Meditation, part 2

Last week we had “Sacred Space” in chapel. This is where there is no chapel speaker, no worship team, just a time of quiet reflection and prayer. The only guidance was two different chapters of scripture being read and some prompts for prayer on the projector. I let this time of reflection kick off my week of practicing the discipline of meditation.

The first chapter we were supposed to focus on was Psalm 51. It instantly caught my attention and I focused my meditation for the week on its words.

First, I familiarized myself with the chapter. I read and re-read it. I copied the whole chapter into my journal. Next, I picked out the sections that that stood out to me by underlining words and phrases and writing out specific verses. I discovered I focus on scripture best when I can process it through more than just my thoughts. I need to write it out.

Apart from my daily devotions in the word, I attempted to ponder some of the verses or words during my day. This was definitely the hardest part for me. Part of meditation is disciplining the imagination to be caught captive by the wonders of God. Meditating trains the heart to dwell on God all the time so that the idle thoughts, the typical daydream, the usual flow of ideas all go to Christ. Being aware of where my imagination took my on a daily basis revealed that I need a discipline like meditation to intentionally realign my thoughts each day.

This awareness of my failure to mediate on God’s law and works throughout my day soon made me discouraged. I wanted Psalm 51 to dictate my imagination, but it didn’t. But I saw something else emerging through my failure. Whenever I realized my thoughts were wandering and were not caught captive by God, I called to him to bring them back. I repented for my lack of discipline, I expressed a desire to know him better and find joy in who he is, and I asked him to take my thoughts. It was a humbling experience to recognize that it is not that I need better control of my thoughts, but I need God to have control of my thoughts.

This is when the words of Psalm 51 really started to have an impact:

 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight…
 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice…
 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit…
 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise…
 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
– Excerpts from Psalm 51

Through practicing this discipline I discovered the impact the Word of God can have over time. My initial reading of Psalm 51 was interesting, but the words did not start to transform my thoughts or actions until I had dwelt on them for a week. Meditating on scripture allows you to take it with you to live with it. Just as we do not truly know someone after one conversation with them but by living life with him or her in the daily grind and mountain-top moments, we do not know the Bible from just one reading but by coming back to it day after day gaining new insights and letting the Holy Spirit work it into our hearts and lives.

After my week of practicing meditation, I decided I want to integrate it into my life on a regular basis. Partly for what I gleaned in this week of practicing the discipline, and partly because I realize I need a lot more practice in order to reap the full benefits of what the discipline has to offer and one week is only scratching the surface.

 

Meditation

Only to sit and think of God,

Oh what a joy it is!

To think the thought, to breathe the Name

Earth has no higher bliss.

-Frederick W. Faber

Meditation is a lost art in the Christian life. The practice has been overtaken by Eastern religions seeking to detach themselves from present reality. Yet we have countless calls to meditate in the Bible. The Christian version of meditation is not an emptying of the mind, but it is filling the mind and heart with God’s word. One of the greatest passages on mediation is found in Psalm 119 where the psalmist says he meditates “on your precepts” (Psalms 119:15, 78), “on your statutes” (Psalm 119:23; 48), “on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27) and this meditation is his joy.

Meditation is a sinking into who God is and what He has done. In meditation our main goal is not to know more about God, but to let what we know penetrate the deepest source of our being and draw us into communion with and utter adoration of God. David Mathis describes the goal of meditation as making God’s words “saturate [our lives], give [us] direction, shape [our] mind, form [our] patterns, fuel [our] affections, and inspire [our] actions.” Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says that in meditation we are aiming to “think God’s thoughts after Him, to delight in His presence, to desire His truth and His way.”

So how do we meditate?

The primary tool of meditation is scripture. Meditating on scripture helps us internalize God’s word so it is part of our very being and flows out of us whether we are conscious of it or not. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).

We must set aside a time for focused meditation. Meditating on the works of God is something that we should be doing 24/7, but it is also important to dedicate a time to more intentional meditation.  Set a time to directly turn your heart and mind to God and allow Him to penetrate it with His word.

Setting a place and posture is also necessary. Foster recommends finding a place you can return to with consistency. You might also choose to meditate somewhere where you can be surrounded by the magnificence of God’s creation. Finding a place that stirs your awe and affections  will make your meditation that much sweeter. However, Foster reminds us that “regardless of how [meditation] is done, the aim is to center the attention of the body, the emotions, the mind, and the spirit upon ‘the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6).”

As modern Christians bombarded by desires of the flesh everywhere we go, we must not neglect the practice of pausing to let God’s word inform our hearts and minds. At the core of meditation is the desire to be closer knit to God. All Christian should crave this closeness to the heart of God and seek it through meditation, for He will not hide Himself from those who  seek Him. “I love those who love me,
and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:17-19).