Monday, May 9, 2011

Meditative Prayer

Part 1 of a Bible study series called Does Prayer Really Change Things?

STRUGGLING TO PRAY

“If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out.”—D. A. Carson

Prayer is essential. We will make time for things that are important to us. When we don't make time for prayer, we demonstrate that prayer is not our top priority.

Prayer is rigorous. Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). As Christians, we desire to pray ("the spirit is willing"), but we often don't ("the flesh is weak").

PRAYER IS NOT A ONE-SIDED CONVERSATION

“We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask, for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.”—J. I. Packer

In personal prayer, we speak to God, but in meditative prayer we allow God to speak to us.

Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind. Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. With what do we fill our minds? God’s word.

There are many biblical references to prayerful meditation:
  • “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8).
  • “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
  • “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
  • “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Psalm 119:148).
  • “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands” (Psalm 143:5).
Busyness and distractions are the enemies of meditative prayer. Stillness and solitude are the friends of meditative prayer.

We see the need for prayerful meditation illustrated in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42):
  • Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (v. 39).
  • Martha “was distracted with much serving” (v. 40).
  • Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42).
HOW TO PRACTICE MEDITATIVE PRAYER

“It is in meditation that the heart holds and appropriates the Word.... The intellect gathers and prepares the food upon which we are to feed. In meditation the heart takes and feeds on it.”—Andrew Murray

Steps for meditative prayer:
  • Designate a quiet place. Jesus often withdrew to “desolate places” to pray (Luke 5:16).
  • Give yourself 20-30 minutes.
  • Choose Scripture to prayerfully meditate on.
  • Allow God to speak to you.
(Much of the material from this study was taken from a series of blog posts on prayer by Winfield Bevins.)