Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation are so tightly interrelated that many people think of them in the same way. I think the two disciplines depend on each other but stand unique. While Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” in John 15:16, I think the passage calls us to ask for what Jesus would have us ask for rather than just adding a simple tag at the end of our prayers after we have asked for what we wanted to ask for.
Prayer is something we learn to do and like anything else we learn, means we will make mistakes, grow, practice and change. Remember even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). So don’t get discouraged if the way you learned to pray as a child seems somehow inadequate now. For those who have studied prayer, prayer is not just a few habitual responses tacked on to their lives, it is some of their most serious work that becomes their lives.
Let God guide your prayers. When you sit down to a meal, think about all the things that needed to happen for that meal to be set before you. Ask God who helped to bring you that wonderful meal and how you should pray for them. When you are praying for someone else, invite God to guide your prayer and reveal to you a glimpse of what is to come and the desires God has for that person or situation. Do not worry that praying will take too long or occupy too much of your time; pray that it occupies all your time.
Meditation helps us to know God’s will and how and what God would have us pray. Christian meditation is simply listening to hear God’s voice and then obeying what God tells us. Through meditation we are growing into what Thomas à Kempis called “a familiar friendship with Jesus.” An inward relationship like this transforms people. Meditation is not about a total detachment from the world but a richer attachment to God. Meditation is not something available only to a select few but is as natural as breathing and available to everyone. Thomas Merton writes, “Meditation is really very simple and there is not much need of elaborate techniques to teach us how to go about it.” Meditation opens us up to new understandings of everyday life and provides answers to some of our daily concerns.
Making room in our mind that is filled with the clutter of our daily concerns can sometimes be difficult. Most of the time I find people who are trying hard to “not think” anything in an effort to make room for God. Those “distractions” are real and the more you try to not think about them the more powerful they seem to become. I try to “fast forward” through them as if they were playing on a tape or vinyl record. If there is one that seems persistent, I take a moment and jot down a note on a pad I keep nearby. This way I acknowledge that it is important and let my brain relax knowing I will not forget it. I also set an alarm for how long I want to meditate. I can always add time if I feel I need to but this keeps me from worrying that I might go too long or wondering how much longer I have. I would recommend that the alarm be a soothing and quiet sound so as not to startle you.
If possible, try to find a quiet place to meditate. But even the most remote areas of the desert have sounds. Rather than trying to ignore the sounds, see if you can let them float through you. Listen to them and let them echo through your mind as you meditate. You may want to pick a short scripture passage to reflect on which will help you focus your mind away from intruding thoughts and sounds. Read the passage and then close your eyes and let the images form. It is also helpful to sit or lie comfortably without crossing your arms or legs as this could cut off the circulation and make listening to God’s message to you difficult.
The Combination of Prayer and Meditation is central to all the other Disciplines. Meditation introduces us to our inner life and prayer brings us to the deepest work of the human spirit. Real prayer and meditation is life changing and life creating and lies at the root of all personal holiness.
See you Sunday,