Celebration of Discipline (2)
This is part two of my series on Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”. This post focusses on the second chapter of the book, “The Discipline of Meditation”, which is the first chapter of “Part 1: The Inward Disciplines”.
Foster begins the second chapter by arguing that in our busy modern world, contemplative prayer (Christian meditation) is desperately needed. He then goes on to show the biblical witness for meditation as a Christian practice (meditation is found throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, practiced by the people of God), something I suppose Foster does because of the modern perception that meditation is an “Eastern” thing and not a Christian thing. Perhaps this is because many in Western Christianity have forgotten the practice of meditation while those in the “Eastern” religions have kept their own versions of meditation as a central aspect of their faith. I wonder what effect it has had on the church’s witness to the world that when people think of a Christian they are more likely to think of someone speaking than they are to think of someone meditating/contemplating/thinking deeply.
Foster does take time to distinguish Christian meditation from other forms of meditation though:
“It is this continual focus upon obedience and faithfulness that most clearly distinguishes Christian meditation from its Eastern and secular counterparts.”
“Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. The two ideas are quite different.”
Foster introduces Christian meditation, describes the various forms and gives advice on how to practice this discipline without making it sound like something only for the “super-Christian”. He is very encouraging and makes this discipline very attractive by repeatedly pointing out the simple truth that, for a Christian, to meditate is to listen for the voice of God. Foster keeps us grounded, letting us know that we should not expect any great experiences at first – meditation is a way of life, and we must learn and grow as we practice.
After reading this chapter I felt encouraged to go meditate on Scripture, not guilty that it was a discipline I had let slip for some time. Foster takes you by the had as a friendly guide, introduces you to the devotional masters of church history and the biblical witness, equips you with the knowledge to take up the practice and sends you on with encouragement and a passion to experience for yourself what it is like to listen for God’s voice.
The next chapter in this book is on the Discipline of Prayer. Please feel welcome to read along with me and/or comment here to discuss this book or the practice of Christian meditation.