Exploring Spiritual Disciplines: Meditation
We live in an exceedingly busy world. It is rare that we take time to appreciate the small things between work, homesteading, children, and all the other chores that we have to take care of. But one of the most important things that we can do is take time out of our day to practice meditation.
In our circles, we sometimes feel a tinge of uneasiness when we talk about meditation. We have often heard it discussed in secular circles, or in reference to the Eastern religions like Buddhism who are what the world sees as the primary practitioners of meditation. However, meditation has been a part of the Christian spiritual life since Christ himself, and part of the Jewish life before that.
Christian meditation differs from secular or Eastern forms of meditation in one major way. In the latter, the goal is to empty your mind of all distractions. To embody emptiness, focusing on nothing, and, in turn, attempting to join the great nothingness of the universe. For Eastern practitioners, it is a religious practice. For secular people, it is a form of stress relief, to be able to forget about the busyness of our modern world and center one’s self in a way that allows one to feel fresh and renewed. However, in Christian meditation, the goal is not an empty mind—it is a focused mind. But just what are we focusing on?
Richard J. Foster defines meditation simply as listening to God. When we meditate, we are not trying to empty ourselves, nor are we trying to dialogue. Instead, it is a giving of ourselves wholly to what God may have to say to us. This may include reading a passage and focusing deeply on it, listening to what God may be trying to say to us (if you followed along with our Luke podcast, you may have some practice with this already!), or it may be focusing on the nature around you and the glory of its creator. Whatever it is, your job when meditating is not to come up with grandiose ideas, but to listen intently for the still, small voice of God, like the one Elijah heard on Mt. Sinai.
At first thought, the idea of listening to God may make us uncomfortable. We are scared of putting words in God’s mouth, or hearing something that isn’t there. But one thing that mediation can help us do is reclaim the stream of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is alive and moves today, and helps us discern the words of God. This certainly takes practice, but as we continue to practice meditation we will become better at separating the sanctified words of Spirit versus our own thoughts and ideas.
When you begin to practice meditation, the best place to start is with your Bible. Make some space in your house or somewhere peaceful and quiet. Outdoors would be great, especially somewhere private away from roads, but a quiet place indoors is also great. Make sure that your phone is silent and preferably somewhere far away from you where you won’t be tempted to grab it and check it. Read a passage—ideally, something from the prophets or the Gospels to start. Rest in that passage; don’t try to do a study on it, using commentaries or word studies. Instead, let the words of the passage flow through your mind. Listen for what God is saying in that passage, and meditate on the words that were written. When you start this practice, you may only be able to spend a few minutes in meditation. That’s all right! Even people who have been practicing this for years sometimes have trouble focusing for long times. As time goes on, try to carve out at least ten to twenty minutes a day where you can just meditate, listening for God’s voice.
Practicing meditation in such a hurried world can be difficult, but I encourage you to give it a chance, even if it takes weeks or months to get it right. Because when we listen for God’s voice, we are often reminded of the love that he always tells us he has for us.