Scriptural Meditation Promises Something Better than Zen

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Christians don’t need mysticism or quiet emptiness for the illumination that comes through repetition.

When you think about the practice of meditation, what image comes to mind? Like many, you may picture the caricature of someone seated in the lotus position, eyes closed, hands extended, murmuring a steady stream of “Om” sounds.

It’s a caricature many Christians don’t identify with or even outwardly reject. The prevailing sentiment is that meditation is for mystics and yogis, not for the children of God.

But meditation is, in fact, a Christian discipline. Not only that, it’s one that should characterize us. But before you put on your stretchy pants and assume the lotus position for your quiet time, let’s distinguish between the mystical practice of meditation and the practice indicated in the Bible. What is the object of Christian meditation? Why should we practice it? And how?

In Psalm 1, we are told that the one who is called blessed is characterized by delighting in the law of the Lord, “and on [it] he meditates day and night” (v. 2, ESV). When the psalmist speaks of meditating, the object of his reflection is God’s law (Torah), God’s promises, God’s works, and God’s ways. The record of these things would have been found in the sacred writings we now call the Old Testament. Modern-day followers of the one true God understand the object of our meditation to include the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.

So, the “what” of our meditation is the Scriptures. But the “why” also matters. And it stands in contrast to the meditation of the yogis. Mystical meditation is the emptying of the mind for the purpose of ceasing. Those pursuing the benefits of meditation are told to focus on their breathing and quiet their thoughts …

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