Words synonymous with meditate are contemplate, deliberate, muse, think, consider, reflect, concentrate. Basically, things we do on a daily basis anyways. So why the negative stereotype (in the minds of western christians, at least) with the word meditation? Well, as is the case with most stereotypes, there is misunderstanding and lack of exposure. “You’re afraid of what you don’t know”.
So you, Christian, might hear the word meditation and immediately envision religious easterners, probably monks, sitting for hours and humming or chanting or whatnot. You wouldn’t be wrong to make that connection. Because they do that, for sure. You might understandably connect meditation with paganism and paganism with demonic and therefore, connect meditation with demons. Understandable. But consider the synonyms above and you might see where I’m going with this. You also meditate. Probably everyday (if yousa good christiaaaan). What’s more, the scripture explicitly commands you to meditate, multiple times. Yes, commands. So obviously it is not inherently pagan. Keep reading, I’ll get there.
All I Said Was ______ !
Have you ever heard the saying, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? We use this saying because we recognize very few, if any, words are inherently bad but rather the intent behind the words shape their meaning and their morality. In other words, the tone of the words may change their meaning. What the speaker is trying to say, beneath the surface of the words, is communicated by the way in which the speaker says the words. It’s sub-communication. So what matters with speaking (and meditation and basically everything) is not only methodology, but intent.
This is more or less what sets the Christian life apart from any other. We do all the same things as our neighbor; eat, sleep, drink, play, read, love, spend, save, marry, and die. But whatever we do, we do “unto the lord” and “in faith”. God accepts this life as spiritual worship and it is pleasing to him. On the surface we do the very same things as everyone else, differentiated by methodology and intent. Example: Mark the Manly-Man drinks 15 beers and passes out. John the Baptist drinks 1 beer (locust beer?) while giving thanks to the lord. Methodology and intent.
So back to meditation. In my usual fashion I am long windily trying to establish that meditation is simply an action performed by all people. What differentiates meditation from being right or wrong (for the lack of more appropriate words) is the way we meditate and the intent of the meditation.
Please Get to The Point
I’m trying! There’s just so much to say!
What does the scripture say then, about the way we ought to meditate and the intention of our meditation?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
I will meditate on your precept and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15
I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:48
Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. Luke 2:19
Color Me Convinced
I can keep going (there’s waaaay more scripture to support this), but I hope you have noticed the obvious by now. The methodology is focusing on god day and night, the intent is doing it as a way to cultivate your love and obedience to his ways. Unlike pagan meditation, we don’t seek to empty ourselves, to look inwards and find ourselves, to connect ourselves to Mother Nature or the universe or any such thing. Christian meditation is the quiet contemplation of the things of God. By quiet I don’t mean in terms of audibility, but rather mindset. To slow yourself down and focus on particular texts. Particular attributes. Particular promises. Particularly on God himself.
There’s a good chance a large portion of whoever read this far (probably 2 of you) would recognize most of what I’ve mentioned thus far could also be described simply as prayer. That isn’t entirely wrong, actually. The reason I want to use the word meditation instead of prayer is because of the normative understanding of prayer. Prayer is generally understood to be the action of bringing our requests before God. Whereas meditation is generally understood to imply abstaining from speaking to focus on thinking. Personally, I don’t separate my prayers from my meditation. It’s all the same. When I pray, making my needs known to God, I also spend significant time NOT speaking, and focusing on the transient thoughts I have regarding his character, his promises, his behavior, etcetera.
I could have saved a lot of time by saying christian meditation is basically mature christian prayer, but that would have been far less enjoyable (for me).
Why Should I Meditate?
It’s all good and fine that the scripture commands us to do it. For some people that’s more than enough. But understanding why the scripture makes this command is important, too. Remember the words of Jesus,
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:29-30.
The key words here are “learn from me” and “rest for your souls”. We ought to mediate first and foremost because Jesus did it (often). His time in the word and his prayers to God were not structured around his life. His life was structured around them . We want to imitate the life of Jesus (1 John 2:6) if we want to be like Jesus. After all, us being like Jesus is basically the main plan of God (Romans 8:29).
Therefore, Christian meditation is one way in which you go about doing the will of God. Consider also Romans 12:2. Intentionally focusing on the things of God is not only right but it is good for you. It shapes your mind.
You are what you love. You love what you treasure. You treasure what you desire. And you desire that which catches your eye.
Catch your eye upon the lord. Meditate on his ways. Reshape your mind. Remember his promises. His deliverances. His salvation. His everything. Day and night.
If you would like to hear more exceptionally profound teaching, please give me all your money so I can quit my job and do this instead (this is a joke). The end.