According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 40 million adults struggle with an anxiety disorder. Anyone who struggles with anxiety knows how intense and painful it can be. The fight or flight response is the body’s healthy form of anxiety which tells us when we are in danger. However, living in a constant state of fight or flight can be incredibly taxing on the body. Because of this, finding an effective way to manage and reduce your anxiety is important to living a healthy life. One way to do this is by finding inspiration from faith. Like meditation, we often associate prayer with the stillness and quiet that occurs when we remove ourselves from the distractions of everyday life. Below are some helpful tips on how to incorporate meditative prayer into your daily routine.

Meditating on Scripture

One form of Christian meditation involves engaging with God through stories in Sacred Scripture. By identifying a word or a passage that touches our heart, we recognize and open ourselves to receiving God’s word. For instance, Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Maybe the words “worry” or “trouble” stand out. Maybe the entire passage resonates within you.  Once you have identified the words or phrases that touch your heart, you can take them to prayer and listen for God’s voice within the quiet.

Meditation with the Saints

The Church has a long-standing tradition of meditation within the lives of the saints. Saint Francis of Assisi teaches that the aim of meditation is to achieve a loving, simple, and permanent attentiveness of the mind to divine things. Similarly, certain Christian Mystics, such as St. John of the Cross, used meditation as a pathway to join the presence of God. It is important to remember that even the saints experienced moments of overwhelming stress and anxiety. During those tumultuous times, they drew closer to God through meditation. In this way, they were able to find peace and calm their fears. Because of the impact that meditation had on their relationship with God, many of the saints wrote short prayers that they could use to meditate on Christ throughout the day. One of these short prayers, from Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, opens with, “I arise today, through the strength of Heaven: Light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of Earth, firmness of rock.” The beautiful imagery described in these words creates a focal point that encourages us to meditate on the abundance of Christ’s strength present in our life. Another great example of a simple, yet profound prayer is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” For centuries, Christians have utilized this prayer as a way to bring about a greater focus on Christ. It can be spoken aloud or repeated silently as a means to calm the mind and the soul. 

Meditation through Music

Another form of Christian meditation involves the utilization of Gregorian chants, liturgical chants sung in Latin and without musical accompaniment. These songs are created in such a way that encourages its listeners to raise their minds to the beauty of heaven above. 

The experience of each moment presents a new opportunity to embrace the peace Christ offers. Many of us are so busy with the demands of life that we never make the time to realize our potential for holiness and the great works God wants to do in our lives. Scheduling time for regular meditation and reflection of our daily experiences will allow us to grow deeper in our understanding and experience of peace. In this way, we make time to better ourselves so that we can, in turn, be better for others. By utilizing meditation and prayer, we can gain a deeper understanding of how we relate to God, to others, and to ourselves.

Sacred Silence

For meditation and prayer to be effective, we need to make time to sit in the silence. 

While writing “Thoughts in Solitude,” Father Thomas Merton struggled with how to convey his commitment to community with his deepening need for solitude. At the heart of his meditations Merton expresses the idea that solitude is nothing without community and that solitude helps us delve deeper into understanding our place within creation. 

However, embracing silence to find meaning in a chaotic world is not easy. In order to be effective, we must surrender our complete selves to the love and will of God. Oftentimes, this surrender of self takes place over time, as to do so requires that we practice, have patience, and perseverance through failures. In essence, anxiety is a problem that usually does not go away overnight. However, by utilizing meditation and prayer, you can experience a reduction in the severity and the frequency of your anxiety. In this way, we use our anxiety as a means to draw us closer to God and into deeper understanding of our self and our relationship with God.