Prayer and meditation are used everywhere, in every culture. I know that I have some of my Christian readers who are going to panic at the thought of meditation. That’s a shame because the Bible actually mentions meditation almost two dozen times and we’re commanded to do it! Let’s explore what I mean – as a Christian – when I talk about prayer and meditation.
Both prayer and meditation, especially when used together, can clear your mind and focus your thoughts. Those who make these a regular part of their lives have better health and more happiness. That’s very powerful, isn’t it?
When we pray and meditate, we can clear our heads and let go of anger and pain. That’s a huge part of learning to forgive. Starting your day with prayer and meditation puts you in the right frame of mind for your day, with peace and happiness at the forefront.
What is prayer? Well, there are three main types – vocal prayer, meditative prayer and contemplative prayer. They are all very important, and it’s unfortunate that most Christians are only aware of vocal prayer.
A vocal prayer – and it does not actually have to be spoken aloud – is a conversation with God.
It can be a plea for help, or it can be a way to share what’s going on in your life. If you have ever read through the Psalms, you know that the Psalmists shared very strong emotions with God, sometimes raging and furious, sometimes frightened. I have heard it said many times that you can read through the Psalms to find the entire range of human emotions – all in songs of prayer.
A prayer can also be a formal recitation of words that you’ve known for a long time. The Lord’s Prayer is an extremely well known example. A formal prayer can be a great way to start your conversation with God about forgiveness. The familiar words and phrases will help you calm your mind and be open for the conversation.
All major world religions talk about forgiveness. It’s a core principle in almost all religious practices and you can find stories and prayers about forgiveness no matter what your faith. Find them and include them into your daily prayers.
Meditative and Contemplative Prayer
Meditative Prayer is not the same as Eastern Meditation!
In the Christian faith, Meditative Prayer usually means that we read a piece of Scripture several times, absorb the words, and then quietly sit and think about its meaning in our lives. If you are familiar with the Catholic use of the Rosary, this is a method of meditation. Catholics use this to meditate on the mysteries surrounding Jesus.
One way to use this in your forgiveness journey is to meditate on Bible verses where Jesus talks about loving our enemies and forgiving our brother seventy times seven times. (For the record, that’s the ancient equivalent of us saying to do it “a million times” – it meant to do it over and over and over again until past when you lose track!)
Contemplative Prayer is much more like what Eastern religions call meditation. It has a long history of use in Christianity.
This involves quieting the environment around you, blocking out all of the busy-ness and noise and thoughts in our minds and … well, the expression is “Let go and let God!”
When Christians enter contemplative prayer, we rest in the presence of God and wait to hear from Him. Contemplative prayer requires a quiet prayer room or other place where we can eliminate distractions. If your idea of prayer has always been vocal prayer, think of contemplative prayer as God telling you to just sit down and listen.
How often should you do these? Dare I say that all three need to be a regular part of your life?
All forms of prayer will calm your mind.
Vocal prayer is wonderful for working through and letting go of anger and resentment.
You can meditate on forgiveness and on loving those who have hurt you.
Contemplative prayer, or resting in the presence of God, can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have ever been seething with anger, you know that calming your body and your mind is the first step towards letting go of those negative feelings. Of course that’s probably the most insignificant outcome of regular contemplative prayer – and it’s still life-changing.
And you may well need to use all three methods of prayer in the same prayer session if you are really working on a difficult situation!
All types of prayer – vocal, meditative and contemplative – work best when you do them regularly. Make them part of your daily routine. I encourage you to keep all three forms of prayer in your life for the long run. Both your body and your mind will benefit from it.