As I sat in church this past week listening to the pastor talk about clarity and contemplation, I wondered if the congregation really grasped the significances of what he was sharing. He spoke of prayer and spending time with God, but did it register or was it just another Christian ideal that sounded good but had no real practicality. Knowing what I have learned about contemplation, meditation, and prayer, it takes discipline to carve out time everyday to spend time with God in stillness and reverent solitude. As I continued to listen, I wondered if mere words were enough to demonstrate the magnitude of such a practice. Was a sermon about contemplation and meditation enough or must further steps be taken? Do pastors not only need to talk about reverent silence, contemplation, and Christian meditation, but practice it as a body as well? And if so, how?
The service I attended consisted of praise and worship, some scripture reading, teaching, and ended with gospel music playing so loudly that you'd have a hard time hearing your neighbor talk to you. Where was the contemplation in that I thought? If we are to talk about meditation (or words similar to it), isn't it just as important that we teach it and practice as a body of believers?
In the course of our church services, I imagine believers entering the main sanctuary in silence and holy reverence to God as they turn their hearts over to Him and enter into His presence. This would be followed by 10 to 20 minutes of scripture meditation with eyes closed and as we slowly grazed over the scripture passage selected for the day. Christian meditation would allow God's word to wash away every care and dissolve every weight that we carried in with us- the act of hiding God's word in our heart. As we mentally repeated the scripture passage, following the principles of meditation, any time we discovered our minds wandering off in thought, we would gently returned our attention back to the verses, thus creating a greater space to hear God and fellowship with Him from within. For those who attend church for the entertainment factor or an emotional experience, this might not go over so well.
And as the congregation saw the real affects of true contemplation and meditation acted out in service each week, they could then take the same practice to their homes. Once they got a taste of a true spiritual connection with God, not based on doing, but on "being" and "dwelling" in his presence, I believe it is something that they couldn't live without. Many believers would discover their own link to God, the source of all their power and strength. This is the basis for when Jesus said that "when the Spirit comes, you will not need a man to teach you for the Holy Spirit will teach you all things." The problem for most believers is that we don't know how to access that Spirit living inside us because it is continually crowded out by distractions, noise, thoughts, and deceptions. We're often like Samuel who kept hearing the voice of God calling him in the middle of the night and continuing to say, "Is that you Lord?" But unlike Samuel who had the Prophet to guide him and tell him it was the Lord calling, go and listen, we don't have any one doing the same for us. So we just dismiss the voice and go about living on the same earthy plane and miss out on the intimate fellowship we can have with God.
Through Christian meditation and contemplation we experience transformation from the inside out. We learn that true blessings come from within, in the form of peace, joy, and contentment, instead of without, which we are frequently taught, even in many churches. They say your blessing is right around the corner or over the next mountain. God says you possess them already, for God has given us everything we need for a life of holiness and godliness, but we must access them from within. It will never be in the next relationship, the spouse, the house, the new car, the job or some external desire or perfect circumstance. These things don't satisfy the real void in our heart. They only mask them for a short time.
Jesus said that "the kingdom of God is within you," and that is the only place we will find lasting joy, contentment, purpose and peace. But take note that entering the kingdom of God, this sacred place, has nothing to do with more dancing, shouting, preaching, or doing. We enter it through stillness and silence, by "being still and knowing that (He) is God." We enter it by quieting our minds and shutting out or eliminating all the distractions that interfere with us touching the hem of Jesus' garment- the fears, illusions, and doubts. "For if I can just touch the hem of his garment, I will be made whole," said the women as she crawled on the ground, maneuvered through the crowd, singly-focused and intent on reaching and touching the only one that provided her any hope of being made well and whole. And in an instant she was transformed. Jesus responded by saying, "Who touched me, for I perceive that virtue has come out of me?" Although he was being pushed and thronged by many and on every side, only the touch of one with the single intent to know Jesus made an impression.
Jesus said, "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart," but for many believers that means gracing a weekly church service and an occasional Bible reading. They don't understand that to walk with God is to give of your very lives, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. And they don't know because it's not what they are taught. Most believers live their lives on the testimony and teaching of others without investigating for themselves. Job illustrated it clearly when he said, I have heard of your power, but now I have experienced you for myself (paraphrased). They are told to join more committees, or attend more groups, and if they miss a church service they may be on the verge of backsliding from God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, these are important, but like Jesus told the Pharisees when they paid their tithes but neglected to show mercy and faith, you should have done this as well as that.
Seeking God with all your heart, soul, and strength begins with prayer, contemplation, and meditation, but not the kind of prayers that petition God for more. Instead, the type of prayer and meditation that demonstrate that God is already enough, where we abide in the vine, where we become one with the Lord, and where we put on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth, for these are the types of worshippers the Lord seeketh."
I understand that church is a time of celebration, fellowship, and corporate worship and that these are important functions, but what better place to teach corporate meditation and contemplation. Many Christians don't even know what it means to be still before the Lord or they avoid it altogether. For the stillness shines a neon light of what is really in our hearts and what is missing from our lives. The good news is that we can take this awareness to God for inner healing. Shouldn't church be the very place to teach this? What if during our church services we created a special time of silent worship, scripture meditation, and inner contemplation? I can only imagine the transformation that would take place in sanctuaries all around the world. For when we allow the light of God to flood our hearts and minds, it will dispel the darkness- the hate, the worry, and the fear.
Rhonda Jones is the creator of over 25 Christian meditation and affirmation Cds and the author of the Christian makeover program, Detox Your Life & Awaken Your Inner Spirit. Learn more about books, CDs & annual Christian Meditation and Yoga retreats at http://www.thechristianmeditator.com.
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