meditation (6)


It is important to see hope as something that makes a difference in our daily lives. Among the things hope affects are discouragement and depression. Most of us have experienced depression from time to time. Some of my heroes dealt with personal disconsolation. Among them Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century pulpiteer. On several occasions as thousands who came to hear him on a Sunday morning sang hymns and waited for him to come to the pulpit, the great preacher wouldn't appear. Finally, his deacons would go and knock on his study door. “Dr Spurgeon, you must come out. It is time for you to preach.” He would answer, “I can’t.” And the deacons would take up an offering and send him for several weeks on the French Riviera.

Depression can have a terrible hold on our lives. I am no exception to that, but it was not a major problem for most of my life. However, depression is a side effect of some of my cancer treatments. And I have had to learn to break out of the gloom. I have not always been successful, but I believe that what I have learned about this from Scripture will be helpful to many people. Psalm 42 is a great place to start. The psalm concludes with these words.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my salvation and my God.”

Many of you are familiar with a gospel song that comes from Psalm 42, Why So Downcast O My Soul, by Marty Nystrom. Listening to this music always lifts my heart. Psalm 42 calls us to put our hope in God. Let me point out some means of putting our hope in God.

  • Praise

Praise is a major theme of the Psalms from beginning to end. The Hebrew people sang these songs in wonderful worship. You may be familiar with the story from the writings of Josephus about Alexander the Great ascending the Temple Mount on his white charger prepared to destroy the city. But as he did he saw the people dressed in white ropes singing the Songs of Ascent as they worshipped and prayed for the Lord to spare their city. Josephus says Alexander got off his horse and bowed with them in worship.

Praising God will certainly be counterintuitive to you if you are suffering from depression. But that is the very first thing you need to do to break depression's hold. Another gospel song that declares this truth is Praise The Lord, made popular by The Imperials . The lyrics read,

“For the chains that seem to bind you

Serve only to remind you

That they drop powerless behind you.

When you praise Him.”

Praise is an act of the will. You can praise God even when you are feeling down.

  • Remembering

Psalm 42 begins as the heart cry of someone who feels far from God. But in verse 4 the psalmist remembers glorious worship he has been part of in the past. Remembering is crucial to walking with Christ. We need to remind ourselves of what we know about God. We need to remind ourselves who God is. We need to remember what He has done for us. Remember His promises. In Psalm 42 we are called to remind ourselves of worship when we did feel like worshipping. Have you ever thought about this? When your heart is stirred as never before in worship, you are making memories that God can use to break depression when you are plagued with it?

  • Talking to Ourselves

In verse 5 of Psalm 42, as in the final verse, the psalmist talks to his own soul. “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God.” The world, the flesh, and the devil will speak constantly to your heart. To counter those words you need to talk to yourself. You need to tell yourself to hope in God.

  • Corporate Worship

Psalm 42 speaks of the joy of corporate worship. Ephesians 5:18-20 relates worshipping together to the filling of the Holy Spirit. I seldom think of the filling of the Spirit in these terms. But my idea that the filling of the Holy Spirit is something that only happens to individuals relates to a major American heresy. We think of spiritual growth, and service, and devotion as things we do alone. But we are filled with the Holy Spirit in communion with the family of God.

  • Listen to God

Listening to God is another important tool in overcoming depression. I do not mean simply remembering precious things God has told me in the past. I am also talking about actively hearing His voice in the present. I do several things to hear God’s voice. First, I listen to great preaching. I thank God for the technology that brings me teaching and preaching by great preachers like Rick Warren, N.T. Wright, Michael Ramsden, Ravi Zacharias, Tim Keller, and the list goes on.

It is also important to listen directly to God in His word. God regularly speaks to His children in Scripture. And when I memorize a verse or a passage, I store God's word in my mind for Him to speak to me again and again.

  • Meditation

I need to list meditation as a separate discipline here. When we spend time thinking about God's character, promises, directives, and assurances, He plants those things deep into our souls. In Psalm 119 David said he hid God’s word in his heart that he might not sin. God changes our character as we meditate on His truth. God will use this to transform our lives through the renewing of our minds. And breaking depression requires new thinking.

  • Rest

In our modern world we seldom think of rest as a spiritual discipline. However in Genesis 2:3 the Bible says God sanctified the Sabbath. Rest is Holy. When Elijah was discouraged and exhausted in 1 Kings 19, God gave him food, and He gave him rest.

I indicated earlier that some of my malaise has physical causes. I do not believe you have to have cancer for this to be the case. One of the physical and spiritual causes of depression is lack of sleep. I can devote time to rest. That may mean putting my cell phone out of reach, or even closing the computer, or turning off the TV at night.

Psalm 127:2 has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It says God gives his beloved sleep.

I had a chemotherapy treatment today. I often can’t sleep at all the first night after chemo. I can spend my wakeful hours in God’s word. And I can pray for my family and other prayer lists. But I also ask God to help me sleep.

  • Fellowship

Christian Fellowship is also an important tool for getting our minds off our own concerns. This can be difficult because when you are depressed you do not wish to be around people. But it is important to remember that we need one another in the family of God. Loving them and being with them is a blessing.

  • Giving

Giving will lift your spirits. In Acts 20:35 we are reminded that Jesus told us “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive. Giving someone else a gift brings more joy than receiving. This is especially true when your giving is being stretched by needs that God shows you. I am aware many of us no longer believe this. You have to put it into practice to realize how great this blessing is.

  • Praying for Others

Praying for other people is an important discipline for our spiritual lives. And it is an important means of getting our eyes off our own feelings. Several days ago I was feeling particularly down. I had gone with my wife to a large grocery store with a coffee shop. While she shopped I set outside the coffee bar and tried to pray, not only for the people sitting at other tables, but for people entering and leaving the store. I cannot think of anything I've done in a long time that made me feel better.

  • Obey

Obedience is a crucial means of lifting our spirits. In Luke 16 Jesus told a parable about being faithful in small things. When you are down it is good to look for some small thing you can do to obey God. When we stand before God, we will will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But we can already hear Him whispering those words into our hearts as we obey even small things He has told us to do.

  • Giving Thanks

Finally, I believe the most powerful tool for breaking depression may be saying, “Thank you.” Thanking God is at the heart of this. I occasionally try to devote and entire day to giving thanks that God is working in the lives of people I meet, that he is present in my life, that he is worthy of my praise.

It is also good to formally thank other people for things they have done for us. It is worth sending someone a card or going to the trouble of writing a letter to say “Thank you,” to someone who has blessed you.

I know I have given you a long list. But small measures are seldom enough to break the hold of moods. I recommend that you print out this list, and try to do most, if not all of these things. I do not want you to feel guilty because this is too much. But I do encourage you to work hard to break the hold of depression. Depression protects itself by keeping you from wanting to be freed from it. Your depression itself will fight anything you do to break it. Pray that God will change your desires and behavior as you ask Him to deliver you from depression.



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Like love, meaningful prayer is initiated by God. Romans 8:26 admits that we don't know what to pray for as we ought. I certainly do not object to praying for what you want. But faith in God at least leads to the realization that what God wants for me is better, more fulfilling, and more satisfying than what I want.

So how do we listen in prayer? There is of course an attitude of listening in prayer that humbly comes to God expecting him to impress something on you. And I have occasionally experienced that in my life. But as we grow really serious about listening to God we will come to the place that we want to meditate. Now biblical meditation is not anything like Eastern meditation or what was called in the 1960s Transcendental Meditation. In Eastern meditation you repeat over and over again a mantra, a word that is nonsense to you because it comes from a language you probably do not speak. And you completely empty your mind of anything. In Christian meditation we fill our mind with truth. We focus on what God is saying. That has great depth of meaning. This can be about as relaxing as a wrestling match. But its fruit is nourishing and satisfying.

The most important spiritual meditation is on the word of God. If you want God to speak to you, read his word. If you want God to speak to you, study and meditate on God's word. I've often told people that you can meditate on facets of the character of God. For instance you might spend a whole day meditating on all the ways that God shows His infinite love to you. However, I think the best way to do this is to memorize a verse or even an entire passage that reveals a part of God's character. And God will speak to you whatever scripture you memorize and spend extended time thinking about.

The final way of listening to God that I want to show you here is to pray in a group. Listen to other people praying and see if you're not impressed that God is speaking to you in their prayers.


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The Power of Dis-Engagement

One of the top concepts in the corporate world these days is “the power of full engagement.” It’s a paradigm for managing your personal or organizational energy, and I think you would find it very helpful.

But recently I’ve been learning about the flipside of that concept: the power of full DISENGAGEMENT.

Let me explain why this is so important…

My baby blue 1976 Fiat was the favorite car I’ve ever owned. With 5-speed manual transmission and a responsive engine, it was a complete blast to drive.

But sometimes my Fiat was so much fun that I forgot to press the clutch before changing gears. The result was a horrible grinding sound, not to mention considerable embarrassment on my part. And occasionally my failure to press the clutch even resulted in the engine stalling.

Lately I’ve realized that God is getting me ready for a new season in my life, and I’ve thought about the lesson I learned years ago with that old Fiat: If you’re going to make a smooth transition from one gear (or season) to the next, you’d better press the clutch first.

In many ways, this seems a great paradox. In order to be fully engaged with the next gear, you must first take time to be fully disengaged from your present gear. Shortcuts simply don’t work. In fact, shortcuts will eventually cause permanent damage to the gears.

No one modeled the power of disengagement better than Jesus. When He saw that His disciples were facing burnout because of never-ending activity, He instructed them to “come apart” to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31 KJV). Then and now, those who don’t intentionally disengage from their daily grind on a regular basis will eventually “come apart” (i.e., fall apart) in unpleasant, unintentional ways.

Jesus realized the POWER in disengagement, especially when we use that time to better engage with our Heavenly Father. We repeatedly see Him disengaging from the crowds, and even from His disciples, to go pray in the wilderness or on top of a mountain. What was the result of such times? Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

Isn’t that beautiful? After Jesus purposefully disengaged for a while, He was able to reengage with new strength and power.

Today, do you find yourself anticipating a new season in your life, but unsure how to get there? Or perhaps you feel stuck in “second gear,” unable to move on. Or maybe you keep hearing a loud screeching sound every time you try to move from one gear to the next.

If you can relate to any of these symptoms, I encourage you to discover—or rediscover, like I have—the power of full disengagement. Leave your friends and family for a few days. Disconnect from your work responsibilities, your smart phone, and your social media. Find a place to quiet your heart and rest.

As you take time to disengage and be still, you’ll experience the powerful message of Psalm 46:10: He is God—and you’re not! That is really, really good news, isn’t it?

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We've all had it happen, haven't we?  We're trying to pray, perhaps alone or in a group, and soon our mind is wandering. We're thinking about the next meeting, our kids at home, a funny story, our struggle with our spouse or coworker, a song we heard on the radio and a thousand other things.

Of course, we feel guilty again for not focusing on the Lord and the things that break His heart as the saying goes. We determine for the next few minutes to stay with our prayer list and seconds later our mind is somewhere else . . . again.

We wonder if we really have what it takes to truly have a conversation in prayer with our Father. However, I'm more and more convinced every day that we need to embrace those distractions not curse them. Sure, if we're just letting every stray thought enter our mind and interrupt our time with God then we probably need some better boundaries for our mind and location when we pray.

But the average distraction of our mind is probably there for a reason.  I'm pretty convinced that many of those other thoughts come into my mind because they are important!  There is a reason why my mind went to that person, situation or conflict.

As a result I've learned to do something different when that kind of distraction overtakes my prayer moment.  I pray about it.

I now often pray something like this, "Lord, my relationship with Don popped into my mind just now.  And you know how strained it's been for the last several months.  I want to ask you to soften my heart and Don's so that we can become friends again, forgive each other and renew a healthy relationship."

I just let the Spirit take me to that place rather than run from it.  Of course, sometimes the Spirit can stop us and tell us that we don't need to dwell on that situation right then but that's up to God.

In fact, distractions like these often represent something going on in the deepest places of our soul which is the place where our God specializes in doing His greatest work.  

So don't miss these opportunities to let God wander with you into those tender recesses of your mind and heart.  It would be easy to ignore something important that God wants to help you walk through.  Remember a distraction just might be a wake up call.

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Hide and Seek!


It's a little before dawn and I walk the 200yds from my comfortable cozy cabin, in the brisk clear air to The Prayer Chapel at Harvest Prayer Retreat Center in Indiana.

The moonlight casts a silver glow over the ice-covered lake. Entering the Chapel I experience the presence of God in the beauty of His creation as I quietly speak out the names of Jesus inscribed in a variety of scripts upon one of the walls.

I sit down at the writing desk and read a description of worship by Richard Foster which started like this: "Worship is living in the reality of God's creation with a heart open to receive all it's glory. Wow for the next nine hours that is what I did and incredibly it seems as if it were but one. As you watch today's PM3 may God give you a desire to come out of hiding in the busyness of life and TAKE A DAY, & BE IN HIS CREATION.

Chkk-Chirrrrrrrrrrrr in the joy we share in Jesus and give away a PRAY NOW blessing today!



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On Not Being Mastered by Technology

I’m usually among the last people to embrace any sort of new technology. In the 80s, my husband had to practically pry my old Smith Corona typewriter out of my grasping hands in order to introduce me to—I admit now—the far better world of computer-based word processing. I had no need for email, I protested a few years later—what was wrong with good old fashioned letters? Cell phone? Who needs that? Do I really want to take calls in the restroom, like I’d heard other people doing? I didn’t sign up for a Facebook or Linked-In account until our publisher made it a requirement. And it’s only been in the last 60 days—honestly!—that I’ve tiptoed into the worlds of texting and Skype.

So, how is it that someone as reluctant about technology as I could become semi-addicted to it? I suppose it’s a professional necessity in this information-driven world of ours—but it still scares me a little.

Earlier this year I read Nicholas Carr’s sobering book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In it, while acknowledging the many positive benefits of technology, he also points out some extremely negative ones. Chiefly, that technology is changing the way our minds work. Citing numerous studies for his assertions, Carr says that technology causes our attention spans to become shorter. We are becoming less capable of deep reading and deep thinking. We don’t retain information as well as we used to. Creativity suffers, as does our problem-solving ability. Our emotional powers are also diminishing. Technology robs us of the ability to have a calm and attentive mind. And without that, our capacity for empathy and compassion are reduced. But even worse than all of this, Carr suggests that our technology habits are resulting in an actual physiological rewiring of our brains. If we continue in our technology habits, it may be very difficult for us to go back to our old ways of reading, thinking, processing, and remembering. We become more machine-like and less human.

What does this have to do with prayer? Carr’s book is not a “Christian” book. He does not discuss his faith. But he does lament our decreasing capacity for “meditative thought.”
"That doesn’t mean that promoting the rapid discovery and retrieval of information is bad. It’s not. The development of a well-rounded mind requires both an ability to find and quickly parse a wide range of information and a capacity for open-ended reflection. There needs to be time for efficient data collection and time for inefficient contemplation, time to operate the machine and time to sit idly in the garden. We need to work in Google’s “world of numbers,” but we also need to be able to retreat to Sleepy Hollow. The problem today is that we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion." (p. 168)
Obviously, technology is not going to go away. Nor do I want it to. After all, I think that Pray Network ( is the best thing since sliced bread. It is also a wonderful thing to be able to pray with and for people around the world in “real time” via Skype, teleconferencing, emails, IM-ing and more. Never has the body of Christ had more potential for connection and mutual support—and we have technology to thank for this.

However, technology, like everything else, is a resource to be stewarded. We use it; it should not use us. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

I want to use technology for God’s Kingdom—but I sure don’t want to be a slave to it! I don’t want it to rewire my brain so I can no longer think deeply, ponder, contemplate, focus, and dream God-given dreams.

So what to do? I’m still reflecting on this, but for starters, I’ve scheduled a personal prayer retreat next week during which I’ll unplug for 24 hours. (Or at least I’ll try!) For the last month of so I have been setting aside regular time on Sundays for extended conversation with God (And I’ll do this with my computer shut down. Believe it or not, I used to allow the familiar “You’ve got mail” bing on my computer interrupt prayer times. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but I did!) I’m disciplining myself not to give in to every urge to click on all those enticing links that flit across my computer screen. And I’m making myself take breaks from the computer to take a walk or spend time with a friend or read an old-fashioned paper-and-ink book. We’ll see how it goes—hopefully these small steps will help me to stay engaged with the world while maintaining spiritual and emotional depth—and healthy brain cells.

I’d love to hear from you: How does technology affect your prayer life? Share your experiences with me—both positive and negative—by writing to commenting on this blog..

(This blog originally appeared as an article in Pray! Online News. For your free subscription to Pray! Online News, go to:
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