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Why Christians Need to Rediscover the Lost Art of Meditation

Why Christians Need to Rediscover the Lost Art of Meditation

On average, we touch our phones 2,617 times a day. In fact, there’s a good chance you are touching yours right now. Many of us look at our phones while we are watching TV--because, of course, one screen isn’t enough to keep us occupied. We are reading tweets, answering emails, scrolling through social media. Second-by-second, there are many things screaming for our attention. We are more distracted today than any generation that came before us. It’s no wonder that so many of us suffer from anxiety, sleep deprivation and a myriad of physical and mental health issues--all while losing our spiritual grip.

My wife and I were talking recently about sleep patterns. I have no trouble falling asleep, but I can’t seem to sleep in anymore. My wife is the opposite. She has a lot of trouble falling asleep, but she can sleep longer in the mornings if her schedule allows her to do so.

My strategy for falling asleep is, unbeknownst to me, a form a “mindfulness.” I strictly focus on my breathing and nothing else. I picture my lungs as plastic bags, filling up with air and deflating. Filling up with air and deflating. It really seems to work, as silly as it may sound.

At its most basic form, mindfulness is the state of being fully aware of the present moment. It is paying attention to your current thoughts without judgment as to whether they are good or bad. Psychologists use this tactic to help patients avoid self-criticism and handle difficult emotions.

The presence of mindfulness in our culture can be attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn. A professor at the University of Massachusetts medical school in the late 1970s, he developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to treat chronic pain. He discovered that patients would often try to avoid pain—but that that avoidance would lead to deeper distress.

Practicing mindfulness was a more successful approach and it became a mainstream technique.

Mindfulness comes from Buddhist and Hindu teachings. For Buddhists, meditation and mindfulness helps them reach nirvana: a state of enlightenment, peace, and happiness. So, why are we talking about Buddhist teachings in a Christian article?

While there are some critical differences, there are a lot of similarities with the spiritual practice of meditation we find in the Scriptures, and it’s critical to our daily walk with God. Now, more than ever.

To clear the air, there are a few important differences between mindfulness and meditation. As Focus of the Family points out, secular mindfulness is horizontal: “In other words, you pay attention only to yourself. However, that approach contradicts Scripture’s teaching to have the mind of Christ and evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus. Mindfulness can be compatible with a biblical worldview--as long as it’s rooted in Scripture and focuses on connecting with God.”

And, the idea of meditation can be found through Scripture.

As God commissions Joshua to be Moses’ successor, He tells him “this Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

The book of Psalms reminds us of the importance of mediation.

“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).

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119: 97-99).

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands” (Psalm 143:5).

The Apostle Paul calls us to focus our minds. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

And, of course, Jesus made it a practice to spend time alone with the Father, praying and meditating.

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14: 23).

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Some translations refer to Jesus getting away to a “lonely” place. In other words, shutting out all of the distractions, getting alone and listening to God. Being alone with God, in the moment, listening to Him is where we get refreshed.

It’s where we get our sense of direction. It’s where we understand God’s will for our lives. It’s where we learn about God and his love. It’s in these moments that our hearts begin to align with God’s and we can think like He thinks. His desires become ours.

Dr. Charles Stanley calls meditation “the most important activity in the life of a follower of Jesus.” As he explains, meditation is “the process by which you and I learn to listen to God, apply the principles to our life and watch it work. You can’t read the word of God, apply the principles of the word of God to your life without them having an effect.”

Much like the worldly concept of mindfulness, meditation is about being in the moment and shutting everything else out. It’s a concept that is mentioned repeatedly in Scripture and practiced by biblical heroes and Jesus Himself. And, yet, so few of us can say that it’s a regular part of our lives.

When we think of the most important things we should do as Christians, we think about reading the Bible, praying, going to church or serving. But, you very seldom hear someone talk about meditation.

I believe you don’t hear about it as much today in particular, because it such a hard thing to practice. We are bombarded with information and messages from the moment our feet hit the floor. I would venture to say that many of us don’t feel like we hear from God regularly--largely because everything else in our life is so loud. You can’t hear what you aren’t listening for.

Pastor and author Mark Batterson said it this way in his book Whisper: “Quiet is a think tank of the soul. Simply put, God often speaks loudest when we’re quietest.” It’s a still small voice, but we risk it being drowned out by all the noise in our lives.

Our lives are rarely quiet. We have to make a conscious effort to meditate on God’s Word and spend time alone with Him.

As Dr. Stanley says, time alone with God meditating is “the most important event in your life in any given moment at any point in time since you’ve been saved. Godly meditation is a powerful, fruitful, exciting habit that we should develop because it changes everything.”

The question is, do I value my relationship with God enough to do it?

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Dương Nhân

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart