I’m discovering that meditation is one of the most powerful ways to hear God. No, “powerful” isn’t a strong enough word. Meditation may be the most profound, deep, life-changing, heart-enriching way to hear God.
But there is a problem. I picture meditation—maybe you do too— as something kind of weird. It’s a person dressed in leotards sitting in an awkward position humming nonsensical syllables, emptying the mind, thinking of “one hand clapping.” It’s the mystic or the desert monk escaping from reality. It seems totally disconnected from real life.
But everyone is a meditation expert. We meditate all the time. We don’t know it because we call it something else, and we slip into it accidentally.
We all imagine.
Every day every conscious human imagines–the business tycoon and the homeless person, the New York poet and the Himalayan shepherd. Everyone imagines.
We paint pictures in our mind of what life would be like “if” or what we’ll do “when.” “What will I do after I graduate from college; wouldn’t it be fun to have a horse; wouldn’t it be cool if that girl would date me?” In spare moments scattered through the day, we imagine.
Our imagining is a type of meditation. It is a concentrated thinking on a particular subject. It’s “seeing” in our mind’s eye.
Imaging creates Intimacy
The best imagining is often shared imaging with a friend. Fiancés imagine life after marriage; tired spouses imagine a vacation by the sea; software programmers imagine creating the next best selling iPad App. We love to share our mind’s eye with someone else; it connects our hearts through shared inner images. It creates intimacy.
It’s also possible to imagine while in conversation with God. God shares an image with us, and we share our hearts’ desires with God. We connect our hearts to God in this prayerful, conversational imagining. It creates intimacy with God, sharing our heart.
Imagining fuels longing
Our problem is not in learning to meditate; no, our problem is the subject we choose for our meditation. Imagining increases longing. That’s why pornography is so addictive. Paul wrote, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
Our intentional imagining is one way we “set our mind” on something. Sustained imagining on earthly things—a new car, a new dress, a job promotion, sex without commitment—increases our desires for those things. But these things do not bring life. They fail to satisfy the deepest longings of the heart.
Setting our minds—and this includes intentional imagining—on spiritual things increases our longing for them, such as knowing God’s love, hearing God’s voice, and intimacy with Christ. And these bring deep, soul satisfaction.
So how can we set our minds on the Spirit?
It’s easy to slip into imaging things of the flesh because we have so many external pressures. These external pressures often spark our minds to imagine solutions. We work long hours so we imagine a vacation; our car breaks down, again, so we imagine a new problem-free car. Our external pressures give us many topics for meditation.
In Christian meditation we let God choose the topic. Pick a passage and converse with God on his words through intentional imagining. Here are some possible passages:
- Consider [imagine, meditate on] how wild flowers grow. They neither labor nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon with all his splendor was not dressed like one of these (Luke 12:27).
- The kingdom of heaven is like merchant [Jesus] seeking fine pearls. When he found that one pearl of incredible value [you], he went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).
- O God, my God; I eagerly seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry, weary land where there is no water. So I gaze upon you [imagine, meditate] … and my soul is satisfied as with a great feast … as I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in middle of the night (Ps 63).
We can set our minds on the Spirit as we let these word pictures fill our imagination. Consider these passages—picture yourself and God in them. Imagine them prayerfully in conversation with God, and God will speak exactly what you need to hear in your heart.
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