When the COVID lockdown when into full swing, I decided this was an excellent time to further my education on topics I had always wanted to study but did not have the time. Meditation was one of those topics. I had heard about meditative practice’s positive benefits, so I thought, why not try it? With so much negativity in the world, a little positive energy going out into the universe would be a good thing.
I had also heard that as a Christian, I should not meditate; I should pray, so the first item on my agenda was to discover the difference if there was one. There is a difference between prayer and meditation, the main one being prayer is talking, and meditation is listening.
Before we go any further, I want to clear up some common misconceptions about meditation.
- Nothing about meditation is anti-Christian
- Both practices help to cultivate a sense of gratitude and peace
- Prayer can deepen your meditation, and meditation can deepen your prayer
The Bible is full of passages about prayer. For example, Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them to pray, and he teaches them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, although in a different form. But there are also passages about meditation:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
This passage encourages the reader to “think about such things.” In other translations of this passage, the phrase “dwell on these things” is used. Meditating is to dwell on life, your present situation, a selection of scripture, or whatever it may be.
Prayer requires words, while meditation requires stillness and listening. The focus of prayer is outward, towards something other than us, while the focus of meditation is inward. Meditation requires one to listen inwardly to what is happening inside us and our present surroundings. Meditation is a deep dive into our being while prayer is reaching outward.
There is an ancient monastic practice called Lectio Divina, Divine Reading. During Lectio, the person reads a passage of scripture and then lets that scripture wash over them. Then, they listen with the ear of their heart and the ear of their soul for how that passage speaks to them. Lectio may be an entire passage, a word, or a phrase repeated over and over while the passage courses through the body of the one practicing Lectio. Lectio Divina is meditation.
Both prayer and meditation remind us to be grateful for all the blessings in our lives. Sometimes these can be hard to see; other times, these blessings are very present. This type of meditative practice can be done anywhere at any time. Perhaps you are grocery shopping and become grateful for the abundance of food produced for us. Or for the farmers that grew the food and the grocery workers who have set out the displays. Mediation, like prayer, can take many forms and be done at any time.
For me, prayer and meditation go hand in hand; sometimes, I pray and meditate. However, I do not see prayer and meditation as mutually exclusive; as I mentioned at the start of this essay, they both enhance each other.
In my previous essay on the Hunter’s Moon, I mentioned that this time of the year is a great time to start a new spiritual practice. If you have been thinking about adopting a meditation or prayer practice, this is the time to start. If you need assistance, reach out, and I can point you in the right direction.