Powerful Christian meditation time is the secret to having a full, satisfying and successful life. Christian meditation is an essential form of prayer where we spend quality personal time with God enjoying His loving presence and letting him fill our hearts with His thoughts, love, direction and peace. Here are the secrets of creating and enjoying a powerful Christian meditation routine.
Ask yourself why you think meditation is important enough for you to do. The truth is, we always find a way to fit things into our schedule that we enjoy or feel are really worth doing. Here are some reasons why Christian meditation is supremely worth doing.
Studies show that both secular and religious meditations have physical, mental and emotional benefits. These scientifically proven benefits include lowering stress, increased ability to concentrate, calming of emotions and physical results such as lowering blood pressure, etc.
Christian meditation produces unique graces that cannot be obtained other ways. Christian meditation goes well beyond secular meditation by increasing our joy, peace, love, and trust by giving us a sense of being intimately connected to our God who loves us and wants to spend time with us on a very personal level.
Christian meditation separates us from our problems. Christian meditation provides a time of relief from the life problems and stressful situations that we are battling by helping us enter into a place where our focus is on the goodness of God and we see a bigger picture of life and history than our small limited situation. Once we allow ourselves to be filled through this meditative experience, we can then return to our cares and concerns with new perspective and strength.
Christian meditation is the cornerstone of growing in our faith. Meditation is all about experiencing God with our heart, not just our intellects and minds. Developing a close communion with God is essential to having a living faith instead of a religion where you follow a set of rules and have to rely on your own ability to do the right thing.
Once you get in touch with your needs, reasons and hunger for being connected with God, you’re ready and motivated to develop the meditation life you’ve always wanted.
Every person is different, so no one Christian meditation technique is right for everyone. The goal is to find a technique that helps you start connecting with God with your heart instead of just with your mind. Click on the links to learn more about these examples:
Lectio Divina: Meditating deeply on words or phrases from the Bible that capture your attention
Daily Examen: A written list to help you look back over your day using a 4 or 5 step plan where you look for where you see God worked in your day, thank him for it, meditate on your dominate emotions, pray about one thing and look toward what tomorrow might bring
Drawing Close to Jesus through the Gospels: Imagining yourself in a gospel story and get in touch with Jesus as a real person who walked this earth
Visio Divina: Using artwork such as icons and religious paintings to mediate on different characteristics of God and faith
Christian Reverie: enjoying God’s goodness through nature and enjoying his magnificence
Centering prayer/Silence: clearing and quieting your thoughts to wordlessly sit in God’s presence
Soaking prayer: Spending time in a specially set up space where you relax while inspirational music allows you to soak in God’s presence.
Prayer labyrinth: walking a path designed to allow you to meditate while moving toward the center of the pathway.
The Jesus prayer: Mentally repeating the phrase “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” until it becomes a constant prayer of your soul.
Creative expressions such as performing music, painting, dancing
Quiet time in sanctuaries/chapels
Eucharistic Adoration: spending time in the presence of Christ in the form of the communion elements
Meditative prayers using beads such as the Rosary
3. Plan the time you will meditate regularly
The time that you choose will depend on the type of meditation you use and also on your schedule. For instance, the Daily Examen is done at night to review the events of the day in light of God’s presence and guidance for tomorrow.
Most meditation techniques that depend on quieting the mind are best done early in the day before your mind is wrapped up with getting things done and solving problems. I get up at 6 AM in order to have an extra hour to take a prayer walk.
I also recommend doing meditation after you’ve finished praying for your needs or for the things other people need. On my morning prayer walk the first 30 minutes is devoted to remembering a long list of people and their problems in prayer. Once I’ve finished up interceding for myself and others, I transition into meditation by crossing the road and walking down a quiet street in a neighboring subdivision where I pay attention to the beauty of the morning. I open myself up to the thoughts triggered by what I see and experience to let the Holy Spirit bring to my thoughts about God’s goodness and provisions.
4. Plan the place you will meditate regularly
Meditation requires a quiet place where you can tune out the usual distractions and interruptions of life. Suggestions include on a porch or patio, in an office before business hours, in a car while driving alone, in a church sanctuary that’s along a way you always go or in a special corner in your home.
5. Set aside enough time to meditate
In his book Time for God Jacques Philippe suggests that you spend a minimum of 15 minutes in meditation. He says that it’s often at the very end of the time that God opens up a new understanding or experience to you and that if you don’t spend enough time, you will miss out. Obviously, it’s advantageous to spend more time in meditation. However start with 15 minutes so it doesn’t seem so impossible to do.
6. Make meditation a priority and a habit
Jacques Philippe also says that it’s much better to spend 15 minutes a day meditating than it is to try and spend 2 hours meditating every few weeks. The point is to make meditation an indispensable part of the fabric of your life, something that you miss and crave when you haven’t done it. This actually comes naturally when you learn the art of meditation because of the joy and peace you feel when you connect intimately with God. I have found that connecting my meditation time with my morning exercise routine not only saves time, but it also gives me an actual physical sensation of feeling lethargic if I miss my combined exercise/meditation time.
7. Disconnect from electronics
Make sure to silence cell phones, turn off the TV, sleep your computer or tablet, etc. At a retreat I printed out a piece of paper that said “cell phone sleeping bag” on it and distributed it to all of the participants before they were to do an hour of silent listening to God. I had them wrap the paper around their phone and secure it with a paper clip so they wouldn’t be tempted to check on email etc.
8. Focus on Christ as portrayed in the Bible
In meditation we are meeting Jesus Christ. The Bible helps us connect with the truth about who Christ is. It’s essential that the things that we experience in meditation be in line with what the Bible teaches us about Christ, God, faith, etc. A Bible is an essential tool in informing our meditations. Therefore, reading and studying the Bible is necessary to enjoying Christian meditation.
9. Try meditation methods one per session.
If you want to try different meditation methods to see which ones work best for you, don’t try to do more than one at any given session. Starting one method and then stopping and trying something else during the same meditation time turns meditation into a task to do and a result/goal oriented undertaking rather than a time to create low pressure and stillness where God can enter.
10. Consider Joining a Christian meditation Group
Participating on a Christian meditation group can help solve the problems of creating a time, space and atmosphere for regular meditation. Although meditation is a very individualized experience that is often not easy to put into words, Christian meditation groups work because the leader begins a time of silence and meditation for the group. After the time of silence is finished, group members are sometimes invited to share insights they might have had which further enhances the experience for all members.
As an example, when I taught an adult Sunday school class series on meditation, each Sunday I had the class try a 5 minute sample of the meditation method. One Sunday I gave everyone an icon picture of Christ the Good Shepherd to try Visio Divina (using artwork to meditate on God’s qualities/messages) After the meditation time I asked members to share the types of thoughts and feelings they experienced. Several people had focused on the lamb and pictured themselves being carried by Christ, another had focused on his staff that could rescue lost lambs and protect against predators, another person observed how Christ had the lamb up on his shoulders to carry him and that Christ could carry the lamb a much longer distance this way. The most profound experience was a man who had at first focused on his role as a father of protecting the sheep, but then he had noticed the wounds on Christ’s hands and suddenly was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude that it was Christ who was protecting him, not him his own sons.
11. Expect and deflect distractions
Distractions are inevitable during meditation. This doesn’t mean that we have somehow failed. None of us can achieve a state where there’s little going on in our thoughts. In his book Time for God Jacques Philippe says, “The proper response to distractions, then, is not for the mind to concentrate harder but for the heart to love more intensely.” (Page 98) Instead of trying to fight distracting thoughts that take you off in a different direction simply replace them with new thoughts of God’s goodness and His love.
12. Realize that meditation is an art that takes practice
Meditation is like any other pursuit. The more you do it, the more you learn and the better you become at it. As time goes on you will be able to enter into quality meditation time more quickly. You’ll also be better able to reign in your thoughts and feel God’s love more clearly. There will be more inner conversations and themes and reassurances that God can build on as God’s Spirit speaks to your spirit.
13. Believe that God has done work in your heart even when nothing new seems to have happened in your meditation time.
The outcome of your meditation times will vary greatly. There will be times when you emerge with a new insight into Christ. Other times you will gain an incredible peace. There will be times when you have a new warm feeling inside of you. There will be times when you feel that you have made a breakthrough in some issue that you’ve been long trying to overcome. On the other hand, there will be times when all that you feel is a quieted mind afterwards. The results vary because we put ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to do what He wants based on His intimate knowledge of our souls and spirits and what we need that day.
On the flip side, there may be times when you feel dry, unfulfilled and still troubled by your struggles after meditation. This is natural and will pass in time. However, if such times of spiritual dryness and trouble persist it’s a good idea to avail yourself of a Christian mentor, spiritual director or pastor who can help guide you.
14. Note, explore and build on what you have experienced in meditation when you’re done.
Although many experiences during meditation can’t be put into words, after my time of meditation I find it helpful to get out my journal and my Bible to note anything that I want to explore further. On my meditation walk something I see might remind me of a Bible verse. Later at home I Google the verse, and read it my Bible in context to discover what other truths the Holy Spirit might be wanting me to learn. Then I write what I discover in my journal so I can revisit the idea when I need it again.
Other helpful links:
Copyright Karen Barber 2015. All rights reserved.