My recent experience with a church focusing on Emergent youth with adult leadership reading Dallas Willard and others has taught me a great deal about this current movement toward meditation in the church. It is not the same thing as meditation mentioned in the Bible. First of all, the Bible outright says to meditate on scripture with no lead up or revelation. In our recent church, we were seeing no outright and open sermons on meditation. The pastors have not openly discussed the practice. They have been slowly presenting silence into prayer at church, and have a sign outside the sanctuary requesting silence as people come into the service. The children have been asked to sit silently and think what God has done for them for a period of five minutes or more. Nothing wrong with silence. Nothing wrong with thinking on God. However, this is modeled and it’s not explained where it’s leading. Funny thing too, I’ve noticed pastors saying words like contemplate in ordinary speaking, for example, “as I began to contemplate” so that it’s a word already being used but not in the way it will be in the future. Of course, mantra meditative prayer is not just walking in alone. It’s hidden in “spiritual formation” or “spiritual disciplines.” It’s just one part of a list of disciplines including solitude, silence, frugality, and others. Each of these are being slowly introduced too. I really have little problem with people chosing to live a life of frugality, or to be celebate. If that’s someone’s choice and sacrifice to God, I cannot argue. However, even these things are being presented slowly and if quotes from the authors are representative, these disciplines are seen as a way to become closer to God and from what I’ve read…they are required for growth. Eventually, meditation and lectio divina fit into this requirement.
Because of the authors promoted by our pastors, like Willard, Miller, Warren, Frost, Steven Smith, etc, it’s evident the church is headed toward contemplative prayer. Some of these authors have referenced or acknowledged other authors who are into mysticism. Those acknowledgements can send people reading other books, which eventually lead to people who promote New Age meditation or Buddist/Hindu meditation. Follow the fruit to the root, and you will see that this current use of meditation has no place in Christian life. Go ahead, spend time with God and read your Bible, go for a walk and talk to God or think on the scriptures you read in the morning. But don’t buy into the idea you should basically “do nothing” and empty your thoughts. If you find yourself repeating a small snatch of a phrase many times in prayer, consider that there are people from other religions doing the exact thing, and they believe in many gods…or even claim to believe in no god.