I’ve written a lot about meditation. In fact, I think I may have written about it more than any other single topic.
And there’s good reason for that. Of all the ways to experience God, it has been the most profound for me. Even when I have no desire to worship, study, or teach, meditation always seems welcoming. Its comforting to me. I don’t have to prove anything. I just sit and be.
Maybe it’s the lazy man’s worship. Or maybe the introvert’s worship. That’s probably what I like about it.
Beyond that meditation has a ton of physical and mental benefits. Meditation can:
- Lower stress
- Reduce risk of stress for teenagers and pregnant women
- Help you sleep
- Improve your memory
- Help you focus
These health benefits can come from any form of meditation, but I’m encouraging forms of meditation that are specifically Christian. There are a few reasons I practice this specific kind of meditation.
So here’s why I meditate (and why you should too).
Because I am a Christian
Of all the words that might be used to describe me, I hope that “Christian” would be the first to come to people’s minds. Being a Christian is more important than being a father or husband or pastor or blogger or any other vocation I might have at any given point.
It is most important because it determines how I do those other things. It is the foundation on which the rest of my life is built (you know, speaking ideally).
If “Christian” is going to set the guidelines for every other part of my life I need to know what that means. When I begin the day by first sitting under the instruction of scripture and the Spirit then I am better equipped to know exactly how to be a Christian. And therefore how exactly to be a father or husband or pastor or blogger.
Because I believe Jesus is alive
While I use a variety of things as aids in meditation: music, nature, art, poetry, even the sound of my children’s laughter, my most frequent aid is scripture. Meditation on scripture is not the same as studying scripture.
When I was a kid my mom used to sit us down at the table and do inductive studies of Old Testament prophets with us. I’ve been bred to STUDY the Bible.
Then I went to college and majored in Religion and Philosophy. I took classes on things like Hebrew literature in the Old Testament or the culture of first century Rome. I learned about how the Bible was written (literally how, as in what kind of paper and ink were used) Then went to grad school and took even more theology and interpretation classes. I’ve been taught to STUDY the Bible.
I became a youth pastor and eventually head pastor. I led teenagers through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse. I preached through entire books of the Bible. I answered the questions of skeptical teenagers and doubting adults. I was paid to STUDY the Bible.
And I kind of started to hate it. Because I started to treat the Bible the same way I would The Odyssey. I treated it like a dead text that I could mine for interesting facts and maybe helpful insights. It became a puzzle to unlock.
I studied scripture so that I could master it.
Meditation saved me from this. It practically saved my faith.
I believe that Jesus is alive and that he is working and I want to present myself to him daily for instruction
When I meditate I don’t master the text, I allow God to speak to me. I am the passive party. I am the student and Jesus is the teacher.
I mediate so that I can sit at the feet of the master instead of trying to be the master.
Because I need a discipline of prayer
We usually pray when we feel like it. And we don’t really feel like it very often.
Maybe when things are going bad or when we need to make a decision, but generally we let it slide until we realize we don’t remember the last time we prayed.
The heroes of our faith prayed regularly. Isaac went to the field every afternoon to pray. Daniel prayed three times a day. The writer of Psalm 119 (probably King David) claimed to pray seven times a day. Jesus keeps a pretty regular routine of engagement with people through teaching and miracles and withdraw to pray to the Father. Martin Luther prayed 3 hours a day. John Wesley prayed 4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said any day he did not pray was wasted. Our brothers in the East train their whole lives to learn to pray without ceasing.
I can’t talk to my wife, who is sitting with me, for four hours. How could I ever pray for four hours? I don’t always know what to pray and I am deathly afraid of vain repeated prayers.
Luckily, in meditation we can allow the Spirit to pray for us (Romans 8:26). Even if I don’t know what to say, meditation allows me to maintain a discipline of communication with God.
Because I want to speak well
“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.” Thomas Keating
God spoke creation into existence. But before that he was quiet.
Jesus was God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us. He is the Word of God, according to John 1. But before that Word was spoken there was 400 years of silence from God.
Even God is silent before he does something big.
We were told as children “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” I think that if you can’t say anything worth speaking, don’t say anything at all. And anything worth speaking is spoken from a place of silence.
Jesus taught that we speak what is flowing out of our hearts.
When I spend the first of my day being silent before God, filling my heart with whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, anything excellent, anything worthy of praise (Phil 4:8) then things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise will come out of my mouth.
When I begin my day with silence, then the rest of my words are spoken from that silence and they can be words that create beauty and hope and joy, like the words of the God who is speaking to me in silence.
Because I become too busy
I wrote about my battle against busyness pretty recently and how we should combat our busyness by being humble and learning to discern.
Meditation is my weapon of choice in both of these fights.
As I said above, when I meditate on scripture I am not the master, but I sit at the feet of the master (much like Mary in Luke 10). This takes a willing choice on my end to give up control. It lays me bare and I am forced to let scripture (or even more terrifying, God) speak to me about things I may not want to talk about. It humbles me to be broken and rebuilt through the working of the Spirit during meditation.
It also teaches me my value. Knowing that God is speaking to me directly when I sit on my porch in the middle of nowhere Texas and that he was already there waiting on me to take the time to notice him helps me let go of the need for the approval of man. I get busy so people will think I’m valuable. When I slow down in meditation and get unbusy, I know God finds me valuable.
Meditation is about listening and listening is the first (and middle and last) step of discernment. Learning to speak God’s first language is the only way we’ll ever learn to discern. When I sit and wait to be taught by God, I am training myself to understand the way He thinks and what it He desires. I allow him to operate instead of doing all the work for myself and asking if he approves. Then I can make decisions based from God’s will and not passively allow others to decide what is important for me to do.
What about you?
If you don’t meditate already, hopefully I’ve convinced you to start. Here’s some resources to help get you started
Maybe you already meditate. Do you have a favorite reason to meditate? Let me know in the comments . . .