Sunday, 12 October 2014

Three obstacles to Christian meditation - and the difference between prayer and meditation (note added with specific relevance to Mormon Christians)

I believe that modern circumstances are such that meditation would benefit many, or most, Christians - but meditation is rather poorly understood, and there are at least three significant obstacles.

1. Some Christians regard meditation as bad

2. Meditation must usually be learned

3. Meditation is different from prayer (and also different from creative inspiration).


1. Is meditation a bad thing?

Some Christians regard meditation as a bad thing - and of course it may be a bad thing if it is done for bad reasons - personal power, wealth or status; to manipulate others for gain, for occult powers or something of that sort.

These are the situations where, instead of achieving communion with God, someone might instead be influenced by evil spirits or one sort of another; and their salvation may be threatened.

But if meditation is done for good reasons, it can do - and probably will do - good.


2. Meditation must be deliberate and purposive

Meditation is not something that comes naturally to everybody, and modern life is extremely hostile to the possibility of meditation - so unless someone deliberately sets out to meditate, makes time for it, creates the right conditions, and then practices it - meditation is unlikely ever to happen.


3. Prayer versus meditation

Sometimes people suppose that prayer is meditation - but although there may be some overlap - the two are different.

Prayer is a conversation with God, but meditation is being with God.

Meditation is therefore a communion - and what comes from it is not so much information or guidance; but instead things more like motivation, sweetness, love, companionship, encouragement, inner strength.

These are things which most Christians need, or would at least benefit from - so, meditation should probably be given more attention as an aspect of Christian life.


Note added 15 October 2014
Christians have been explicitly taught by divine revelation that prayers should be addressed to God the Father, and that Jesus Christ is an intermediary for these prayers (hence the phrases such as 'in the name of Jesus Christ' which are so often appended to prayers as a reminder of this fact).

Although it is not mandatory doctrine, many Mormons, including the modern General Authorities, have expressed a belief in Mother In Heaven - celestially wedded to God the Father - and they have also stated that we ought not to pray to Mother in Heaven (for the reason previously outlined).

But meditation is different from prayer because it is a state of being-with, and communing-with, God - and meditation is possible because we are God's children and God is within us.

This seems to say that both our Heavenly Parents are within us in a divine sense, including both God the Father and Mother in Heaven - just as both of our earthly parents are 'within us' in a genetic sense.

The implication is that when Mormon Christians mediate, they are in the presence of both Heavenly Father and Mother.

So this is apparently another significant difference between prayer and meditation (the one addressed to the Father via Son, the other to both Father and Mother); and it suggests the particular, unique value of Mormon Christian meditation - that by it, and perhaps only by it, may we come directly to know our Mother in Heaven.


Continued: *


Nicholas Fulford said...

One of the classics on Christian Meditation is, "The Cloud of Unknowing" see

ted said...

I believe meditation is a key practice for any spiritual aspirant. The issue may be in the Christian tradition, the practice has a broken lineage going back to the Desert Fathers. And yet, there have been mystics (e.g. Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton) along the way that went against the grain of Church on this practice. Also at odds are some of the metaphysical assumptions that have been co-opted by the Eastern approach (which has a strong lineage around meditation). In place of salvaging the self (which is seen as a source of suffering), one is expected to transcend it (or in more extreme cases annihilate it). This doesn't sit well with a Christians where the Incarnation is seen as the intersection of God and man - where man is seen as a conduit for God in history and not out of it. While I have heard some Eastern teachers attempt to find ecumenical ways to deal with this, there still exists a subtle bias. Until this changes, meditation may be seen as too secular/Eastern for Christians and not worth their time.

thelastfurlong said...


Wonderful description of the difference between meditation and prayer.

Deep insights illuminate during meditation - a system with dogma and creed would discourage it.


William Zeitler said...

I think of 'prayer' as I'm doing most of the talking, 'meditation' as I'm mostly listening. A balanced conversation has both?

Bruce Charlton said...

@WZ - They could alternate - first prayer (talking) then meditation (listening for an answer).

Mercurius Aulicus said...

May I inquire which type of Christian meditation you are using? Are you using the Christian mantra method associated with John Main - repeating "Maranatha"? Or Jesus Prayer? Are you using the "Centering Prayer" associated with Thomas Keating? (

Bruce Charlton said...

@MA - No, none of these - just as I describe (I don't really 'use' meditation - it is something I do, rather than use).