Meditation: The Struggle
the following article is taken from the appendix of “A Movement of Prayer” prayer guide
Have you ever been here: Its a nice quiet morning. You’re the only one at your house. The sun is shining through the window, the birds are chirping, its a perfect morning. You grab your bible and some fresh coffee and sit down to have some time alone with God. You’re expectations are high. You might just end up in the “third heaven” this morning! You open your bible to a Psalm, start reading and…. suddenly you’re thinking about how your car needs an oil change, wondering if you should buy those shoes you saw on sale, or thinking about how the Buckeyes should have run a different defense in the fourth quarter. So much for that “third heaven” stuff, huh?!?
Why is this ‘communing with God’ stuff so difficult?! Well, I wish I had a simple answer for you, but I really don’t. The truth is we are fallen (sinful) creatures and that fallenness has invaded ever piece of who we are (mind, body, soul, etc.) and effects every area of our lives (thoughts, actions, speech, etc.). If we understand that it makes sense that our messed up selves can’t do exactly what we’d like to do. Things are broken. Our minds can’t focus like we want, our body doesn’t want to stay on our knees for as long as we’d like, and our spirit resists even praying in the first place!
Consider a few of these ways we wrongly think about “Communion with God”:
1. Thinking it’s an Equation
We often think that communion with God is as easy as a + b = c. But the reality is times of “communing with God” don’t always come from doing the very same thing in the same way at the same time. Remember, we are talking about a relationship to be enjoyed, not a program to be managed.
2. Thinking it’s about Deliverables
What does “success” look like when we are talking about communing with God? Does it mean we have some new take on scripture, or some word from God on exactly what we should do with our lives? But that type of thinking doesn’t work too well when we are talking about a relationship. If you were going to spend time with someone you love (friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, kids, grandkids, etc.) and I asked you- “So what are you hoping to get out of this?”, you’d look at me like I was crazy (and rightly so!). You aren’t spending time with them to get something, you’re spending time with them because you enjoy them. You’re excited just to be with them. At the end of your time together you don’t judge whether that was a “successful” time together on what you got from it, you come away feeling full because you spent time with them.
3. Thinking it’s a Special Meeting
Being a Christian means that Christ has taken up residence within you. Paul tells us he has died and it is Christ who lives in him. (1) This is great news for our ‘communing with God’ because it means its not about a certain time, place, or circumstance. Jesus is Immanuel- “God with us”. He could never be more near. He is in us and we are His body. Communing with him then is more about enjoying what is already established—our union with Him — and not trying gain something you don’t yet have.
Meditation: The Practice
The reality is that communing with God is a reality to be lived into (we might say ‘practiced’), which means you have the rest of your life to figure it out. You’ll have days where it goes well and other days where you feel like you just wasted your time. Because it is a journey its meant to be enjoyed not mastered.
Consider this illustration: Often I find myself reflecting on my relationship with my wife and inevitably every year I come to the conclusion that our relationship today is much better than it was last year. That is how it should be with Jesus. As time goes by we realize how much more precious and wonderful He is to us; realizing more and more how near He is to us. We are growing in learning to live into the reality of His presence within us more and more as time goes by and its ever so sweet!
Here is what Christian meditation looks like— take a small scripture, read it slowly and gently, reading it over and over, repeating it to yourself, and asking Jesus what he would like to show you in this verse. You are asking Jesus to teach you. You aren’t trying to figure it out; you come as a student. You come to listen to His small still voice. Read the verse(s) and stop and listen. Read it again and listen. Think about the verse(s), look for something you hadn’t really seen, understood, or appreciated and allow Jesus to teach you. Don’t hurry and don’t doubt Jesus’ presence and ability to communicate with you. Let your soul be at rest. He knows what you need. He is in full control of your of your salvation, life, and spiritual growth. Let Him reveal Himself to you. Listen to Him.
“Pay attention to every word, and let the sense of each word enter into your heart; understand what you are reading and feel what you are understanding. No other rules are necessary” Theophan the Recluse
Here are a few verses to use as you begin practicing this idea of meditation:
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God”
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself f or me.
I am the bread of life.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
As you read through the scripture slowly, again and again, start asking the Lord questions—
“What would you like to teach me today Jesus?”
“What does this mean?”
“How are you at the center of this verse Jesus?”
“How does this verse intersect my life, Lord?” (or “How are you doing this in me?”)
Remember, this is not a science, its an art; it is a relationship. Its about you walking alongside Jesus as He teaches you. He loves you so dearly. He loves to be with you. Enjoy Him as He enjoys you.
SOME PRACTICAL HELP
- Know your limitations – You probably won’t be able to meditate on scripture for 1.5 hours as you begin this practice. Thats ok. Begin to practice it and let God grow you in it.
- Get to your spot – Go to a physical location where you can be quiet and listen. If you can do that in your house, great! If its too distracting there then get away to somewhere else. I have a spot I can go park my car in front of a pond. I find that very relaxing and quiet.
- Don’t feel restricted – What meditation looks like for one person may not be helpful for someone else. For me, I can’t usually sit still for a very long time. So I go to a place where I can walk and still be for the most part alone. For some reason when I walk my mind is more able to focus. I often envision myself walking with Jesus. Experiment and see what you enjoy.
by Pastor Ryan Stanley
Community Life Pastor
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