do not meditate before them.”William Bates, 17th Century Puritan
Have you ever joined a prayer meeting and the person leading prayer asks you “let’s pour out our hearts” and your mind goes blank as you realize you don’t have anything in your hearts to pour out? Sometimes, we don’t have anything to pour out. Does this mean our prayers should cease?
This is where meditation and being filled with God’s Word is so important in our prayers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian martyr in Germany who stood up against the Nazi regime and who was executed by the Nazis wrote this:
“Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak to him, whether the heart is full or empty. No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ…
It is a dangerous error… to think that the heart can pray for itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – all of which the heart can do by itself – with prayer…. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our hearts.”– Dietrich Bonhoeffer (emphasis added)
Prayer becomes so much more and can be lifted to God whether our hearts may be dry or full if we go beyond simply pouring out our hearts and start to fill our hearts with the Bible and asking for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. Meditation allows us to fill ourselves with the truths of Scripture and God’s Truth informs our prayers, leading to another level of richness and depth.
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