By Bill Gaultiere,
Soul Shepherding Moments, © 2012
Recently I spoke on Prayer and Meditation to 350 people struggling with addictions (e.g., people struggling with alcohol abuse, drug addiction, compulsive sexual behavior, eating disorders, and codependency). The room also included dozens of ministry leaders who are serving Christ by caring for those in need of 12 Step recovery. I talked to them about prayer and meditation.
This topic relates to all of us who seek to follow Christ. We’re all “recovering sinners.” We have different sins we’ve struggled with, but for all of us part of being Jesus’ disciple is overcoming our sinful habits.
Step 11 of the 12 Steps of Recovery reads: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out."
Overcoming Distractibility and Antsiness
Most people struggling with addiction, anxiety, or depression will say something like, "I'm too distracted to pray and meditate!"
My reply is, "Actually you know how to meditate. You are quite good at it. Whenever you worry you're meditating. When you're anticipating you're next drink, hit or lust you're meditating."
That's what prayer and meditation are. You're putting your mind on something and taking that into your heart. Instead of focusing your thoughts on your fears or other problems you put them on Jesus. Instead of anticipating a glass of wine you thirst for God's living waters.
Biblical Meditation is Not Nirvana
In Buddhist meditation or New Age approaches to meditation the idea is to experience a blissful detachment from reality, to enter into nothingness, to remove all distinctions between yourself and other people or things, to be free of any passions and content with this detachment.
The way that Christ-followers use prayer and meditation is very different. We also need to get free of our worries and compulsions, but we go about this in an opposite way. Instead of detaching into emptiness we attach to the Lord who loves us. We meditate in order to experience a deep and passionate engagement with Jesus Christ! We don't put our minds on nothing -- we think about Jesus. There is no one and no thing more beautiful and lovely, more inspiring and helpful, to think about then the Lord Jesus Christ.
Always Jesus is available to us. Even now you can pause to see Jesus' smile at you... Or his arms open to you... Or you can imagine yourself with your Good Shepherd in Psalm 23...
When you meditate on Jesus the peace of heaven begins to come over you! You know that you are not alone! You know that you are loved! And you are ready to share the love of Christ with the people within your reach!
Prayer and Meditation on the Word of God
To help us take our mind off addictive behaviors and negative obsessions and put our minds onto Jesus we can use Scripture. But we need to be careful not to misuse Scripture to avoid dealing with our sin or personal struggle! Instead we can use a Psalm or other passage that helps us to confess our sins or to express the emotions or unmet personal needs that underly our problem behavior. We might then write or pray our own Psalm to God or share what's going inside us with a Soul Friend.
The other way that God's Word can pull us out of negative patterns of thinking and acting is to meditate on it. To meditate on Scripture is not the same thing as studying it, although that's an important thing to do too. Meditation is slower and deeper. It's a saturation. It's more like praying Scripture. We don't analyze the passage as much as we simply enter into it to experience God's presence and hear his voice spoken into our personal lives.
I like to tell the story of my daughter and I running with our neighbor's blind dog Spanky. I learned that I had to keep him tight on the leash to protect him from running into the thorns. When it comes to the spiritual life with God we're all like Spanky -- we need to be leashed close to God's Word to help us stay safe! In other words, to practice prayer and meditation is to Hug Jesus' Shins!
Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D. and his wife Kristi Gaultiere, Psy.D. are founders of Soul Shepherding, a 501c3 nonprofit ministry. As counselors, spiritual mentors, speakers, and retreat leaders since 1987 they facilitate intimacy with Jesus for pastors and all kinds of ministry leaders from around the world. Bill is the author of You Can Live in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. You can sign up to receive his soul care messages by e-mail, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn.