Meditation: Oprah’s definition or God’s?

Google Trends” is a good way to know what googlers are interested in.  I was surprised to discover “transcendental meditation” in the number one slot.  It has never been very high on my list, so I wondered what all the curiosity was about.  In a word, OprahSunday night she aired a show on the subject.  The last I heard, her OWN network was struggling, but it seems to have done pretty well Sunday night!  Oprah discussed the importance of transcendental meditation and why her employees are encouraged to participate in the practice twice a day.  The Huffington Post said, “she (Oprah) revealed her devotion to the practice of transcendental meditation — a type of meditation that employs the use of a mantra and is known for reducing stress and boosting feelings of well-being.  It all sounds pretty good, but for Christians, it is important to remember that “good” is often the greatest enemy of “God.”  How can you know when you are opening your mind to something that hinders or opposes the greater purpose of God?
Paul said, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2 NIV).  Paul, as a young rabbi, studied the value of meditation and its importance to a person of faith.  He would have studied the following verses:

  • “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
  • “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 119:27).
  • “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done” (Psalm 143:5).

Meditation is a biblical concept.  The important difference is the focus of your meditation.  The transcendental meditation that Oprah values is completely different from biblical meditation.  In fact, read how the transcendental meditation teachers describe the difference:

Other forms of meditation typically involve one of these two approaches, both of which may produce some good effects in specific areas:

  • concentration (focusing on something)
  • contemplation (thinking about something, often referred to as mindfulness)

The Transcendental Meditation technique involves neither concentration nor contemplation. It is a simple, natural procedure that effortlessly allows the mind to transcend, to experience transcendental consciousness — described by neuroscientists as a state of “restful alertness.”

Look at the verses from Scripture again.  What is the glaring difference between the two?  F.B. Meyer, an admired evangelical thinker, said, “Devout meditation on the Word is more important to soul-health even than prayer.  It is more needful for you to hear God’s words than that God should hear yours, though the one will always lead to the other.”  In transcendental meditation people are encouraged to voice or hum a personal mantra throughout their meditation.  Biblical meditation encourages you to listen, not to your own voice, but to God’s.  J.I. Packer, a brilliant Christian theologian said, “Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.”  Transcendental meditation encourages you to “transcend consciousness” or free your mind from all thoughts.  Biblical meditation is to concentrate and focus on God.

Be careful not to open the powerful mind God gave you to thoughts and beliefs that are opposed to his plan and purpose for your life.  Don’t listen to people who teach that you can “transcend” this world.  The suggestion sounds hauntingly familiar.  The serpent was speaking to Eve when he said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).  Oprah has done a great deal of good in our world.  People have been educated, protected and valued because of her efforts.  She has maximized her influence and, as the “google trend” indicates, her influence is extensive.  She is devoted to transcendental meditation.  She has said that she believes the institution of marriage is no longer necessary because women can take care of themselves now.  She has convinced many of our citizens that homosexuality is a sexual preference, and people who feel otherwise are “unenlightened.”  Trends are not always truth. 

I’m a huge fan of quiet contemplation and meditation.  I’ll be leading a prayer retreat next month that will teach the high value of spending quiet time with God.  But I disagree with Oprah’s idea of meditation.  The apostle Paul said, “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).  The prophet Isaiah said, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  Don’t believe Oprah on this one.  The Bible teaches a much different point of view.

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