Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

Prayer is the inter­ac­tive rela­tion­ship we have with God about what we and God are work­ing on togeth­er. Chris­t­ian med­i­ta­tion is the lis­ten­ing side of this inter­ac­tive rela­tion­ship. God speaks and teach­es; we hear and obey. To use the graph­ic phrase of Dal­las Willard, God is our com­mu­ni­cat­ing cosmos.” 

God uses var­i­ous and sundry means for speak­ing and teach­ing. God speaks to us through the book of Scrip­ture, the Bible. God speaks to us through the book” of nature. God speaks to us through the action and activ­i­ty of the Holy Spir­it. God speaks to us direct­ly, heart to heart. God’s still small voice” can indeed be heard and understood. 

Jesus reminds us that he is the Good Shep­herd and that his sheep know his voice. Jesus Christ is alive and here to teach his peo­ple him­self. His voice is not hard to hear; his vocab­u­lary is not dif­fi­cult to under­stand. Med­i­ta­tion is the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline that helps us to lis­ten well and to hear correctly. 

At its most basic and fun­da­men­tal lev­el, Chris­t­ian med­i­ta­tion is sim­ply a lov­ing atten­tive­ness to God. Through the prophet Isa­iah, God urges us to Incline your ear, and come to me; lis­ten, so that you may live.”1 Lis­ten­ing is the key. Hear the life-giv­ing coun­sel of Fran­cois Fenelon: Be silent, and lis­ten to God. Let your heart be in such a state of prepa­ra­tion that his Spir­it may impress upon you such virtues as will please him. Let all with­in you lis­ten to him. This silence of all out­ward and earth­ly affec­tion and of human thoughts with­in us is essen­tial if we are to hear his voice.”2

Through med­i­ta­tion we are grow­ing into what Thomas à Kem­p­is called a famil­iar friend­ship with Jesus.” We are cre­at­ing the emo­tion­al and spir­i­tu­al space that allows God to con­struct with­in us an inner sanc­tu­ary of the heart. Here, in this inner sanc­tu­ary, we learn to lis­ten to God, in his won­drous, ter­ri­ble, gen­tle, lov­ing, all-embrac­ing silence,” as Cather­ine de Hueck Doher­ty put it.3

In Rev­e­la­tion 3:20 we are giv­en the won­der­ful words of Jesus, Lis­ten! I am stand­ing at the door, knock­ing; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” These words were orig­i­nal­ly penned for believ­ers, not unbe­liev­ers. You see, Jesus is knock­ing at the door of your heart and my heart. He is long­ing to eat with us, to com­mune with us. He desires a per­pet­u­al eucharis­tic feast in the inner sanc­tu­ary of the heart. Jesus is knock­ing; med­i­ta­tive prayer opens the door. The wise old apos­tle Paul reminds us that God is gath­er­ing to him­self an all-inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty of lov­ing per­sons, a holy tem­ple in the Lord; in whom you also are built togeth­er spir­i­tu­al­ly into a dwelling place for God.”4

This is stag­ger­ing news! We, indi­vid­u­al­ly and togeth­er, are becom­ing a dwelling place for God.” The Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline of med­i­ta­tion pre­pares the way.

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Fos­ter, Nathan. The Mak­ing of an Ordi­nary Saint: My Jour­ney from Frus­tra­tion to Joy with the Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines. Bak­er Pub­lish­ing Group.

[1] Isa­iah 55:3
[2] Quot­ed in Fos­ter, Sanc­tu­ary of the Soul
[3] Cather­ine de Hueck Doher­ty quot­ed in Ger­ard Thomas Straub, The Sun and Moon over Assisi: A Per­son­al Encounter with Fran­cis and Clare. St. Antho­ny Mes­sen­ger Press.
[4] Eph­esians 2:21 – 22

Pho­to by Aaron Bur­den on Unsplash

Originally published October 2014