Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

Many med­i­ta­tive tech­niques have been devel­oped by a vari­ety of reli­gious and non­re­li­gious tra­di­tions. The main dis­tinc­tion of Chris­t­ian med­i­ta­tion is a focus on fill­ing rather than emp­ty­ing. It is not done as a self-help mech­a­nism or a tool to relax, although it almost always results in relax­ation, but rather as a way to con­nect with God, to hear and obey. Chris­tians through­out the cen­turies have fol­lowed bib­li­cal exam­ples of med­i­ta­tion in a vari­ety of ways that peo­ple find help­ful to the process: sit­ting in silence before God, focus­ing on a verse or pic­ture, spend­ing time in nature, using music or var­i­ous imag­i­na­tive exer­cis­es. Chris­t­ian med­i­ta­tion, some­times ref­er­enced as con­tem­pla­tive or med­i­ta­tive prayer, is essen­tial­ly lit­tle more than an active response to the verse, Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). It is a time to dis­cern the still small voice” of Yah­weh (1 Kings 19:12).

It wasn’t until I began to for­mal­ly study Chris­t­ian med­i­ta­tion that I real­ized this has been the pri­ma­ry activ­i­ty I have used through the years to encounter God. 

Since there are forty-two bib­li­cal ref­er­ences to med­i­ta­tion, it’s odd how absent the prac­tice is from mod­ern West­ern Chris­tian­i­ty. For many Chris­tians, med­i­ta­tion is often seen as a prac­tice reserved for New Age or Mid­dle East­ern reli­gions, and many are unaware of its deep roots in his­toric Chris­t­ian prac­tice and thought. Not to men­tion that still­ness is an affront to our idols of effi­cien­cy, hur­ry, noise, and dis­trac­tion. Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty with no con­crete­ly defined goals and objec­tives can be threat­en­ing. We almost always val­ue pur­pose over mystery. 

Some Chris­tians go so far as to object to the prac­tice alto­geth­er for fear that using one’s imag­i­na­tion is a gate­way to the demon­ic. How many good things do fear and mis­un­der­stand­ing keep us from? The human imag­i­na­tion is an amaz­ing God-giv­en gift. Our world is full of exam­ples of its redemp­tive use— art, music, and innovations.

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Fos­ter, Nathan. The Mak­ing of an Ordi­nary Saint: My Jour­ney from Frus­tra­tion to Joy with the Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines (pp. 85 – 86). Bak­er Pub­lish­ing Group, 2014.

Originally published October 2014