By Marsha West
In Joshua 1:8 God said: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” So, what exactly did God have in mind when He told Joshua to meditate on His word? Well, we can be certain of one thing. The Lord was not suggesting that Joshua sit in the lotus position repeating a mantra until he attained an altered state of consciousness. “These help bring one into states other than normal waking consciousness, in which a person becomes open to mystical experience, the spirit realm, or cosmic consciousness,” warns Bill Muehlenberg.
The sort of meditation God had in mind was not Eastern meditation. He has made it clear that His people are not to adopt pagan practices and those who do are out of His will. The purpose of eastern-style meditation is to “seek the God within.” That’s pantheism, brethren. People who hold this view believe that God is all and all is God. “A tree is God, a rock is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God, etc.” The biblical view is that God is separate from His creation. Genesis 1:1-30
More on biblical meditation in a moment, but first…
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” There’s been a huge misunderstanding in the Christian community as to what this verse means. Let’s take a look at noted Bible teacher Kay Arthur’s Precept Ministries International (PMI) website to see if she has it right:
Can you remember the last time you sat in total silence except for the sounds of nature – listening intently to hear the voice of God. It is time to:
Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10
Be still (cease striving)
Rest, relax, chill out, stop fighting, drop your weapons
Know that I am God
Learn that I am God, or “see that I am God,” “Get to know me better”
God is telling His children who are living in a busy world to stop, get quiet so that they can listen and get to know Him. It is only in stillness, the quiet, that we can hear the voice of God. (Bold PMI’s – Source)
Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries penned a piece entitled Kay Arthur With Erroneous Contemplative Interpretation of Psalm 46:10, which is where I came across the above quote. It could be a coincidence that right after Silva wrote his blog post and upbraided Mrs. Arthur for her erroneous teaching on Psalm 46:10, PMI’s webmaster changed the paragraph that begins with God is telling His children to As children of God, who are living in a busy world, we need to stop, get quiet and listen for His voice as we read His Word. God most often speaks in that small still voice. (Bold mine)
So, was Kay Arthur correct in explaining what be still means in context? Not according to Silva:
This passage isn’t about any kind of meditation; and it has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in some lotus position and subjectively trying to “hear” God’s voice in creeping crickets or inner burblings of bellies. Rather, this is a firm admonition and warning for all nations – particularly His people Israel – to stop worrying and to recognize God’s sovereignty. (Source)
What do Bible scholars say the meaning is? One source, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, states, among other things, that be still is “the idea of leaving matters with God, or of being without anxiety about the issue.” (Source – follow this link to discover what several Bible scholars say the meaning of be still is)
Low-Information Evangelical (LIE)
A growing number of low-information evangelicals (low-information people with high-profile power and/or influence) endorse meditation, or what’s known as contemplative/centering prayer (CP). This is bad news for the evangelical community as it’s easily provable that CP has its roots in paganism. In spite of this well-known fact, many LIE-celebs continue to lead people into eastern-style meditation. Yes, you read that right. Eastern, as in Buddhism. Now, some of you are thinking, “Seriously? Christian leaders are pointing people to Buddhism?” Bingo! (Source)
Unfortunately many LIE’s promote problematic pagan practices even though God adamantly says:
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. (Deut. 18:9-14)
There’s no question that God’s warning to Israel still pertains today. His people are not to indulge in pagan idolatry. This means that Christians who practice a form of meditation that brings him/her into the alpha state is actually defying the God they profess their love for! That alone should scare the bejeebers out of believers who take that approach to prayer. And it matters not what the reason is – even if it’s to go “deeper with God.”
Biblical meditation always includes a fully engaged mind. Listen to Professor of Philosophy Doug Groothuis’ advice on biblical prayer:
The biblical concept of prayer assumes that rational and meaningful communication between God and humans is possible. There is no summons to suspend rational judgment even when prayer through the Holy Spirit is ‘with groans that words cannot express’ (Rom. 8:26).
The manner in which the Christian shall meditate on it day and night is through the reading and study of the Bible. (Space does not allow for a comprehensive explanation of Eastern mysticism. Those who wish to learn more on this subject will find my articles here.)
Christian Meditation Made Clear
Now to the subject at hand – biblical prayer. It’s important that born again believers begin each day with the Lord. What we call “quiet time” involves finding a place to read and pray where there are no distractions – so turn off that cell phone! Before reading, ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and reveal truth. Also ask Him to help you make the biblical principles you’re learning meaningful and practical in your life. In Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “Pray Without Ceasing,” he asks four important questions:
What do these words imply? Secondly, What do they actually mean? Thirdly, How shall we obey them? And, fourthly, Why should WE especially obey them?
These are the sort of questions we should be asking as we read our bibles. We must stop and ponder what God has spoken through the words on the page. It may be necessary to read a passage repeatedly, reflect on it, analyze it, and listen while the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. (John 16:13)
And always consider the context! Apologist Greg Koukl explains how this is done:
I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what’s going on.
Context, context, context!
Because many Christians lead busy lives they fail to put aside time to spend with the Lord. In point of fact, data shows that most believers spend very little time in their bibles – but there is certainly a whole lotta prayin’ goin’ on. In this fast food nation in which we live Christians continually fire off bullet prayers hoping God will answer them quickly. Especially if they want the God who grants their wishes to see to it that they find a parking space at the mall during the Christmas rush or stop a torrential downpour when they’re sitting in the stands at an outdoor sporting event.
Now, don’t get me wrong. God loves it when His people pray umpteen times a day. Moreover, we’re commanded to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes. 5:17) We’re also commanded to abide in Christ:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).
So, not only are we to begin our day with the Lord reading the Bible and praying, we’re also to abide in (stay around) Christ throughout the day for the reason that there’s an ongoing relationship between the Vine and the branches. Got Questions reminds us:
We need to fill our minds constantly with the things of God; God should always be on our mind, and everything we do should be done with reference to Him (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
When we fail to abide in Christ – fill our minds with the things of God – the fruit we bear, no matter how appealing it appears, is not off Christ’s vine! In other words, it’s done apart from Him.
There’s a story in Luke 10:38 of two sisters, Mary and Martha, who thought differently about how to serve their Master. When Jesus came to their home Martha stayed in the kitchen preparing food for their guests. She had developed her own agenda for serving Christ. Martha became vexed that Mary wasn’t helping with the meal. What was her sister doing that caused Martha’s consternation? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words.
It’s certainly no crime to prepare a nice meal for a guest; however, we must remember that we are children of God before we’re servants of God. Like Mary, we must take time to sit at our Lord’s feet. Martha was so busy serving Jesus that she neglected Him!
Have I hit a nerve?
If your prayers are mainly the bullet variety then it would be wise to develop the biblical model of praying. Biblical prayer is intended for praise, confession and repentance, thanksgiving and asking for others. In our quiet time with the Lord we find His love. Through prayer believers are conformed to God’s will.
Prayer isn’t meant to be an esoteric experience. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we are to go into altered states of consciousness to commune with God. As I said above, biblical meditation does not seek the “God within.” This is the purpose of those who cling to Eastern religion and New Age spirituality!
The Christian who truly wishes to please God will let “the words of [your] mouth and the meditation of [your] heart be acceptable in [the LORD’s] sight …” (Psalm 19:14 paraphrased)
Psalm 46:10 Does Not Teach Contemplative-Centering Prayer – By Ken Silva
© Marsha West, 2014. Originally posted at Renew America