Before I became a Christian, I researched many other religions and spiritualities. I wanted to be confident in my decision of how to spend my life and my eternity. Due to this, I have learned and experienced different forms of meditation. For this reason, I am cautious about common meditation practices that Christians easily overlook.
What are common Christian meditation practices? Common Christian meditation practices include scripture meditation, contemplative reading, and meditating on the character of God. Responsive meditation, guided meditation, and meditating with God are also growing in popularity.
In this blog, I will be listing and explaining meditation practices that are safe for Christians. I will also be noting practices that should be done with caution, as well as practices that should be avoided entirely. Much of this is through my own experience and research. I also have gained insight from trusted friends and colleagues. These individuals have done additional research and have traveled into areas of the world that practice pagan forms of meditation.
- Safe Practices for Christians
- Techniques to Approach with Caution
- Meditation Techniques to Avoid & Why
- Main Differences Between Eastern Meditation & Christian Mediation
Safe Practices for Christians
Before we get started, I want to note an important message. Not all meditation that has the label “Christian,” is in fact, Christian. Instead, there are numerous practices that have been immersed in the faith that have pagan roots. Since they have been tolerated for years, they are now accepted.
Simply because something has been accepted for a long stint does not mean it is true, pure, or Biblical. In the same way, simply because people of prominence support a topic does not make it acceptable. Christians have the responsibility to test and withhold all aspects of religion to the standard of scripture. It can also be healthy and helpful for Christians to research historical events and origins.
I advise you to read the following information through the lens of the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask God to reveal the truth to you. We are all constantly on a journey of learning. Trust God as the ultimate authority and expect God to continue to reveal truth to you and others. This means that people will be wrong. They will fail you. The ultimate authority is always God, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.
A huge aspect of Christian meditation is within the intent. Christian meditation is only as safe as the mentality of an individual going into it. Practices in and of themselves are not completely safe. If an individual is seeking something other than God in the practice, it will be dangerous.
Additional danger comes from incorrect motivation, lack of understanding, and opening oneself up to other spiritual experiences. In order to have safe meditation, align yourself with scripture and prayer.
Scripture meditation is one of the most popular forms of Christian meditation. This practice is found in the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms. The term meditation is found throughout. It refers to thinking deeply, pondering, and reflecting on scripture.
Joshua 1:8 states, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Furthermore, Psalm 119:97-99 explains Biblical meditation. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.”
How to Meditate on Scripture
- Start with prayer and focus your mind upon God.
- Next, choose a passage of scripture.
- Read the passage numerous times.
- Re-read parts that may be confusing or that specifically speak to you at the moment.
- Consider, ponder, and seek to understand the scripture.
- Pay attention to commands, and statutes. Find ways that you can be obedient to these commandments. If the passage is from the Old Testament, consider the original meaning and what aspect of God’s character you can see through it. Apply any general principles to your life.
- Look for promises that God declares over His people and your life particularly.
- Renew your mind with truths of scripture. Build your life upon scripture.
- End with prayer.
Contemplative reading is similar to scripture meditation. It involves reading a specific passage of scripture. It also includes pondering the scripture. This approach is more specific to the words itself, instead of the overall meaning. Scripture meditation can be over a larger passage, whereas contemplative reading may be over only one verse.
The purpose of contemplative reading is to focus one’s thoughts on the Biblical passage. Then, the individual reflects on the meaning of the scripture in light of the love of God. Contemplative reading really reveals the love of God through scripture as a whole.
This style of meditation is great for those who struggle to see God’s love in their life or the world. Furthermore, it can help heal past wounds that made an individual feel unloved. 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
How to Read Scripture Contemplatively
- Follow the first five steps of scripture meditation.
- Ask the questions, “How does this reveal the love of God?” and “How was God displaying His love in this situation?”
- Then, either through prayer or self-reflection ask, “Where do I need the love of God?”
- 1 John 4:19 declares, “We love because he first loved us.” Once you grow in the love of God, pray about ways that you can love others. Follow any example you see in scripture or other practice ways.
Meditating on the Character of God
Meditating on the character of God can be done with a particular scripture or without it. The character of God is seen throughout scripture. There is no singular passage that expresses the character of God.
Instead, the character of God is witnessed through various victories, circumstances, interactions, commandments, and dialogue that is found in both the Old and New Testaments. The character of God can be seen through the actions of God in the Old Testament and the actions of Jesus in the New Testament.
You can either choose one passage at a time that speaks of God’s character, or you can use a list of God’s attributes. Additionally, the names of God and their meanings can be used as a meditation point.
An example of scripture could include Psalm 145:8-9. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all he has made.”
How to Meditate on the Character of God
- Begin first with prayer.
- Choose either a passage of scripture, a list of God’s attributes, or the meanings of His various names used in scripture.
- Read, or speak these things.
- Ponder them and allow them to influence how you interpret scripture, the world, and your own life.
- Focus on who God is over all other things in life. Elevate God above yourself, creation, other people, circumstance, and suffering.
- Praise and worship God for who He is, what He has done, and what He promises to do.
- End with prayer.
This meditation practice may blend well with Christian meditation journaling. Learn more through the blog, “What Christian Meditation Journals Are & Why Get One“
There is debate on whether or not responsive meditation technically qualifies are Christian meditation or not. It has been said that responsive meditation is simply prayer. However, responsive mediation can be paired with other forms of meditation to create a more complete practice.
Responsive meditation is as simple as it sounds. After reading or contemplating scripture or meditating on the character of God, an individual will respond. This response can be a conscious choice to change his or her life. It can also be a prayerful response to God.
How to Meditate Responsively
- First, begin with a safe Christian meditation practice.
- Then ask yourself what you will change in response to what you read, or learned.
- Next, ask God for the grace that you need to overcome sin and live victoriously in His truth.
- Additionally, confess sins, repent, or rededicate your life to God.
- Pray about any other things that you are feeling led to.
- Converse with God either about the topic or about questions, or life in general.
- Praise, worship, give thanks and bring adoration to the throne of God.
Techniques to Approach with Caution
There are some techniques with a gray area. This indicates that the techniques are not always labeled black or white. When this is the case, believers should be hesitant to begin the practice before significant research. Believers should always check the motivations behind their actions. They should value the authority of scripture over any trend of practice endorsed by other Christians.
Since meditation often focuses on freeing the mind or eliminating thoughts, believers can open themselves up to unwanted thoughts, or even spiritual influences. Therefore, meditation holds a particular responsibility and seriousness.
All meditation should first be looked at through the lens of scripture. Ask yourself, “Does this form of meditation make me more like Jesus, or does it focus on myself?” “Does this glorify God or does this glorify His creation?” “Will this meditation lead me to scripture for answers, or will it lead me to another source?”
These are only some of the questions that should be asked. There are many other questions that could be used to discern. You may even be able to think of your own questions.
Guided meditations can be found on various apps, media, podcasts, or youtube. This practice can be extremely helpful and beneficial, especially if you are new to Christian meditation. Essentially, guided meditation leads you through a meditation practice. It can teach you the above practice or other practices.
The important thing to note is that not all guided meditation will be pure and Biblical. As I stated earlier, Christian meditation has been influenced by other sources. Therefore, any guided meditation you find has the potential to include non-Biblical principles.
If you choose a guided meditation, first do your research. Ensure that the meditation is Biblical and follows the guidelines stated earlier. Additionally, refer to the chart of “Main Differences Between Eastern Meditation & Christian Mediation” found at the end of this blog.
This chart will help you recognize common misconceptions and improper practices that may escape the radar of some believers. If a guided practice more closely relates to Eastern Meditation, Christians should refrain from the practice and choose an alternative.
“Which Christian Meditation Podcasts to Listen To & Avoid” is a great blog post by my colleague Madeline Pena. In this blog, she lists 6 of the best Christian meditation podcasts. She also advises what podcasts to avoid.
Meditating with God
Meditating with God focuses on silent contemplation. The mind becomes silent to bring awareness and surrender to the Lord. Individuals practice this to have a feeling of oneness with the Lord. This practice has been explained as “a gaze of faith” or “a silent love”. The mind and imagination are huge components of meditating with God.
Meditating with God can either be done through a conscious focus on God or a free-flowing contemplation. In the conscious focus, one will place his or her mind, heart, and soul on God and His presence.
I advise caution for this practice. “Focused attention” originates from Asian meditation. This style of meditation places focuses on a particular object, being, or concept. As you can see, meditating with God follows this example by placing the focus only on God.
Additionally, this practice of “recollection” is found in pratyahara which is a yoga term. This type of Christian meditation can also be paired with certain breathing techniques.
Because there is such a close correlation to Asian meditation and yoga practices, Christians should be careful that they are not placing their focus, belief, or trust in practice. Instead, they should place the weight on God alone. If Christians are able to take part in this practice without confusing it with non-Christian meditation, then it is mostly safe.
However, to ensure that the mind is not completely void and free of thought, fill the mind with scripture that speaks of God’s character, love, or work. Focus on these aspects of God that are clearly displayed in scripture.
Meditation Techniques to Avoid & Why
There are some techniques that should be avoided entirely. These are the techniques that are clearly connected to Eastern religion and spirituality. Eastern spirituality historically has many connections to spiritual experiences. These can include that of Buddism, Hinduism, and Taoism.
These have been categorized as “enlightenment”, “awakening”, and “self-realization”. People also speak of going into trances or seeing visions. For Christians, they would recognize that spirits aside from God and His angels are in fact demonic. These should be avoided because the spiritual realm is very real in light of scripture.
The goal of many other variations of meditation is to reach a new spiritual level of enlightenment. Individuals want to become one with the universe. Often, people begin to view themselves and others as gods. They begin to see right and wrong on a different scale.
Instead of following scripture for right and wrong, they adopt a lifestyle of good works. These good works can replace the need for a savior since all are “mostly good”. They get rid of negative thoughts and clear the mind from stress.
While these things may seem positive, they contradict scripture in numerous ways. For instance, all have sinned. Simply thinking positive and trying to create good karma will not negate the sin problem in the world. Additionally, believers are called to renew their minds with scripture. Emptying the mind is not a Christian concept.
Mantras & Chanting
Mantras are sounds and vibrations. They can also be a word or a set of words. They are used by individuals to enter a practice of meditation. Mantras have also been used to conjure up spirits, out of body experiences, and other phenomenons. Furthermore, chanting mantras or other words have been known to direct spiritual powers. For example, Prana is the life force energy from Vedic belief. It is believed to awaken another state of consciousness.
Many individuals are familiar with the sound “om”. This term is connected to the belief of reincarnation. Additionally, “om” represents the cycle of life and death. Christians know that reincarnation is not a Biblical concept.
Furthermore, they know that life and death is subject to God and not to the universe. Using these terms may seem harmless. However, the underlying meaning, use, and history too greatly contrast the ideals of scripture. Many of the terms even acknowledge false gods.
Another element of mantras and chanting is connecting to a specific state of mind. Individuals can focus on their best selves. Essentially, they recreate themselves to be how they want to be. While some might attest that this can be done in a Biblical way, I am not as convinced.
The point of this is to become the best version of self. Christians are not called to be the best version of themselves. They are called to be like Christ. It is only through studying and focusing on Christ that individuals can become like Him.
Emptying the Mind
Emptying the mind is another harmful practice for Christians to take part in. Eastern meditation avoids negative thoughts. It does not address them. Rather, it works around them to create a false sense of peace. Avoiding thoughts does not make them go away. Additionally, it does not resolve the underlying issue.
Most thoughts have a cause or reasoning. Instead of ignoring thoughts and discomfort, believers should confront these issues before Christ. They should seek healing, freedom, revelation, and truth.
2 Corinthians 10:5 states, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Christians are commanded to take thoughts captive and replace them with the truth given by God.
Moreover, Philippians 4:8 advises Christians to place their focus on things of the Kingdom of God. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Note: these things are not merely worldly ideals of truth, nobility, righteousness, purity, love, admiration, excellence, or praise. These are heavenly and Godly views. They far surpass the “goodness” of a broken world. Rather, they rest upon the perfection of Jesus Christ Himself and the new life that He gives. The goodness of man cannot begin to compare to the riches of God’s goodness.
Inviting Out of Body Experiences & Spiritual Awakening
Lastly, Christians should never invite out of body experiences and spiritual awakening. It is true that scripture depicts spiritual experiences for many of Jesus’ apostles and disciples. They experienced supernatural things. They even performed miracles. However, this is much different than the spiritual awakening of Eastern religion
I will give two examples. The first example is that of an Eastern “Kundalini awakening”. The last example will be that of the new life that is available through Christ.
Example of a Kundalini Awakening
Brianna Wiest of Thought Catalog states: “The shifts that you experience can be unnerving at best, and downright painful at worst. A kundalini awakening can be one of the most traumatic and confusing times of your life…You may feel physical symptoms, such as waking up at random hours of the night, sweating, crying, or even literally feeling an intense rush of energy going up your spine.”
Rachel Zelaya of Gaia also explains: “Some people will experience physical and energetic symptoms at this point. Mine tended to be emotional rather than physical (anxiety, depression, despair), but many people speak of very obvious signs (shaking, visual disturbance, inability to relax, a major rush of energy, a near-death experience).
These experiences are supposedly occurring because they are purging out the negativity or bad energy in one’s life. Christianity offers an alternative that results in lasting effects that are not done at the expense of one’s emotional, physical, relational, or occupational health.
Example of New Life In Christ
Next, is a description of the new life that is available in Christ. This new life is not a traumatic or unnerving experience. Instead, it is a time of freedom and joy. For many, they explain the peace that came when they gave their lives to Christ. They did not explain a sensation or situation as was described above.
Scripture focuses on righteousness and holiness. It focuses on being life Christ and shedding the bondage of sin. Sin destroys the individual who partakes and the individuals on the other side of it.
Ephesians 4:22-24 states, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Colossians 3:5-10 exhorts believers to turn away from things of the world and of the flesh. Instead, believers are spurred on to the goodness of God.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Main Differences Between Eastern Meditation & Christian Mediation
Below is a table that lists the main differences between Eastern and Christian meditation. Refer to this chart for further understanding. Additionally, refer to this chart frequently when first trying meditation tactics. This chart will help you make informed decisions about what meditation practices can be accepted by Christians and which ones should not.
|Eastern Mediation||Christian Meditation|
|Focuses on spiritual awakening.||Focuses on the commandments, instructions, and will of God for one’s life.|
|Self-discovery and satisfaction is desired.||Serice to God and others is the focus.|
|Grounding includes becoming connected with creation, nature, and the universe.||The focal point is upon the Creator, God Himself, rather than the creation. Believers seek to abide with God. They do not seek to become one with creation or other individuals.|
|Eliminates thoughts and control of the mind.||Takes thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.|
|Desires to lose control and come under a spiritual experience or spirit guide. It is common for participants to go into a trance.||Seeks to surrender to God’s will and to conciously obey His commands. The focus is to overcome the flesh by the Spirit of God. Participants are aware. The Holy Spirit is the only Spirit.|
|Body postures represent elements of the practice.||Body postures are not needed or implemented.|
|Chanting and mantras are used to conjure spirits, or phychological experiences.||Indiviudals do not use mantras or chanting. Individuals do not welcome spirits and physchological experiences.|