Christian Meditation

Before we jump into the book, let me lay out my plan. For the next six weeks I plan to blog twice each week. I’ll be using Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, as a jumping off point and hope to add Scripture and other sources to the ideas that Foster shares in each chapter. So today, we’ll look at meditation, and then on Thursday, we’ll jump into prayer. With a Monday/Thursday pace it will take us six weeks to go through the book. The great thing is that these are such discrete topics that I think anyone can truly jump in anywhere. And although I’ve only just begun reading, can I just say that I absolutely love this book. It is timeless. It is brilliant. The writing is simple and anointed. I’m so excited about studying the disciplines, implementing the disciplines and about the transformation I expect God to work in my own life.

The first discipline that Foster addresses is meditation; he devotes seventeen pages to the topic, so a couple of paragraphs can only begin to scratch the surface. Please read the book! But one thing that is clear is that we should meditate. After all, the Bible says to. The Lord told Joshua to meditate day and night. The Psalmist meditated “all day long” and claimed to have “more insights than all [his] teachers” as a result. Paul said we need to renew our minds, that we need to be in control of our thoughts, setting our minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely — that we need to meditate on these things. (See Romans 12 and Philippians 4).
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet many people, myself included, have spent years in good, Bible-believing churches without a single mention of meditation. One explanation might be that many people associate meditation with Eastern religions. This association is totally misguided because the two practices are actually opposite. The goal of Eastern meditation is to empty the mind, and despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s great writing in Eat, Love, Pray emptying the mind in this way has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. No, Christian meditation fills the mind with God’s word and God’s truth as revealed in creation. There is also a contemplative and quiet component, but the goal in this phase is to hear from God. This is very unlike Eastern meditation, where detachment is the key and the ultimate desire is not to hear from anyone or anything but to merge with the Cosmic Mind.
So in a sense, Christian meditation is a willingness to listen, and an expectation that something will be said. But listening takes time and “God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly.” (E.M. Bounds). We need to persevere, even when we are not in the mood, even when we don’t feel edified or renewed. As Bonhoeffer said, “The person who waits upon moods is impoverished.” Meditation takes practice and commitment.
As for the “how” of meditation, Foster has some good ideas for beginners, and I highly recommend Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Meditating on the the Word. Although I’ve meditated before, I’m definitely still a beginner. The means I’ve used in the past are very simple. I have taken my Bible and read the same verses, maybe three to five, over and over again, asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand and apply the passage. The Psalms lend themselves very well to meditation and are a good starting point. I’ve also meditated over a short passage in a group setting, which was very interesting, and aptly proved that God can speak new wisdom to us in the most familiar passages. The other thing that I have done is to use the little notebooks pictured above. I can carry these anywhere, and they are filled with verses and a few quotes I find to be particularly poignant. Bonhoeffer said, “It is often better to read a little in the Scriptures and slowly, waiting until it has penetrated within us, than to know a great deal of God’s Word but not to treasure it in our hearts.”
Obviously there’s a lot more to be unpacked from Foster, and elsewhere. So I’d love to know your thoughts about the book and maybe what spoke to you the most in this first discipline.
At the very least let us walk away emboldened, as Foster said: “We learn to meditate by meditating.”

3 thoughts on “Christian Meditation

  1. I don't even know what to say…that was some great teaching!!! I was aware of the need for mediation and it's great difference in the Christian realm versus the Eastern mediation understanding, but with the scripture included, well, I just thoroughly enjoyed the post and learned much…thanks for taking on this task and I hope to keep up with it!

  2. I jumped the gun a little and discussed the chapter YESTERDAY. I was amazed (though I don't know WHY), that we were struck by some of the same points. How encouraging it is to share like-mindedness…”then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Phil. 2:2)

  3. Kristie asked my to try and copy and paste my comments from yesterday to today (wonder of wonders!) I was able to figure out how to do it.

    Got started on the book and am loving it! I loved the statement that “the doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem” and that “the desperate need isn't for more intelligent people or for gifted people but for DEEP people.” How often I'm left feeling something was missing…because we didn't get beyond the superficial stuff…we didn't get DEEP…I didn't get deep.

    In the beginning of the meditation chapter he notes that the Adversary of our times “majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds.” How often I've come away from a noisy, crowded place feeling like I've wasted precious time, that I didn't make any REAL connections with anyone. How AWFUL to come away from spending precious time with the Lord of the universe feeling that I've only touched on the superficial and hadn't made a true connection.

    Unfortunately, the word “meditation” has often (for me anyway) conjured up some kind of “new age” nonsense. I like how he differentiated Eastern meditation from Christian meditation, the Eastern being about emptying the mind while the Christian is about FILLING the mind. Love it.

    I took up his challenge to meditate on just one passage or verse. I had a piece of paper in my journal and decided that whatever verse was on it would be the one I would meditate on that day. The verse was Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It was particularly special because A.) That “just happened” to be the verse Dane's school had chosen for their verse for the school year (they passed it out to everyone on a little business card) and, B.) Turned out I REALLY needed to practice some mercy that day…and a lot of humility.

    I'm thankful for the fresh conviction for a desperately needed “slow down” of my mind and lifestyle…I know it's going to take LOTS of practice…but it's all about that first step…right?

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