This was originally posted at Soul Munchies. Due to SM being on hiatus, it's been reposted here.
Last month I introduced you to the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster and explained that I would be focusing on one discipline each month. There are 12 disciplines so this will be a year-long experiment. This past month was the discipline of meditation. As I explained then, Foster writes that "Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word. it is that simple" (page 17).
In the chapter, Foster writes about four different ways to practice meditation:
- meditation on Scripture
- re-collection or centering down
- meditation on the creation
- meditation on events of our time to perceive their significance
For my meditation time, I combined meditating on scripture and meditating on creation, because, why choose one activity when I can do something a little different and do two of them? I chose a dark, quiet place each time, with just barely enough light to be able to somewhat see in my journal.
"For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him" --Psalm 62:1,5
On the first night, I wrote down these ancient words and then stared out the window into the darkness of night.
As I observed the world outside my window, I wrote down everything that came to mind, not stopping to think about it, but just letting the stream of consciousness flow. I wrote two and a half pages.
Howling wind. Spitting now. I looked at a tree and saw a spot where a branch used to grow that was now broken, dead. Across the field behind my back yard is a farmhouse, and in the summer, there are horses in the field.
I didn't know how long I would meditate or what it would or should be like. I didn't know what type of experience to expect. And so I just looked, and wrote, and waited in silence, and thought about God, and wondered how long I would have to wait until He showed up. But the verse from the psalm isn't about him showing up, it is about the psalmist waiting.
When we wait, we anticipate, we don't know what will come, we are not in control. We wait upon God and then we realize that He does not leave us; He is there, always, and we must look around and be aware of all of the ordinary ways in which God's presence is here. God is here in the ordinary, and in the mysterious. God is here in me.
I didn't stay at the same window each time I meditated, and looking out different windows gave me new views and new thoughts and new words. There were many days I failed to meditate. Sometimes a week would go by before I'd do it again. But God also waits in that silent place of inaction for me to enter, to rest, to just be.
Meditation is difficult. It takes me at least five to ten minutes to even become quiet and settled enough to do it. It can be difficult to even find the time and space to do it, especially if you have children. Sure, they go to bed at night, but that doesn't mean they will stay there! And so, take it when you can. Meditation is relaxing, restful, fulfilling, and joyful. It is restorative. After a busy, noisy, activity-filled day, my times of meditation at night were just what I needed. Someone else might find morning to be the best time to meditate. Despite so much advice I have read to "get up 15 minutes early" or "the best time to be with God is in the morning", I have realized that this does not work for me and I'm not even going to bother to attempt it. God made me. God knows I am not a morning person.
And so, as I move on from meditation to prayer, I can't help but think that my meditation was a type of prayer. Richard Foster writes that "of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father" (p. 32). He explains that meditation was more of an introduction to the inner life and that prayer is something that is "life creating and life changing" (32).
That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But you know what? I stink at prayer (which is funny, because I led a six or eight week study on prayer once). My mind wanders and I am not someone who can get up in church or Bible study and just pray out loud (which is also funny, because I have done exactly that). It feels fake to me because I can't think that quickly about what I want to say, and so then it doesn't feel as if it comes from my heart. "It's just talking to God," people say. I know that. But often, prayer can feel like "small talk" or a one-sided conversation rather than the in-depth communication that I think it is meant to be. So, we'll see how it goes. I may dig out that old prayer study and try different types of prayer and talk to different people about how prayer works for them. But I don't want to get too far away from the actual practicing of it, and have it become just an intellectual exercise, so I'm not sure how much of that to do.
What about you? Do you have a particular style of prayer you use the most? A particular time of day? What is prayer to you? Do you find prayer easy or difficult?