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St Johns Southgate

15 Jul 2013

Prayer as Meditation

Many people have asked me the question: “How do you find time for meditation and prayer in the midst of a busy modern life?”

My response usually is: “Meditation, contemplation and prayer help us to focus on that which is most important in our lives, helping us to overcome anxiety and fear, frustration and dissatisfaction.”

Christian meditation is actually a middle ground or blend of bible reading and prayer. I like to use Martin Luther’s contemplative method, as outlined in his famous letter on prayer that he wrote to his barber.

The basic method is this: Take a scriptural truth and ask three questions of it. Adoration – how does this show me something about God to praise? Confession – how does this show me something about myself to confess? Supplication – how does this show me something I need to ask from God?

Luther proposes that we keep meditating like this until our hearts begin to warm to the realities of God. But, it is good to remember that we don’t ultimately pray in order to get something from God, but in order to honour him for who he is.

In order to practise our faith in meditation and prayer we need to engage in a ritual that sets clear boundaries and guidelines for our daily devotions. All true meditations have a specific form, specific instructions and are ideally practised regularly in order to be effective.

In the same way, true prayer also has a specific form, for example the Lord’s Prayer, which bears fruit through repetition. Ritual is a bridge, because its devoted practise builds the path that leads us from our world to the spiritual world and back again.

True prayer always starts with our relationship to God. We pray to Christ, who is the mediator between God and us. Therefore, prayer is less about petitioning than about bridging the gap between God and ourselves.

The more we engage in this conversation, this connecting with the spiritual being whom we seek, the more our prayer life will be strengthened, and prayer is strengthened through repetition. We will know it is being strengthened because we will feel peace, clarity, and warmth in our hearts.

As we advance in our practise, we begin to realise that this peace we feel is not ours, but is in fact the feelings, thoughts, and intentions of the spiritual being to whom we are praying, awakening in us. We will feel this presence more and more as its peace, its light, its joy come to life in us.

We can even open our thinking to this being in prayer and begin to experience its thoughts. Saint Paul encouraged us toward this when he wrote: “Pray with the spirit and understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15).”

And this is how transformation takes place through prayer: His thoughts, feelings, and intentions become alive in us.

The essential formula for this type of transformation is: “Not I, but Christ in me.” What’s more, we become gradually transformed into his image.

St Paul speaks of this as he writes: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).”

To really get to know what prayer is, one must do it, and learn by doing; there is no substitute. True prayer, when practised with one’s whole being in devotion again and again, becomes a bridge to the spring of life. We know we have found this spring when we begin to feel that our soul would actually perish without its spiritual sustenance.

Pastor Ian

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