First, what is Christian meditation?
There are several different types of Christian meditation, and they all fit into the biblical model. Christian meditation allows you to invite God into your space. You’re intentionally telling him you want to spend time with him. It’s a time to dive into and contemplate his Word, mulling it over in your mind and heart so that you come out with a better understanding of Scripture and new strength in your relationship with and connection to God.
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”Psalm 77:12
Let’s look at 5 types of Christian meditation.
Regular meditation involves finding a quiet place where you can breathe and focus on the Lord. During this type of meditation, it’s just you, the Lord, and Scripture.
To meditate this way, choose a verse or passage of the Bible to focus on. Let it speak to your heart. Hear what God may be trying to remind you of or teach you in that moment. Try looking at it in a way that you haven’t before, really mulling it over, turning it around in your head and diving deep into it.
If you are a tactile or visual person, it may help to write everything down in a journal: the verse or passage you’re meditating on, the prayers that you lift up to God, the things you feel him putting on your heart and mind. This can also be a helpful tool for if you ever want to revisit and further meditate on what you were feeling, thinking, or learning previously.
Guided meditation is a step further in regular meditation where you follow an already laid-out guide. These can be read on their own, or narrated through audio as in the Abide app. They are written by fellow believers who have firm relationships with Christ and can help you find the words for something you can’t quite put your finger on, or maybe you didn’t even know you needed to address.
Guided Christian meditation will often look like someone walking you through a verse or passage that will be the focus of the meditation. There is a theme to the meditation, such as loss, thankfulness, dealing with busy every-day life, or any number of issues that people deal with. There will be prayer, thought-provoking questions, and time given to really contemplate and pray over what is being asked and what that sparks in your heart. There may even be some history given on the passage and an imaginative scene that sparks your understanding of the verse.
Guided Chritian meditation can come in a plethora of different shapes, sizes, and contents, and it is entirely up to you to decide what you think will best benefit you and your relationship with God.
Journaling can also be helpful in guided meditation as you write down your impressions when you are done.
Oftentimes we can get carried away with words in our time with God and our meditation of his Word. We can get so wrapped up in the eloquence of our prayers and the depth of our thoughts, that we actually forget the true reason we are here in his Word in the first place.
Breath prayer is a long-practiced technique where you choose a line or two from Scripture, and as you read through them and meditate on them, you breathe. Say a few words either aloud or in your head during the inhale, and either the same words or a few different ones said aloud or in your head during the exhale. Let that help you focus on the passage.
Orthodox traditions have been using breath prayer for centuries, often using the line “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This prayer was derived from Mark 10:47 in which Bartimaeus, the blind man Jesus heals in Jericho, says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This phrase can be used, as long as it doesn’t become an empty mantra. As Matthew 6:7 says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
When you use breath prayer, it allows you to put any concern for elevated speech and wordy prayers aside. You can focus on God’s Word and the truth behind it. You can also use any line or lines from Scripture that you feel pulled to meditate on.
Because thinking long and extensively about Scripture can seem exhausting when you’re already busy, centering prayer is a great option. Centering Prayer is a simple but very calming and focused form of prayer that requires only one word. It should be a word that is spiritual, simple, one or two syllables, and connects you to God. Words like Jesus, Spirit, Holy, Father, Lord, peace, joy, trust, faith, love, etc. Some may call this the “sacred word,” but again, be sure not to fall into the trap of Matthew 6:7 where the word becomes more valuable and more the focus than God in this practice.
The purpose of this exercise is to open your heart to the presence of the Lord. Set aside distractions so that you feel his presence with you and within you, helping you see and feel how he is moving in your life. It is a good way to slow down and spend quality time with the Lord just by being with him.
Find a place that is peaceful and quiet, where nothing will cause any sounds or other distractions. If you can, try to practice this type of meditation when you are alert, even if you are tired, so that you don’t fall asleep. You can choose for how long you do this, never scolding yourself if you find your mind wandering. Just kindly and gently shift your attention back to your chosen word. Try to take slow, deep breaths. Let the beat of your heart grow slow and steady and tick the seconds for you. You can also consider setting a timer so you’re not concerned about how much time is going by.
Choose a position you won’t mind sitting in for an extended amount of time. Be sure that whatever position you choose, no limbs will fall asleep after several minutes without movement. Then close your eyes. Let your thoughts flow, meaning you acknowledge them, and then let them move on, not letting your mind dwell on one thing. Think only of your chosen word and breathe deeply as you repeat it slowly to yourself. Make God the center of your thoughts.
The final form of meditation on this list may be a bit unexpected. Worship and quality time with the Lord looks different from person to person. But Scripture-centered music can draw you close to God in a unique way.
Scientifically, music can help us remember things better, like when we teach kids to sing the alphabet song, or make up songs for facts when we’re studying. With that in mind, it is easy to see how putting Scripture and the ways of God’s heart into song can help you receive his Word more openly or from a different perspective than you may have before.
Christian music often takes lines and concepts straight from Scripture and puts it to a melody. Certain melodies will be more effective than others in helping you really feel the full effect of the words. But music is certainly a way of connecting to God through the repetition and contemplation of Scripture.
There is a reason that, when you go to church or to mass, the service usually begins with song. Music has a way of touching people’s hearts like nothing else, whether it has lyrics, or is simply a wordless melody that draws your heart and mind to a certain time or subject. With this unique kind of soul connection to God, and this special kind of contemplation, new relationships can be forged, or old ones tempered and strengthened.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”Colossians 3:16
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas sang to the Lord despite their circumstances in prison, praising his name even before he opened the door to the cell, connecting them even more confidently and comfortingly to their Father in Heaven. The whole of Psalms in the Bible is songs. Psalm 77:6 says “I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’(…)”
With Christian meditation meaning the contemplation of Scripture, dwelling on it and mulling it over in your mind and heart, music can certainly be considered one of the different types of meditation.
No matter which method you choose, engaging in Christian meditation helps you to deepen your understanding of God and his Word. Psalm 49:3 says, “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.” When we intentionally take the time to not only read God’s Word, but really let it into our hearts and look at it from different perspectives, we draw closer to the Father and learn to understand his Word better. This enables us to walk more steadily and confidently with him and live according to his ways.