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In the recent years the word Meditation is used widely by everyone, and the word is used widely in non-religious context too.

Should we, Christians meditate? If yes, what should we do while meditating? Should we pray? Or should we praise God? or just read the bible? Could you please share the bible references for the right way to mediate?

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7 Answers 7

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Please excuse me for a large answer, in my opinion this question is really hard to answer in several words.

Althought there are many references to "meditation" in Bible, however, word "meditation" should be used very carefully here, to be not confused with meditation practice in eastern religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

We Christians should listen to the Church, the only authority of faith on the Earth. And both Catholic and Orthodox Church warns about mixing prayer with any New Age practicies.

Catholic Church about meditation

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation

"This document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stresses the differences between Christian and eastern meditative approaches. It warns of the dangers of attempting to mix Christian meditation with eastern approaches since that could be both confusing and misleading, and may result in the loss of the essential Christocentric nature of Christian meditation.

The letter warns that "euphoric states" obtained through Eastern meditation should not be confused with prayer or assumed to be signs of the presence of God, a state that should always result in loving service to others. Without these truths, the letter said, meditation, which should be a flight from the self, can degenerate into a form of self-absorption. The letter warns against concentration on the self, rather than on Christ, and states that:

Christian prayer, ..., the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the Persons of the Trinity, based on Baptism and the Eucharist, source and summit of the life of the Church, implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from "self" to the "You" of God. Thus Christian prayer is at the same time always authentically personal and communitarian. It flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut.

The letter also warns that concentration on the physical aspects of meditation "can degenerate into a cult of the body" and that equating bodily states with mysticism "could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations."

A Christian reflection on the New Age, a six year study by the Roman Catholic Church on the New Age movement

The document states that for Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God. It criticizes Eastern meditation and states that all meditation techniques need to be purged of presumption and pretentiousness. It states that Christian prayer is not an exercise in self-contemplation, stillness and self-emptying, but a dialogue of love, one which "implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'you' of God".

Orthodox Church about meditation

Easter meditation from the point of Orthodoxy and Science

The pursuit of imaginary grace of peace leads to irreparable spiritual losses: "painlessness of a heart dazzles the mind" (St. John of the Ladder, The ladder of divine ascent 7:13). We can find a confirmation of this idea in the words of St. Peter of Damascus: "Lowliness of mind is a product of intellect, and intellect is a product of temptations". Optina elder Hieroschemamonk Makarios said that if we want to be glorified with the Lord, then we must suffer with Him, we must suffer with everything that He wills send to us.

Orthodoxy and the Faith of Future, monk-priest Seraphim Exposes that Transcendental meditation, introduced in USA by Maharishi, contains secret initiation as a pagan Guru worshipping cult

Christian meditation

A great article on that point in Wikipedia lists several practical approaches:

Within the Exercises, daily instructions include various meditations and contemplations on the nature of the world, of human psychology as Ignatius understood it, and of man's relationship to God through Jesus Christ. The Exercises is divided into "four weeks" of varying lengths with four major themes: sin, the life of Jesus, the Passion of Jesus and the Resurrection of Jesus. During each day of the Exercises, a typical retreatant prays with a particular exercise, as assigned by the director, reviews each prayer, and, following four or five periods of prayer, reports back to the spiritual director of the retreat who helps them to understand what these experiences of prayer might mean to the retreatant. The goal of the Exercises is to reflect upon their experiences and to understand how these same experiences might apply to the retreatant's life.

Her starting point was the practice of "recollection", i.e. keeping the senses and the intellect in check and not allowing them to stray. In her meditations, one generally restricts attention to a single subject, principally the love of God. In The Way of Perfection she wrote: "It is called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with God". She would use devices such as short readings, a scene of natural beauty or a religious statue or picture to remind her to keep her focus. She wrote that in due course, the mind naturally learns to maintain focus on God almost effortlessly. St. Theresa viewed Christian meditation as the first of four steps in achieving "union with God", and used the analogy of watering the garden. She compared basic meditation to watering a garden with a bucket, Recollection to the water wheel, Quiet (contemplation) to a spring of water and Union to drenching rain.

In the preparation part, one places oneself in the presence of God and asks the Holy Spirit to direct the prayer, as in the Epistle to the Romans[8:26]: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." In the consideration part, one focuses on a specific topic, e.g. a passage from the Bible. In the affections and resolutions part, one focuses on feelings and makes a resolution or decision. For instance, when meditating on the Parable of the Good Samaritan one may decide to visit someone sick and be kind to them. In the conclusion part, one gives thanks and praise to God for the considerations and asks for the grace to stand by the resolution.

  • 20th century

The 20th century has also witnessed a new focus on Biblical meditation. These may be defined as: "the devotional practice of pondering the words of a verse or verses of Scripture with a receptive heart." Modern Biblical meditations may be designed to relate and connect the Biblical message to the modern world. Such Biblical meditations may correspond to specific seasons such as Lent with the meditation topic selected to interact with two or three readings of the Bible during weekdays or Sundays of Lent. The meditation sequence may begin by a summary of the Bible reading, then suggest specific ideas for meditation, then conclude with an appropriat prayer. Such meditations may also be designed not just for "strong seasons" such as Lent or Easter, but also for Ordinary Time. In the 20th century methods of Christian meditations have been taught using relatively new devotions such as the Divine Mercy devotion.

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Meditation is now used for a lot of non-religious contexts, such as meditation for relaxation. However, when referring specifically to Christians meditating, one tip I have received is this:

  1. First read a passage of Scripture, once through, to get the general view of what the piece of Scripture is saying.
  2. Second, read it through a second time, this time, going through it specifically, and picking off important points, and remembering the verses which contain these points.
  3. Lastly, as you go about your day, think on these verses, what God is trying to tell you, and how you can apply what you learn from these Scriptures in your everyday life.

  4. You could also just sit quietly, spending time specifically to turn the Scripture in your mind.

That is a meditation of the Scriptures, and that's how I do it.

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In your answer, the part about Christian meditation is correct, but it's really important to make a strong distinct between Eastern meditation and Christian meditation practices, since they are absolutely incompatible. Eastern meditation is prohibited by Church. –  Max Gontar Sep 18 '11 at 8:28
Can you site whichever source you are quoting? –  Flimzy Sep 18 '11 at 17:14
It's my personal experience, @Flimzy, but I don't have much of it. I learned it off a preacher –  Cryst Sep 18 '11 at 18:53
Ah, so it's not actually a quote then? –  Flimzy Sep 18 '11 at 19:35
@Maximus: can you give more information on exactly what forms of meditation are prohibited, and by which church? "Eastern meditation" is not really clear. –  Sean McMillan Oct 31 '11 at 17:45

I agree with Cryst's hints on meditating. However, the most important part of meditation and Biblical revelation is the role of the Holy Spirit. You cannot understand what God wants to tell you through His word without the help of the Holy Spirit.

For this reason, the most important part of Christian meditation is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God's word to you personally as you read and meditate on it. Without this, any kind of thinking through God's word is vain.

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Should we, Christians meditate? Yes, We should meditate. Another word used is contemplation. Let us see if people meditated as per the Bible.

Psalm 119:97 - "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. " about the Psalmist himself

Genesis 24:63 - "He went out to the field one evening to meditate" about Issac

Other references: Psalm 119:148. Jesus meditated while withdrawing to a lonely place - Matthew 14:13

In the Church Age: Jeremy Taylor : Meditation is duty of all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: He says He meditated since he is a christian.

As per 'Celebration of Disciple' by Richard Foster, the two Hebrew words used for meditation, together used 58 times in Bible. He defines meditation as ability to hear God's voice and obey His word and adds that 'it is that simple'.

what should we do while meditating?

The idea is to detach from the disturbances from the world around us and attach to God during the time of meditation and listen to Him. We should meditate upon a small portion of the scripture, not exegesis, but internalizing and personalizing it. 'Just as you do not analyse the words of some one you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the word of Scripture and ponder it in heart as Mary did, That is all, That is meditation" Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To avoid superficially going over many passages, take one small passage, single event, or a parable or a single sentence.

The book Celebration of Discipline gives a whole chapter on meditation and I recommend you to read it for complete understanding. Q&A site will not give option to describe all of it. This book gives multiple forms of meditation apart from biblical basis, difference between eastern meditation and related topics.

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I think the confusion is that, for many, the idea of meditation is to clear or empty your mind in an effort to find peace or tranquility. Christian meditation is the opposite: filling your mind and focusing or concentrating on a specific subject.

The bible uses the word "meditation" in three places in the New Testament (Luke 21, Philippians 4, and I Timothy 4, KJV), and every one of those mentions it in the context of meditating on a specific subject or subjects.

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Others meditate because they don't have the opportunity we have to pray, worship, etc. The form you do it does not really matter to us, just as long as you are comfortable, and you do it in the name of God. I see no harm in using meditative techniques when praying to God, if that helps you focus on your prayers.

I feel I need to point to the importance that you should not seek to be in one with God, as other religions attempt with the meditation. For a Christian, meditation is only to be used to help focusing on God to better get in touch with God, and to clearer see what He tells us through the Scritpure.

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Thank you. Also which is the right order. Pray and read the bible OR read the bible and then pray - While meditating? Is there any reference on how Jesus followed? –  Benny Aug 24 '11 at 7:26
I don't think there are any specific rules about this. You can pray both before and after, and do some praise as well (in any order -just as you feel). That said, it might be a good thing to pray a bit before reading, to get in better contact with God when reading. One way of seeing it is that prayer, you talk to God, and then He answers you through the Bible (as one of the many ways He will speak to you). –  awe Aug 24 '11 at 8:38
@awe I can't agree with the phrase "The form you do it does not really matter to us, just as long as you are comfortable, and you do it in the name of God." We should use Christian meditation instead of TM or any other Eastern meditation. Beware of New Age techniques, since Church officially stated they are wrong and full of occultism. –  Max Gontar Sep 18 '11 at 8:22
@Max Gontar: I totally agree to beware of New Age, but "The form" as I see it, is just the positions you use. If you want to pray to God sitting on a mat on the floor with your legs crossed, your palms up and breathe calmly to focus, I see no harm in that, as long as the focus is directed to our God, and not "some nature forces or something". Also see my edit to the end of my answer. –  awe Sep 19 '11 at 9:14

For most of my life I believed I knew how to meditate, it's only now so very late in my life that I find it so very easy, allowing myself to believe that my closet where I am told by Scripture to go to pray, is sitting under my avocado tree, eyes closed and relaxed. I prefer to begin by placing myself at the scene of the Passion of the Lord. I've never fallen asleep while meditating, but in fact for some reason even tho I have a 60% hearing loss, my hearing becomes much more acute, a not wanted or expected gift. I'd never be able to tell some one "how to meditate", I'm not sure how I was able to accomplish it. I figure as long as I end up at the foot of the cross, knowing it was for my sins that this (the crucifixion)occurred; I'm safe in how I meditate. One of the pluses is that I am able to bring the child Jesus to the present day, and a better understanding of my belief that He was both fully human and fully divine. I'm not sure what my Church (Catholic) would think of my thoughts, It's of little concern to me because I simply feel, or discover if you will, that I get to know God my invisible Father thru Jesus the Christ a lot easier. It's one thing to say,"our Father" and quite another to come to know that He is indeed, truly MY Father.

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Welcome to C.SE. This answer is a good start - some formatting and sources would make it better, however. You may also want to check out or faq –  Affable Geek Apr 5 '13 at 16:39
Your personal experience is of course valuable and good for some purpose, but our purpose on this site isn't to be a collection of personal experiences. We really want to know about official stances of specific Christian beliefs and traditions. I'm not saying your experiences aren't relevant to this issue, but they aren't necessarily relevant to the aims of this site. Is there any way you could edit this to identify specific beliefs of some branch of Christianity and use your story as an anecdotal side? See also: What makes a good supported answer? –  Caleb Apr 6 '13 at 8:48

protected by Affable Geek Apr 5 '13 at 17:12

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