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.

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.