When you think about meditation, what comes to mind? Monks, priests…people in monasteries cloaked in robes and praying on their knees?
Meditation doesn’t have to be like that. Christian meditation is rooted and grounded in the Scriptures and involves pondering and reflecting upon the word of God. The psalmist declares “his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night”. (Psalm 1:2) God told Joshua “Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful in all you do.” (Joshua 1:8)
We can use meditation to help us enter into the scripture story by using as many of the five senses as possible. By this process we become active participants rather than passive observers. Jesus used imagination when he taught; his stories and parables were filled with imagery and detail which can help us to envision what was going on when He was teaching.
Here are a few guidelines for meditation which you could use today:
- Sit silently before God and become aware of His presence with you.
- Begin with prayer: ask God to be present, to teach you, to protect you from deception and to guide your thoughts and mind.
- Choose a Bible story. Read it over a few times so that you have a sense of what is going on. As you read the story, focus on the details and try to picture what is happening. Explore what you are feeling and experiencing as you read the story.
- Use the Bible passage as a basis for prayer.
- As you leave your meditation, try to return to it several times throughout the day. Discover how God will use his Word to speak into the situations you encounter.
Admit it…all of us at some point have re-enacted in our mind what we might have said differently to someone who really hurt us; something that would have been cutting and hurtful in return. We may have even imagined some sort of revenge on people, thinking about ways that we could be spiteful and ‘even the score’. Our innate sense of justice demands accountability and retribution for wrongful words and action.
Is it true that there are prayers for getting even? Yes, and there is even a term for it. They are known as the imprecatory Psalms.
Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
You break the teeth of the wicked. (Psalm 3:7)
As we read these words, we many cringe…somehow it does not seem to be an appropriate attitude we should have as followers of Jesus. The psalms are realistic in their portrayal of emotions that we experience as a result of injustice. In fact, some of the most powerful human emotions are those of revenge and retaliation. Walter Bruggemann in his book Praying the Psalms states that when we pray prayers such as psalm 3:7, it is a cathartic experience and it serves to “legitimate and affirm these most intense elements of rage”
The Bible teaches that vengeance belongs to God and not to us. Again Bruggemann writes: “When vengeance is entrusted to God, the speaker is relatively free from its power. The speaker, with all the hurt and joy, affirms himself or herself to be God’s creature. That recognition of being in God’s realm and able to address God gives perspective to the venom.” The writer to the Hebrews declares “It is mine to avenge, I will repay…The Lord will judge His people.” (Hebrews 10:30). With this in mind we never need to retaliate even though we many desire to do so.
Today…Slowly pray this Psalm to God. As you do, ask God to take away the hurt and anger that you have experienced and release you from its hold. Tell God that you will leave the act of vengeance with Him.
Sometimes, it is hard to know what to say to God…or where to begin. One tool that we can use is a method called praying the scriptures. Praying the scriptures is the practice of using God’s word as the foundation for shaping our prayers, for communion with him, and intercession for others. It is speaking with God is his own words.
For example, we might read one of Paul’s prayers for the early Christians and make it a prayer of thanksgiving for Christians around the globe, or it might become a plea to God to assist Christians facing religious persecution in other places. Another example is to read or meditate upon a story in the gospel which has a focus upon forgiveness and allow it to lead us into a time of confession and repentance in our own lives, or it could lead us a place of praise and worship to God for the grace and mercy He offers us so freely. In both of these examples the particular text chosen and the place where we find ourselves in life will influence and structure the prayer. Our mood and circumstances affect how we pray. We don’t have to push our feelings aside when we encounter God, we can find meaningful interaction in prayer by embracing our emotions and offering them to God by using the Bible as a guide.
As we pray the scriptures we find expression through the Word of God. In fact, Jesus regularly prayed the Psalms. The Bible has many examples of recorded prayers by the early church fathers, the prophets and the apostles, which we can use as a guide to engage in prayer. As we read these prayers we gain insight into the life of the person who expressed the prayer, but in addition, we can make these prayers our own as we identify with them and pray for their reality in our lives.
Read Psalm 145, a Psalm of David. Meditate on God and who He is. Think of some of the ways He has been faithful to you in your life.
In prayer we are seeking to deepen our relationship with God so that we are aware of his continual presence and sensitive to his working in and through our lives.
There are times when prayer is not only difficult but also routine, somewhat repetitive and at times boring. Ken Boa states: “The problem with prayer is heightened by the fact that people often succumb either to the extreme of all form and no freedom, or the opposite extreme of all freedom and no form. The first extreme leads to a rote or impersonal approach to prayer, while the second produces an unbalanced and undisciplined prayer life that can degenerate into a litany of one ‘gimmie’ after another”.
Prayer is dull when it becomes a mechanical monologue and unfulfilling when God does not seem to provide what we demand in our moments of crisis. At either of these extremes, we have lost touch with an ongoing personal relationship with God, and what was once a meaningful expression of a genuine spiritual experience is now a prayer totally detached from life.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without Ceasing”. This indicates an ongoing conversation with God. That means that sometimes our prayers will probably be fragments; reflective of our day and moods. They will sometimes be reflective, sometimes anxious or worried, sometimes excited and joyful. When we learn to share the whole of our day with God, prayer will not seem like a chore but more like a day spent with a friend.
Set a timer to go off once an hour. When the times goes off, spend 1 minute in prayer telling God whatever is on your mind exactly at that moment. Share your worries or your joys. If you start at 8am and end at 11pm, you will have spent over 15 minutes in prayer. Now, was that so difficult?