I’m discovering that meditation is the most powerful way to hear God. Actually, “powerful” isn’t a strong enough word. Meditation may be the most profound, deep, life-changing, heart-enriching way to hear God I’ve ever experienced.
But there is a problem. I picture meditation—maybe you do too— as something kind of weird. It’s someone dressed in leotards, sitting in an awkward position, humming nonsensical syllables, emptying the mind, and thinking of “one hand clapping.” It’s the mystic monk escaping the world. It seems totally disconnected from real life.
But everyone is a meditation expert. We meditate all the time. We don’t know it because we call it something else, and we slip into it accidentally.
Transforming our everyday meditations into prayerful imagination will change your life.
We’re all experts
Every day, every breathing human soul imagines, the business tycoon and the homeless person, the New York poet and the Himalayan shepherd. Everyone invents in the mind.
We paint mental pictures of what life would be like, “If…,” or what we’ll do, “When….” We think, “If only she would date me and we’d get married.” Or, “If I lost forty pounds, how much more fun would I have?” And, “What if I won the Lottery?”
In our spare minutes, standing in an elevator or waiting for the cashier, scattered moments throughout the day, we imagine.
Our mental picture painting is a type of meditation. It is a concentrated thinking on a particular subject. It’s seeing our lives differently in our mind’s eye.
It creates Intimacy
The best imagining is shared, it’s brainstorming with a friend. Fiancés picture life after marriage; tired spouses dream of a vacation by the sea; software developers envision creating the next best selling iPad App. We love to share our mind’s eye with someone else; it connects our hearts through shared inner images.
Imagining together creates intimacy.
It’s also possible to share our imagination while talking with God. God shares an image (passage, story, truth) with us, and we share our hearts’ desires with God. We connect our hearts to God in this prayerful, conversational brainstorming.
It creates intimacy with God, sharing our heart, our deepest dreams.
It fuels longing
Learning to meditate isn’t difficult; our problem isn’t meditation per se; our problem is the subject we choose for concentrated thinking. Repeated imagining increases longing. That’s why pornography is so addictive. Paul wrote, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life” (Rom. 8:6).
Intentional imagining is the most powerful way we “set our mind” on something. Sustained visualization of earthly things—a new car, a new dress, a job promotion, sex without commitment—increases our desires for those things. But it never brings real life.
Even a momentary satisfaction of these earth-bound desires always fails satisfy the deepest longings of the heart.
Setting our minds on—and this includes intentional imagining of—spiritual things increases our longing for them, such as, picturing life as God’s chosen child, envisioning life with a parent who is the Master of the Universe, have a long conversation about your life with the Almighty, and personally hearing God’s voice.
These bring deep, soul satisfaction, as our imaginations touch the face of God.
So how can we set our minds on the Spirit?
It’s easy to slip into conjuring pictures of worldly solutions; we have so many external pressures. Those stresses spark our minds to visualize solutions. We just worked a long week, so we picture a movie in the theater; our rusted car breaks down (for the third time this month), and we dream of a new (or new-ish) trouble-free Jeep.
This-world’s external pressures choose meditation topics for us.
In Christian meditation, we let God choose the topic. Pick a passage (maybe the one that most recently stirred something in you) and simply talk—brainstorm if you will—with God. Intentionally think on (and make pictures of) his words through deliberate imagining. Here are some possible passages:
- “Consider [imagine, meditate on] how wild flowers grow. They neither labor nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon with all his splendor was not dressed like one of these” (Luke 12:27).
- “The kingdom of heaven is like merchant [Jesus] seeking fine pearls. When he found that one pearl of incredible value [you], he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
- “O God, my God; I eagerly seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry, weary land where there is no water. So I gaze upon you [imagine, meditate] … and my soul is satisfied as with a great feast (Psalm 63).
We focus our minds on the Spirit as we let these word pictures fill our imagination. Consider these passages—imagine yourself and God in them—picture them prayerfully in conversation with God, and God will speak exactly what you need to hear in your heart.
We let God pick the topic and we simply soak in his words. A conversational life of brainstorming with God—hearing him speak daily—seems unimaginably good. But the intimacy with us is God’s desire.
Great words of life Sam! A great encouragement. It spoke to me, helping me to prepare for a guest preaching engagement this coming weekend where I am speaking on “prophetic imagination.” You touched deeply upon on of the aspects I will emphasize. Thank you for helping to set the tone of my week and weekend with the tenor or your thoughtful imagination with God!
That’s hilarious. What timing. Who’d have imagined…
Interesting thoughts! I think even with setting our minds on the things of the Lord, bringing every thought into captivity, think on these things they can begin to become routine and not enough of our imagination flows into it!
Now I see why you picked next week’s topic – somehow I feel I’m being setup! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not setup … hopefully just intrigued.
Yes and amen. This is an area I have needed to constantly grow in. Sometimes God tells me to just shut up and other times I pour out my heart. My favorite scripture that I meditate on is, “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles.” (Msg) Is 40:31a
I have a short story I wrote once (oh boy, here we go!) When I first moved to Washington State to care-take my mother, I felt very alone. I was walking down our rural road and just as I made the hair-pin turn, an eagle swooped down a few feet above and made a brief eye-piercing contact, and then swooped straight up and over the trees. I took that as a comforting sign from God that He would give me fresh strength.
I often walk my dog at night and whenever the moon is out, I meditate on how God gives me a nightlight for my darkest hours.
This post is a refreshing reminder to meditate on God and His love for me, instead of the things I have no control over.
Thanks again Sam for your words of encouragement.
I should have said God tells me to be still, not shut up. 🙂
Oh, I think he’s told me to shut up (after his kinder, gentler nudging to be still were ignored!)
Great story, eye to eye with an eagle!
Michael Knower, MD
Sam, excellent comments. Unfortunately, most folks seem to reach the end of life having set their minds on cruise control toward no particular destination.
Unfortunately, cruise control still sends us somewhere 🙂
Wow. Just wow. Sam, God gives you a way of explaining things that brings life. God bless you, brother. No one has ever explained Christian meditation in a way that I understood before. I was constantly just trying, but then going nowhere, so I’d just read the passage and move on. This fits so well with what I’m learning about the Bible with my home church – that God wrote the Bible in order to speak to me! I learned this in Sunday school but I never thought about the consequences of taking those words seriously. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.
Exactly! I love your line, “God wrote the Bible in order to speak to me!”
I think we picture the Bible as sort of an Auto Repair manual, we go to it for a To-Do list of oil changes and correct tire pressure. What a horrible perversion.
God wants us to hear his voice in scripture, to sense his speaking to us personally. When the disciples were on the way to Emmaus, Jesus opened the scriptures and they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us.” Somehow, God wants us to hear his voice, not just get information, to really hear him speak.
Thanks for a great sharing.
Sam, this is the third time this exact topic has come up in the course of three days. Amazing.
That’s cool Who would have imagined?
Three times (in my book) means somebody is definitely saying something. Maybe inviting something.
That’s what I’m thinkin’.
Great post Sam
I’m working on my next book, Hearing God, and this article didn’t make it in the book, but I wanted to publish it. I think the imagination is crucial to being real with God and hearing his voice. (My new book should come out in March 2015.)
Hey, do you have any good pictures from the cockpit? I think this commenting system allows picture uploads. I’d love to see one that sparks the imagination.
I totally agree:)
I think this is what is meant in the Bible: Thou cannot serve two masters: God and money…
If you meditate on money and stuff in general, your mind is preoccupied with the wrong things and you start to live only to make money….to have more stuff (you actually do not need)
been there done that…
It felt so good to start focussing on God. Spiritual things..again
I have heard that the jews have a saying:
There are no pockets on the burialclothes:)
This is my moto now.
Great interpretation of the passage of serving two masters.
Where are minds are, there also dwell our hearts.