Meditation: A Lost Art

The three bastions of strength in the lost art of meditation.

D. A. HAWLEY, Chaplain, Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital

While still a college stu­dent I went through a period characterized by con­siderable difficulty with my Christian experience. At last, in desperation, I made an ap­pointment with one of the department of religion in­structors in whom I had particular con­fidence. He listened politely while I enu­merated my many woes, and then presented his solution to the problem. It was brief and to the point. He said, "I have never yet found anyone who was having serious diffi­culty with his Christian experience but that he was neglecting either Bible study or prayer, or both."

That is all there was to the interview; there was no need to proceed further. It was rather embarrassing to be so quickly and thoroughly exposed. I had rather hoped for sympathetic agreement con­cerning the overpowering pressures of our world today, but instead my attention was directed to the real source of my difficulties. I held the key in my own hand. In spite of my embarrassment I appreciated his frank­ness then, and even more so as the years have gone by.

In other words, one needs to know where to look first when trouble strikes. Of course, a person might be faithful in his study of the Word and in his prayer life and still face certain difficulties, but he will have a reservoir of strength to see him through. But if a troubled Christian has been neg­lecting these fundamentals, he need look no further for the source of his weakness.

Perhaps a simple illustration will be of help. There may be more than one reason why an automobile will not run, but the first thing to check is the gasoline supply. If the tank is empty we don't waste time checking the timing and the points. First of all we get the tank filled, and see if that solves our problem.

With a renewed interest in Bible study and prayer, I began noting what God has to say about these matters in the writ­ings of Ellen G. White. As I studied I sud­denly became aware of an interesting fact; in nearly every case where faithful study of the Word and earnest prayer is en­joined, another element is linked with these two. Our basic defense against the onslaughts of sin is a threefold defense. In addition to the two mentioned we have a third bastion of strength in the almost-lost art of meditation.

While we have to admit that the first two exercises are badly neglected, we are at least somewhat cognizant of their impor­tance and of our corresponding lack. But who ever ponders this matter of medita­tion? I suppose we all do occasionally. By making a savior of our activity, we pretty well manage to keep this deficiency from weighing too heavily on our conscience.

Honestly now, what is your personal rec­ord concerning this matter that the Lord considers absolutely vital? Can you lay claim to an average of ten minutes of gen­uine meditation each day? Think for a moment about this quotation from The Desire of Ages, page 83:

It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagi­nation grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.

An hour? Can that be a slight misprint? No, indeed, that is a correct statement.

Not too long ago I made a trek through the Himalaya Mountains on the famed pilgrim trail to Badrinath Temple. One evening as darkness began to over­take our group, we found ourselves near a Sikh temple, where we were cordially in­vited to spend the night. During our short stay I made the acquaintance of a fine, well-educated young man who was on his way to a rather remote and inaccessible temple situated at 15,600 feet in the high Himalayas. He impressed me as being an honest seeker after truth, and his prime purpose in going to this quiet place was in order to meditate. I must confess that I be­came a bit envious as I thought of him sit­ting amid the vast stillness of those rocky crags, with nothing to do for a time but think. Actually think—to ask himself, "Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going?" and almost to hold his breath for fear of making the slightest in­trusion upon that strange silence, and to listen with undisturbed intentness for the voice of his God. But the Sikh temple lay in a fork in the trail, and his path led off to the right, while mine went on to Badrinath.

I suppose every Seventh-day Adventist minister at one time or another has had to explain how wrong it is for a person to shut himself away behind the thick walls of a monastery, in view of the world's crying needs. And I also suppose that every Sev­enth-day Adventist minister at one time or another has been just a little jealous of the monks, and considered that a quiet cell might not be so bad, for at least a time. Perhaps one could unravel a few of the tangled threads in the skein of life. There is definite value in the gathering together of the workers in a quiet place for the sole purpose of drawing closer to God and to one another. Ingathering plans and depart­mental promotion should not enter into such a program, but be taken care of at another time in another place. One some­times feels like retreating from the pres­sures of the day.

"Well, a 'thoughtful hour each clay' may be fine, but you don't know my program," someone remarks.

Oh, yes, I do—public evangelism, Sab­bath sermons, Wednesday night prayer meetings, Bible studies, literature promo­tion, church expense deficits, visitation of the sick, Ingathering, church board meet­ings, church maintenance, ad infinitum.

"And just where in such a program would one find time for a bit of medita­tion?"

That's just the point. Somehow we ex­pect to find some excess time lying around, but we never do. Here is what we must do: "Search your heart carefully, and take time for meditation."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 336.

You see, there is a vast difference be­tween finding time and taking time. The first idea is a delusion; the second is some­thing you can control.

"But, an hour a day! Think what I could accomplish in that length of time if I kept moving."

That's the devil's prime argument, of course. Somehow we must get it into our thinking that a proper amount of time spent in meditation, and I speak here of genuine meditation and not idle reverie, is not time wasted. Ponder carefully this statement:

You will receive more strength by spending one hour each day in meditation, and in mourning over your failings and heart corruptions and plead­ing for God's pardoning love and the assurance of sins forgiven, than you would by spending many hours and days in studying the most able authors, and making yourself acquainted with every objec­tion to our faith, and with the most powerful evi­dences in its favor.—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 433, 434.

Did you ever notice how smoothly and quickly your tasks tend to move along in the Lord's work when you are having a close walk with Him? And how they will not go right in spite of all your unflagging zeal if your Christian experience is not all if should be? We can do more toward win­ning a soul for Christ in one ten-minute visit while we are under the complete and direct control of the Holy Spirit than we can in ten one-hour visits with the same person when we are relying upon our own hyperactivity.

We have been plainly told that the min­istry is no place for drones, but mere activ­ity is not what is needed today. The urgent need in times such as these is that the whole world be turned upside down; and that takes power. But from where is the power to come? From exactly the same place it came the last time a group of God's people became serious about their task and turned the world upside down. Our great need to­day is for a full anointing of the Holy Spirit; otherwise there can be no Pentecost.

The next pertinent question is, "What were those believers doing that precipi­tated such a wonderful event as Pente­cost?" The answer is not difficult to find; one need only read the first chapter of the book of Acts to know why there could fol­low the happenings recorded in the second chapter. It is the same ancient formula for successful godly living—Bible stud}, prayer, and meditation. It worked then; it will work today if we will follow three rules.

  1. Get off by ourselves in a quiet place where we will be completely undisturbed.
  2. Read slowly and thoughtfully the following quotations on meditation and the results of neglecting meditation:

God should be the highest object of our thoughts.

Meditating upon Him and pleading with Him, ele­vate the soul and quicken the affections. A neglect of meditation and prayer will surely result in a declen­sion in religious interests.—/bid., vol. 2, pp. 505, 506.

He [Satan] well knows how needful are medi­tation and prayer to keep Christ's followers aroused to resist his cunning and deception. By his devices he would divert the mind from these important exercises, that the soul may not lean for help upon the Mighty One, and obtain strength from Him to resist his attacks.—Ibid., vol. 1, p. 295.

How did Enoch get so close to God?

Enoch . . . spent much time in solitude, giving himself to meditation and prayer. Thus he waited before the Lord, seeking a clearer knowledge of His will, that he might perform it.—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 85.

Did Paul's strenuous program allow for any meditation?

Here, in the solitude of the [Arabian] desert, Paul had ample opportunity for quiet study and meditation. . . . He sought God with all his heart. . . . [He] received instruction from the Source of truth. Jesus communed with him, and established him in the faith, bestowing upon him a rich meas­ure of wisdom and grace.—The Acts of the Apos­tles, pp. 125, 126.

The ship on which Paul and his companions were to continue their journey was about to sail, and the brethren hastened on board. The apostle him­self, however, chose to take the nearer route by land between Troas and Assos, meeting his companions at the latter city. This gave him a short season for meditation and prayer. . . . He took advantage of this special opportunity to seek God for strength and guidance.—/bid., pp. 391, 392.

What about our Supreme Example?

His hours of greatest happiness were found when He could turn aside from the scene of His labors to go into the fields, to meditate in the quiet valleys, to hold communion with God on the mountainside, or amid the trees of the forest. The early morning often found Him in some secluded place, meditat­ing, searching the Scriptures, or in prayer. With the voice of singing He welcomed the morning light.—The Ministry of Healing, p. 52.

But isn't meditation essentially for older folks?

The young should study the word of God and give themselves to meditation and prayer, and they will find that their spare moments cannot be better employed.—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 503.

Is not meditation, like Bible study, diffi­cult?

Educate your mind to love the Bible, to love the prayer meeting, to love the hour of meditation, and, above all, the hour when the soul communes with God.—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 268.

If the mind wanders, we must bring it back; by persevering effort, habit will finally make it easy.—Messages to Young People, p. 115.

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation and prayer are necessary to a growth in grace.—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 187.

Meditation and prayer would keep us from rush­ing unbidden into the way of danger, and thus we should be saved from many a defeat.—The De­sire of Ages, p. 126.

Thoughts and meditations upon the goodness of God to us would close the avenues of the soul to Satan's suggestions.—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 222.

Meditation upon heavenly things is profitable, and will ever be accompanied with the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 317.

When the mind of man is brought into com­munion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body, and mind, and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God's own method of de­velopment.—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 126. (Ital­ics supplied.)

Why is it that our youth, and even those of ma­turer years, are so easily led into temptation and sin?—It is because the word. of God is not studied and meditated upon as it should be. . . . A firm, decided will-power is not brought into the life and character, because the sacred instruction of God is not made the study and the subject of meditation.—Messages to Young People, pp. 425, 426.

If you would dedicate yourself to God, hold com­munion with Him, meditate much, watch your fail­ings, mourn and lament before the Lord in the deep­est humility on account of them, relying upon Him for strength, you would be in the most profitable business in which you were ever engaged.—Testi­monies, vol. 1, p. 434.

          3. Let us lay everything aside and spend one hour in honest meditation. Let God speak to our soul.

If we will do this, the results may be surprising. The value of this hour alone with God may be so apparent that we will want to commune thus habitually.

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D. A. HAWLEY, Chaplain, Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital

October 1962

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