March 5, 2021
I have struggled with this particular practice for years. You see when I was very young I was inducted into a type of meditation called “Transcendental Meditation” or TM for short. It is a form of meditation that is rooted in the ancient Vedic tradition out of India. It is similar to Buddhist-style meditations where you are clearing or emptying your mind of thought through the repetition of a mantra.
For me, it was a nonsense word because I didn’t understand what it meant. I have since forgotten the actual word. I found the practice of meditation very soothing as a young person, but the effects were short-lived. However, what I didn’t realize was that certain types of meditation could actually open me to spiritual attack or influence if I am not focusing on the right thing.
My practice of focusing on a nonsense word for 20 minutes twice a day didn’t fill my heart or my head with the tools for lasting peace or contentment. During that period of my life where I regularly meditated, I was consistently attacked through nightmares, visions of evil people and things, as well as unhealthy levels of anxiety and fear. The momentary calm was fleeting. After I moved away from home I stopped meditating.
Fast forward a couple of decades and becoming a born-again Christian, I had fear around the idea of meditation. I, like many Christians, felt that it was an Eastern Religion practice and it was unbiblical. I steered clear of meditation and stuck to conscious prayer. That was safe. However, as I began to read the Bible more I started to see that not only were there several passages pointing to prayer AND meditation.
Psalm 1:2 – but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.
Psalm 119:15 – I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
Matthew 6:6-7 – But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Jesus told his disciples to go away to a quiet place to pray and use few words. Sounds a lot like meditation. As a Christian, I know I am meant to seek to become more like Christ. If Jesus went away to a quiet place to pray and meditate that probably meant I would benefit from that too. I began to research how Christian meditation was the same and different from secular meditation.
One major difference I noticed is that TM and Eastern traditions empty the mind of thought. Whereas Christian meditation seeks to fill the mind. (Philippians 4:8) We are meant to meditate on truth, goodness, God’s word, and His law day and night.
Similar to a mantra we should meditate on the scriptures so that we constantly have God’s word on our heart and mind. Can you imagine how your faith would grow if you adopted the practice of meditating on a passage of scripture for 20 minutes twice a day? First, you would learn a great deal of scripture. Second, I am confident you would get revelations about how to apply the scripture from the Holy Spirit. Lastly, you would gain clarity about how to move forward in life. After all the Bible says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
Another difference between secular meditation is that there is a focus on the self. Meditation is a practice that is introspective. Whereas Christian meditation is focused on seeking the presence of God. It is a practice that will incorporate praising God and reflecting on His glory.
When I was practicing TM and focused internally I felt at peace with myself but chaos unleashed as soon as I had to interact with people again. Secular meditation made me want to run away and join a monastery to escape the hardships life presented. Spending quiet time reflecting on God’s goodness, His creation, His glory, and His grace renews my hope. I don’t run from difficult things as quickly. I realize that my strength comes when I’m aligned with Jesus. The practice of Christian meditation has the similar benefit of calming my mind and the added benefit of consistent peace.
Christian meditation is intentional. It is more methodical than secular meditation but it isn’t rigid. When we meditate as Christians we seek to be in the presence of God, we reflect on scripture, God’s goodness, and His creation. It is less free-form drifting in our mind. That is not to say that you won’t experience a deep calm. It is likely that as you practice Christian meditation for longer periods, your conscious mind quiets so that you experience a wholly spiritual moment. These are the moments that I believe God is able to speak directly to my spirit and help me move forward. Out of these moments, I’ll sometimes have an idea about how to solve a particular problem, or I will have a thought I need to share with a friend (prophetic word).
In secular meditation, you drift in and out of the conscious mind and use a mantra or breathing technique to pull you back into that deep place of silent thought. My question would be for what purpose are you wanting to reside in that place if it isn’t to hear from God?
I don’t promote meditation of any kind if it isn’t focused on God.
Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to help you begin a practice of Christian meditation. One app that has a ton of resources of varying lengths, topics, and intentions is Abide. Abide is pretty pricy at $39.99 for the annual subscription but it is very robust. Another app brought to us by John Eldrege is the One Minute Pause app. It’s based on his book, “Get Your Life Back.” I love that he offers a 1, 3, 5, and 10-minute option. Plus you can set reminders during your most hectic times to take a little brain break and reflect on Jesus. Lastly, because I grew up Catholic I wanted to share a specific app designed for Catholic meditation. It’s called Hallow. It includes things like a daily rosary, guided prayer, and even a sleep component.
You don’t need an app or special tools to meditate as a Christian. Here are four things to keep in mind to start your very own habit of meditating with Jesus.
Allow time to quietly hear from God (He doesn’t always speak but the more opportunities give Him the more likely you will hear his voice)
I’d love to hear your thoughts about meditation. How do you do it? How has it helped you? Are there other tools or resources that have helped you? Let me know in the comments below.