A couple of days ago, the following question came across my desk: “Can Christians meditate?”
Of course Christians can meditate, I remember thinking to myself. But I also knew the question begged for more of an explanation, even if my immediate response was a resounding yes.
I thought back to a walk with a friend a few days before.
My friend Bianca and I were catching up on life – her on one side of the phone in Santa Cruz, me on the other side of the line in Oakland. Although we would have vastly preferred seeing one another in person, we found ourselves walking, each in our own space, with one another instead.
Just as we’ve known one another for over twenty years now, we’ve continued to walk alongside one another through iterations of personhood and vocation, relationships and faith. As Christians, our commonalities of a shared religion live alongside our differences.
This, I think, is normal, good, even necessary, if I’m honest.
At one point, she told me about a pastor’s single sentence: he’d been meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. He hadn’t been praying the Lord’s Prayer, nor had he been studying or memorizing or even contemplating the Lord’s Prayer.
Instead, he’d merely been meditating on the words Jesus spoke to his father.
And this thought had become an invitation into new exploration for Bianca.
To meditate means to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
On the other hand, to pray means to “address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship.”
It’s easy to pigeonhole prayer as a one-sided act from human to God: in prayer, I talk to God. I converse with God. I make my requests known to God. While this is certainly true, to an extent, prayer is not as one-sided as we so often make it out to be, nor is prayer as me-focused as the aforementioned sentences make it out to be either!
Take, for instance, an acronym I practiced for years in my prayer life: ACTS (Application, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Whether in my journal or while sitting beside a lake, speaking my thoughts aloud, I filled up every space on the page. I didn’t take a breath. I talked it out and wrote it out and showed God exactly what I wanted – dare I say needed – in my life at the time.
But then, a morph, a change, an evolving. A movement from black and white models of thinking into a space of learning how to color outside the lines. A practice of faith from evangelicalism to the Episcopal Church. An invitation into new ways of thinking and doing and being, if I can be so bold, that also introduced me to a new side of God and of Christianity.
So, when Bianca told me about how her pastor was meditating on the Lord’s Prayer, it completely made sense.
In meditation, we enter into stillness in order to listen. We silence ourselves so we might notice what’s happening in the present, in our bodies. We seek acceptance and answers; we turn inward in order that we may more wholly know ourselves.
But it is in stillness that we know God.
Be still and know that I am God, the psalmist declared.
By turning inward, through meditation, we also more fully know God – who knows better than we do what we need, which might just be to think on a piece of scripture in order to simply be still.
What do you say we try it out?
Take the Lord’s Prayer, written here in The Message version.
Simply think on it, in order to listen. Enter into stillness. See what God does during this time, as you commit to meditating on this passage for a couple of days, a week, a month, however long you see fit.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I can’t wait to hear what happens as a result. Report back to me in a week or two, would you?