Should Christians Meditate?

At a recent Congregational Federation meeting, I was introduced to ‘Christian meditation’, as promoted by the World Community for Christian Meditation organisation (WCCM). Founded by one John Main, a Benedictine monk who drew inspiration from a Hindu ascetic, he sought to introduce meditation as mainstream Christian practice. Challenged by his own Order about the exercise’s non-Christian roots, he found a precedent set by the Desert Fathers, ancient Christians who fled to the desert to escape the world.

The speaker was affable enough and explained that ‘some Christian groups’ are uncomfortable with his organisation’s use of the word ‘mantra’ because of its ‘unfortunate’ Eastern connotations. He then went on to use it repeatedly. A mantra is a word upon which the mind focuses. One plummy voiced expert on the video said he focused on the word ‘maranatha’, a biblical, Aramaic expression for ‘come, Lord’. This sounded good to me, until he urged us not to focus on its meaning, but upon its sound.

I believe there are two types of meditation, the first being the eastern kind. This is practised among Buddhists and Hindus- and the WCCM- and seeks to ‘clear’ the mind, emptying it of thought and desire. In contrast, the Biblical kind, rather than emptying the mind, fills it with knowledge of God’s word. Psalm 19:14 says

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Meditation here is not passive emptying, but active thought, compared here to the psalmist’s active speaking of words.

Psalm 119:148 affirms the same 

Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

Christian meditation focuses on some portion of scripture, thinking it through, mentally chewing and absorbing it until it is properly ingested, and its goodness consumed.

There is a case to be made for Christian meditation. Too often we glibly race through God’s word, instead of slowly pondering its glorious riches and wonderful depths. The WCCM did not make this case for me, relying instead on Eastern explanations for ‘finding peace’ and ‘hearing the divine speak’. If you want to hear God’s voice, read the Bible. If you want peace, read the Bible. If you’re tired of materialism and the busyness of life- read the Bible. And if you want much more of all three- meditate on the Bible. 

I left the meeting before the meditation actually began, but after the speaker’s explanation. Others present may have assumed I walked out on principle, and this blog post seemingly confirms this. In fact, I had been meditating well enough on the Mancunian motorway system and concluded that I’d find more peace by avoiding the shoppers’ late-afternoon rush hour.