by Heather Kopp
I always wanted to be the kind of person who meditates, wears bohemian skirts, and emanates a calm, groovy aura. But for years, whenever I tried to actually do it, nothing happened. I’d find myself distracted by thoughts like, I’ve got to remember to scrub my toilet! During much of my life as a Christian, disappointing experiences like these convinced me that meditation was a waste of time.
Once I got into recovery, cultivating inner peace and serenity was no longer optional. So when Dave and I heard about a conference near us on contemplative prayer, I was ready, and I’ve been “meditating” ever since.
Before I go on, let me clarify what I mean by contemplative prayer or meditation. Unlike my regular prayers of petition or thanksgiving, in meditative prayer, I’m silent. My only goal is to be present with God in the moment. You could also call it listening prayer, practicing God’s presence, or abiding. Some people call it centering prayer.
For me, it works like this: After my morning devotional reading, I sit quietly for ten to twenty minutes. I quiet my mind and open my soul. When my thoughts wander, I use a word or phrase from my reading to bring my focus back to God.
Despite the fact that I often get distracted and rarely experience epiphanies, I do this almost every morning and for a few brief moments at intervals throughout the day.
It’s how I express my trust in God. Since my default mode is striving, sitting still for ten minutes is an act of faith—a way to physically demonstrate my belief that I’m getting more done by resting in God than I could by racing around.
It’s how I improve the later day, right now. If I spend time in contemplation in the morning, it’s like I am weaving a path from my heart to God’s. Later in the day when I’m casting about for His presence, my spiritual feet more easily find the path.
It’s how I invite God to work on me. Ordinarily, I’m like a patient who keeps trying to tell the doctor how to heal her. But since spiritual transformation is God’s work, not mine, silent prayer helps me open my soul wide for God and say, “Ah.”
It’s how I pray less, and more. When I meditate in the morning, I find myself praying more often through the day with way fewer words. I invite God’s will instead of suggesting what it should feel like or accomplish for me.
It’s how my heart hears God. Being quiet for ten minutes gives God a chance to get a word in edgewise, so to speak. Often, I don’t hear a specific message, but my heart knows something new.
It’s how I remember that I’m a spiritual being. In recovery we often remind each other, “You’re not a human being having a spiritual experience; you’re a spiritual being having a human experience.” Listening prayer keeps me connected to this truth.
It’s how I feel my feelings. In the same way I often don’t know what I think until I speak or write, I don’t always know what I feel until I sit still and listen.
Despite the myriad benefits of meditative prayer, I try not to require anything of this time I give to God. Instead of being greedy for good feelings, I try to adopt a posture of surrender to whatever happens—or doesn’t. Something I learned at that conference was that being shocked when nothing happens during meditation is like being shocked when rain is wet.
If you don’t meditate already, I hope some of these ideas might inspire you to try.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” —Psalm 130:5
Source: Recovering Faith: Words for the Way. Volume 2 [Kelly Hall, ed]