Welcome to Day 1 of the Spiritual Disciplines Challenge!
I’m so excited to begin this journey with you and proud of you that you’re taking this new step in your relationship with God or renewing some practices that are familiar to you. For the next 5 days we focus on the Spiritual Disciplines as a way of focusing on God. My prayer for us is that we learn new ways of being available to God for him to work in us. That we find friends to support us and that these practices will become part of the rhythm of our spiritual lives and we will grow in them daily.
I know that starting a challenge like this is exciting and daunting and we wonder what to expect. Don’t worry, we’re all in this together. This is the beginning of a journey, not the call for instant perfection. So be encouraged and see what God has for you.
Let’s dive in!
Day 1: Meditation
Meditation has a bit of a sketchy reputation in our churches because of its’ use in other religions but it’s actually a staple for us in our relationship with God. Meditation as seen in the Bible is focusing your mind by setting aside the distractions and worries of your day to turn your focus to God. Romans 12:2 speaks of being “transformed by the renewing of our mind” and I believe that meditation is one of the ways that we enter into that process.
But this can be a little scary or intimidating. Fears creep in like “What if I sit there and don’t hear anything, just sit there in silence” or maybe we’re actually a little scared to hear from God. What will he say? What is it actually like to hear from God? Don’t feel alone, we’ve all had those fears at one time or another. There have been times in my life where I’ve been nervous to hear from God, looking at him out of the corner of my mind’s eye and knowing that he’s there patiently waiting. Each time, when I’ve settled down and heard from him, it’s been completely worth it.
And there have been times where I haven’t heard anything specific from God. But you know what? Those times are also incredibly meaningful. To sit and think about God, who he is and what he’s done, to meditate on his words in the Bible brings a sense of peace and calm that changes the tone of my heart and the course of my day.
Meditation is also a way we can speak directly with God. In Exodus 20:19, the people of Israel ask Moses to speak to God on their behalf. They were fearful and felt a distance from him. But we can be with God, hear from him, speak with him and in those ways our relationship with him grows. But if we always expect others to intercede with God on our behalf, if we always ask other people to pray for us without actually praying ourselves, if we ask other people what they think God wants us to do and don’t actually ask God, how can we grow and know him better?
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”
The challenge in the next 24 hours is to take 10 minutes and meditate on God and in his presence.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you cold turkey. Here are some guidelines that help me when I set out to practice meditation.
1.) Set your time – CHOOSE WISELY! Meditation is difficult to practice when you have a passel of toddlers hanging off your legs, when you’re in a meeting at work, in the grocery store. So we need to plan ahead. Maybe it means getting up a little earlier or heading to bed a little earlier. Maybe it means taking 10 minutes out of your workday at lunch to escape to a quiet spot. And stick to your plan. Don’t break a date with God when you wouldn’t break it with people. Too often we put people ahead of God (yes, I just said that, I know we’re supposed to love other people). But there have been times when I’ve set my time to meditate and be with God and I haven’t shown up. I wouldn’t do that to others, why would I think it’s alright to do that with God?
2.) Set your place – Find somewhere where you can relax, where there are minimal distractions. In front of the TV is probably not wise. Maybe it’s your favorite spot outside. Maybe it’s in your favorite chair where you can just relax.
3.) Set your heart – Pray. Pray that God will show you what he has for you. Pray for focus and clarity. Offer up to God the things that are worrying you, your to-do list, all the white noise of busyness that creep in.
4.) Set your body – Adopt a posture that you can settle into (without falling asleep). I like to sit, relax my shoulders, and place my upturned palms on my knees. This reminds me that I’m here to receive. It also reminds me that there are things in my life that I need to release to God in order to focus solely on him. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7
5.) Set your mind – After telling God all the things you need to release to him, let your mind focus ON him. You could focus on who he is, his love, mercy, grace, and power. If you experience God deeply through his creation, focus on some aspect of that. The majesty of what he has created, the beauty of the world around us as his gift to us. Or focus on Scripture. A verse that is meaningful to you, a story from the Bible.
6.) Set your ears – Prepare to listen as well. Meditation is not a time of prayer, where you do all the talking. Meditation is focusing on God, on what he may have to say to you. Just be still and listen. Do you feel his comforting presence? Maybe there are words he wants you to hear about yourself, truths from him about how he sees you. Maybe there are words of conviction. Is there sin in your life that he wants to help you deal with? Don’t be afraid of these words. This is a time where we make ourselves available to God for him to transform us into the people he created us to be. He smooths off the rough edges.
That’s the framework for meditation. If you find yourself drifting, just draw your attention back to him. This is one of the parts that requires discipline. My first time practicing this, all of my 10 minutes was spent not thinking about other things and trying to get my brain focused. As time has gone on, I got better and you will as well.
Blessings on all of you and I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!