Is Meditation Acceptable for Christians?

Is Meditation Acceptable for Christians?

Posted by Jay Suthers on Aug 18th, 2022

Let me begin by stating that I am not a theological scholar and that this article is only meant to help readers begin to understand meditation as a Christian practice.

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my mind, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. " ~ Psalm 19:14

The words meditate and meditation appear in the Bible about 50 times, mainly in the Psalms. There is no mention of Jesus performing the practice of meditation. As a Jew, Jesus followed the teachings of the Rabbis and the Torah. He would have been familiar with the practice of actively thinking on the teachings and instructions of God. The Hebrew word would have been Hagad, which doesn't translate to mean meditation but seems to translate as a sort of resonant sound that is made when a person is deeply focused such as moaning or breathing audibly. To understand more on the Hebrew meaning of Meditation, please read this article: Hebrew Word Study - Meditate.

The concept of meditation is viewed as a practice of Eastern Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. As such, it is also viewed as a practice of devotion to gods other than the Christian God and, therefore, a sin against the First Commandment. And, this would be true if a Christian were to practice meditation on another god. But let's step back and look at what meditation is. Let's begin with the definition of the base word, meditate, by  Mirriam-Webster:

meditate - verb

1 : to engage in contemplation or reflection

2 : to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness

mantra - noun

1 : a mystical formula of invocation (as in Hinduism)

I've included the definition of mantra for transparency so that I'm not glossing over the presence of this Eastern Religion term in the definition of meditate. Important phrases to note in these definitions are "such as" and "as in" both of which serve to provide examples and not definitive parts of the word being defined. That is, "repetition of mantra" and "Hinduism" are examples only and not an integral part of meditation.

In fact, "meditation" is a lot like the word "sport". Both of these words are generalized terms of a large realm of practices.  A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square in the same way that football is a sport but a sport is not exclusively football. Meditation in its broadest sense is a mental exercise engaging in contemplation. What defines the practice of meditation for each individual is What is being contemplated.

As a Christian, you can choose a Bible passage, a single word, or an issue that you need God's help with and contemplate this as a meditation. In this way, meditation is not too dissimilar from prayer. Again, I refer to the secular definition of pray by Mirriam-Webster:

pray - verb

1 : to make a request in a humble manor

2 : to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving

contemplation - noun

1 a : concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion

1 b : a state of mystical awareness of God's being

2 : an act of considering with attention

3 : the act of regarding steadily

4 : intention, expectation

I've included the definition of contemplation to help pull this all together. Prayer, Contemplation, and Meditation are devotional practices that increase the mind's focus on whatever you place your intention. If your intention is to deepen your relationship with God, then meditation is a practice of quieting the mind so that you can focus on God. In the same way that you cannot focus on a phone conversation with a friend in a room full of TV, Radio, and other distracting noises, you cannot be in conversation with God if your mind is thinking about daily tasks or distracted with worry, fear, and doubt. Meditation is not about stopping the brain from thinking. That is what the brain does. It's about learning to let those thoughts flow without paying attention to them. Of course, that takes practice.

In conclusion, here are some resources for exploring Centering Prayer, which is also known as Contemplative Prayer. This is a Christian-focused meditation practice.

The Contemplative Society

Contemplative Outreach

Here are some books by  Fr. Thomas Keating who brought the practice of Centering/Contemplative Prayer to light in the Catholic Church (the following links will open in Amazon for review and purchase):

Open Mind, Open Heart 20th Anniversary Edition

Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer

The Human Condition

Invitation to Love 20th Anniversary Edition: The Way of Christian Contemplation

Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps (audio book)

Meditations on the Parables of Jesus

Thank you for reading,

Jay

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