Editors note: Today’s blog post is by David Zailer, a graduate of Journey 24. He is the Founder of Operation Integrity, championing faith-based addiction recovery internationally and mentors Christian clergy and leaders in personal journey and church recovery ministry. He has written numerous books about the process of recovery.
“Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:14, The Message
“Let therefore our chiefest endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Christ.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
Prayer is the way we speak our mind and heart to God, but meditation is how we listen. It is the flip side of prayer. As a practice, it helps us hear God’s voice and understand His guidance. It is about quietness of mind and openness of heart, and it completes the dialogue between God and man. In fact, I believe that prayer without a dedicated time for intentional listening for God’s response won’t be healthy for very long. Without the practice of listening, our prayers become self-centered and we regard God as if He were a well-mannered pet who obediently listens to our rants and rambles with nothing to say in return.
How do we listen for God’s response? We learn to meditate by meditating.
It is not hard work, but quite simple. We start, get distracted, start again, get distracted and then start once more. Getting distracted is not the problem, the only failure is not restarting again — which we can do at any time. With each restart we become more capable of hearing what God has to say. It’s not an effort of work like most of us think about work because it takes nothing from us. We just open ourselves like we would open our hand to accept a gift. It’s like standing in the rain after a scorching hot summer day. It is listening for the sound someone else makes — like listening to music, even though it may be far away. And over time, and as we learn to hear better, we’ll understand how natural it is; like a mother’s ear tuned to every sound her child makes.
Our imagination will run free and wild as we meditate, like the mind of a child will naturally do. The free-roaming nature of imagination has purpose. While our addiction to work and ministry often deaden our capacity for creative thinking, the imagination that comes with meditation enlarges our creativity. It opens us to a growing world of possibilities. It changes how we view ourselves and the way we impact the world around us. But there is one thing we must never lose sight of. God will not serve the expectations we create. He has committed Himself to love and care for us eternally, but He is not obligated to give us everything we think we should have. Guard against self-deception. Don’t allow meditation to become a breeding ground for self-centeredness, which is most dangerous when hidden within a religious agenda.
When you desire to walk with God, you will prefer presence and obedience over blessing and comfort.
The ‘work’ of meditation helps balance our minds and our emotions, and the best way to do this is to meditate on Scripture. It is the most obvious way God speaks to us, and it builds a well-balanced point of view. But the greatest value is not in the study of Scripture, but in finding your experience foretold through the lives of those who encounter God in Scripture. Our goal makes all the difference. No matter how much we study the Bible, our disciplines will be ineffective without the foundation of deep personal brokenness. The truest and most essential value of Scripture is in the storytelling of God’s interaction with human brokenness. And our personal story unfolds most clearly when we identify our brokenness by seeing it in the lives of biblical characters who found God’s Presence meeting them at the ugliest points of their sin.
Do you want to enlarge your spiritual home?
Then set your religious ambitions aside and allow the practice of meditation to reveal the depth of your poor and needy self. Stop working so hard to get close to God. Be still, be quiet, and listen!
Look to find yourself in the Scriptural stories of the blind man, or the leper, or the prostitute, or, perhaps most fitting for some of us, in the religious leaders who murdered Jesus. This is the buried treasure of your life, the place where transformation is birthed. As you do this, and listen for what God has to say, you’ll know He has been moving close to you long before you even thought about Him.