When I think of the word ‘meditation’—given my Indian upbringing and context—it conjures up images of sanyasis and gurus in orange robes, sitting cross-legged with eyes closed, either on the top of a mountain or under a large tree, chanting mantras. Yet, meditation is very much a Christian process as well. As much as culture would try to tear it away from the Christian domain, the Bible repeatedly calls us to meditate –
‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night…’ (Joshua 1:8)
‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.’ (Psalm 19:14)
‘My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.’ (Psalm 119:148)
‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.’ (Psalm 143:5)
These are just a few, but the Bible is filled with instances of God’s people enjoying His presence through meditation. So as a spiritual discipline which is very much a part of our ‘religion’ so to speak – the fundamental question remains the same – what is mediation and how does it look in a Christian context?
I do not claim to be an authority on this topic, nor do I have all the answers. But meditation is something that I have been consciously trying to inculcate in my busy, distracted life and here are some of the things I have learned.
As I see it, meditation is a time to quieten my heart and mind; to slow down physically and mentally, and allow myself to rest in God’s presence. Do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating the need to empty my mind in any way. Rather, it is a conscious effort to set my mind on Yahweh alone - wholly and completely. This oftentimes is a silent process – I find that to focus on God, I have to consciously mute the things that distract me – my phone, my laptop, a half-read book on my night stand, etc. However, staying focused for any length of time becomes a problem as I have realised I have the attention span of a two-year old! My mind tends to wander and eventually I’m no longer meditating on God but thinking of the next item on my to-do list! I’ve found two things that have helped me concentrate as I meditate, which I’d like to share with you. Perhaps they might help you too.
First, music. I have increasingly found that listening to worship music has been beneficial during my times of meditation. The songs have helped me focus on God, kept the distractions away, and taken me deeper in my understanding of the One I worship. There have been times when I have experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence so closely, I have wept with tears of joy. Other times I have gained a more profound understanding of God’s character and nature. The songs I generally choose for these times of meditation are ones by the Christian singers Shane and Shane. I especially love those where they have sung scripture – there are tons of videos on YouTube with their music. The words are beyond beautiful because they are the very Word of God. I usually put a playlist on shuffle and allow the songs to play on a loop while I sit or kneel and listen in quietness. And as I meditate on the words, God gives me understanding, or He speaks to me, or I just feel His presence beside me. It’s amazing and refreshing.
Second, poetry. This is a rather unusual form of meditation but surprisingly it works for me. I usually spend an hour or so with a volume of Christian poetry and have found that the words in verse form seem to have a magical quality that enable me to meditate. The truths they divulge are age old, yet perhaps it’s the way they are said - somehow they bring something to light that my mind had kept hidden. Anthologies of Christian poetry and readings are a great way to help you meditate on God and His ways. As I have spent time reading, I end up jotting down thoughts in a journal, or just closing my eyes and praying.
Ultimately, to meditate, I realise I have to choose to make the time for it. It will not happen automatically. It takes effort and time; but the rewards are immeasurable. I would like to encourage you to make the time in your lives. Quieten yourself and allow yourself to focus on God. Believe me, it is time well spent!
Lord, if I am to be
My best for you
I must rest in you.
For you, I must give
All that’s mine to you,
My time to you.
Lord, if I am to show the way
To you, I must pray to you –
Give each day to you.
Lord, if I am to tell of you
I must dwell in you.
Lord, if I am to achieve
For you, I must receive from you.
Lord, please grant me grace,
Let me give you space.
- Marilyn Dougan