Prayer is not meditation. As the Christian mystic author of The Cloud of Unknowing wrote: “For as long as the soul dwells in this mortal body, the clarity of our understanding in the contemplation of spiritual things, and especially of God, is always mixed up with some sort of imagination.” When this happens, he continued, our prayers and our contemplations can be be “tainted,” leading us “into great error.”
And one of the things that taints our meditation is the brain. As neurosurgeon Eben Alexander wrote, “the brain itself doesn’t produce consciousness” but instead operates as “a kind of reducing valve or filter.” (Proof of Heaven 80-81). Instead of opening us to the spiritual wholeness of inspired consciousness, the brain’s narrower focus easily detours us into the selfishness of its own interests.
Spiritual inspiration is lit up by the light of Christ, not by the brain’s firing neurons. As Saint Paul concluded, prayer and contemplation work best when powered by “the mind of the Spirit” (KJV Rom. 8: 26-27). In the stillness of humility and yielding, the Lord comes into consciousness effortlessly and unbidden.