Meditation is the second expression of prayer taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It usually follows and surpasses vocal prayer. It prepares us for the gift of contemplation. As we saw last time, Christian meditation is different from non-Christian meditation. Christian meditation engages the heart and the mind to aid in communion with Christ, that loving conversation with God that is the essence of prayer.
How do we meditate as Christians? The Catechism says, “There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters” (no. 2707). St. Francis de Sales had his method, St. Ignatius of Loyola another, and a third is taught by the Carmelites, following the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila. All of these methods are good. We can choose which one best suits our temperament or situation in life.
Today I’d like to teach you the simplest method of meditation I have come across. It does not involve complicated steps that you have to memorize. Even young people and the uneducated can practice it.
First, choose a quiet spot alone to pray. Mentally set aside interior distractions and focus your mind and heart on God. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through Sacred Scripture. Then slowly and prayerfully begin to read your chosen passage. If you find a sentence interesting, pause and reflect on it.
If something strikes you about God’s character or his will for us, ponder it. Talk to God about it. Ask him to help you obey his will, understand him better, be kinder to your neighbor, or whatever teaching you think he wants you to glean from the passage. If your heart is moved to thank God for his goodness, to praise him for his greatness, do so. Try to enter a loving conversation with him. When your conversation dries up, return to the Scriptures and read slowly and prayerfully again, until another sentence strikes you.
Repeat this process until your prayer time is almost ended. Then pray the Our Father or another vocal prayer of your choice, or a brief word of thanksgiving for the time you have spent together.
Keep it Personal
The essence of prayer is conversation. You do not need to be a Scripture scholar in order to meditate on Scripture. This is not the time for complex theological questions or looking up word roots or using a commentary. God is speaking to you through the Scriptures. Listen to him. What does the Holy Spirit want to say to you personally through the passage? How does it relate to your life right now?
St. Teresa of Avila, in her classic Interior Castle, wrote, “The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.” Try as much as possible to move from learning about God to learning to love God in your prayer. Speak with him as you would to a friend you respect, or to a loving father.
Meditation is personal. God speaks to you, you reply to him. Do not be overly concerned with methods. Methods are only means. Communion with God is the end.
I pray that through this simple method, or another method of your choosing that comes from the saints, you will begin to grow in love for Christ by conversing with him from your heart.
Note: This post is part of a new series for beginners in mental prayer (and those who need a refresher!). Subscribe so that you don’t miss a post.