Webster’s dictionary defines prayer as an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought . Being raised a Roman Catholic, prayer was the only way I knew, to talk to God. I have very clear visions of me memorizing the Lord’s prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostle’s Creed, in order to be confirmed. Imagine a young girl with her knees clattering, standing in a dark, ornate church, surrounded by hundreds of children and their parents. I was scared to death when I caught sight of the Bishop. I didn’t want him to choose me for fear that I would mess up. I had asked my mother what the prayers meant, because if I understood the meaning, I would be able to memorize them better. That’s how my mind worked. Well, I was told that it didn’t matter, I just had to memorize them word for word. So, I had no idea what I was saying, or the meaning behind any of the prayers. All I understood, at the time, was that if I messed up saying these prayers, I would be punished and not get confirmed. I went through grade school reciting the prayers and not comprehending the meaning behind them. It was the same in high school. My parents put me in a Catholic high school and I continued saying the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, without any clue as to why I was saying them, because it wasn’t to be questioned, you were just to do what the nuns and priests told you to do.
After I married and the kids were born, and big enough to attend school, I enrolled them in a Lutheran school nearby, based on recommendations from my friends. The school was wonderful and the education oustanding. What ended up happening was that I converted to Lutheran. My husband and I attended that Church every Sunday, and we prayed as usual. The prayers were essentially the same and it became routine. I found myself repeating the same words over and over again, but my mind drifted to another place. Physically, I was in church, sounds were pouring out of my mouth, but I was somewhere totally different. You know what it is like when you hang a picture on a wall in your house, then after so many days, you don’t even see it anymore? That’s what prayer was like for me.
Several years later, my children went to a non-denominational Christian school. My husband and I made lots of friends there and started attending the Sunday services. During one of his services, the Pastor explained prayer and what Jesus meant when He taught the Disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer. He also described different types of prayer, which I never knew about. I never knew that one could pray by singing, reciting poetry, or by just talking to God. It took me a long time to figure out how to say something without using a set group of words that were given to me. Praise and worship was a big part of prayer, as well as thanksgiving, which I hadn’t done before other than on Thanksgiving Day. I started gaining some insight into prayer and the significance of prayer. It was a huge change from the ritualistic act of prayer that the Catholic Church taught, requiring not only memorization but also a strict sequence of actions like kneeling, sitting, and standing at certain times. I learned that I could be spontaneous and pray at any time and in any place.
Webster’s dictionary defines meditation as a way to engage in contemplation or reflection, to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. The second part refers to transcendental meditation and Hinduism. The first part is meditation that is rooted in the Bible. In fact, the Bible commands us to meditate. Joshua 1:8 King James Version of the Holy Bible, states, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein. Psalm 1:2 also states, But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. There are several instances in the New Testament where Jesus Christ himself meditated. For instance, in Matthew 4:1, when Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and was tempted by the devil. Historically, fasting and meditation go hand in hand, because it is a way to disconnect from the body, to achieve spiritual awareness. Jesus Christ fasted, contemplated, and reflected on the word of God, hence He meditated, in order to fight temptation.
When Jesus came back from the Mount, he gave his sermon. This reveals that he meditated, reflected and received the words to teach his disciples.
The reason that I bring all of this up, is because, something funny happened to me. It was one night right before I fell asleep, I was praying, talking to God, thinking that all was right with the world. The next morning, after I had my breakfast and washed up, I turned on the computer to read my emails and see what was going on with my friends lives on Facebook. I saw an app that said What God wants you to know. I clicked on it and the message stared back at me. To sum it up it said, ‘On this day, Emily, God wants you to know that you are praying and doing all the talking, but God wants to talk to you. Are you listening to God?’ Wow! It didn’t occur to me that I was talking too much and not listening. Since then, I have stopped reciting prayers day in and day out. I reflect on Jesus’s words and I meditate. Meditation is introspective, clearing the mind of negative thoughts, and going inward. I find a quiet room in the house, or better yet, I go outside, in nature. I don’t use mantra from Hinduism, instead I say the Lord’s prayer, contemplate, and listen. I focus on whatever is beautiful, whatever is pure. That’s why I enjoy meditating in God’s creation,nature. When I started doing that, I heard God speaking to me. I even apologized for not listening before. It is an awesome lesson and experience! I turn my mind to God a few times a day. Right before I fall asleep I let God’s Word be the last thing that occupies my mind. When I awaken in the morning, God’s Word is the first thing that enters my mind, and I make time in the day to meditate so that I listen to God’s word throughout the day.
Meditation and Prayer are two distinctly different modes of communication. Although both are wonderful, one needs to be aware of the tendency to become ritualistic when praying, to utter the same vain words. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. King James Version.