This past Wednesday (February 18) was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent that is observed by many Christian denominations. Lent is the period of 6 weeks (ca. 40 days not counting Sundays) that occurs right before Easter, and it is a time for solemn reflection. The level of prayer activity for church followers is often higher during this period. Which brings me to some questions…..
Is prayer meditation? Is prayer a type of meditation? Or is meditation a type of prayer?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/) defines prayer as “an address (as in a petition) to God or a god in word or thought.” It defines meditation as “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought.”
So certainly there are commonalities between the two, and I think that prayer can be a type of meditation, and meditation can be a type of prayer. Some meditative practices make use of mantras, and the words or sounds used can be adapted for the subject matter of a prayer.
There is a certain discipline that is traditionally attached to Lent. Often people will give up a particular item or practice during Lent, such as sweets or meat. Or perhaps someone will add a new practice such as working out or allotting a particular time of day for quiet solitude. This is where prayer might become a more consistent practice.
No matter what faith or non-faith you may follow, it is good to have dedicated times to step back from the hustle and bustle of normal daily life–to find time for quiet introspection. It is good for your soul. It is good for your health (stress management). It is good for your outlook on life. It is good for personal clarity in your life direction.
In my place of the world, Lent commences at the end of winter. In fact, the word “Lent” is related to the German word for spring. This has been a fairly brutal winter for many of us, with lots of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Because of the weather conditions, we have been spending most of our free time inside. So as we come into Lent, we are also preparing for the season of spring, where the weather starts to warm up and nature starts to bloom again. We are getting ready for the time coming soon in which we’ll be much more active outdoors.
Spending the added time in-doors allows us to slow down a bit, and so it is the perfect time for inner-reflection. There is a certain peace that comes from looking outside at the snow-covered trees and ground. If your prayers or meditations are lacking in focus and/or time commitment, this is the perfect time to ramp them up and enjoy the benefits of quiet inner-reflection.
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