Picture it. You’re sitting on your living room floor. Legs folded, eyes closed, palms facing upward with index fingers & thumbs touching as they rest on your knees. Now you hear the chant, “Ohmmmm….,” as you clear your mind and seek a deeper connection with your inner self. This is what comes to mind for most when discussing the topic of meditation. That is one of many forms of meditation; but, did you know there’s such a thing as biblical meditation?
Yes, biblical meditation is a thing. Unfortunately, the modern church has forgotten and neglected its practice. When the world pushed in with its forms of meditation, the church’s got pushed aside. It’s gotten to the point that when you mention meditation in the church it’s something that looks eerily similar to the world, or you get shunned altogether for wanting to bring something worldly into the house of God. This is not what God wants; he wants us to practice meditation, but he wants us to do it his way.
With that in mind, I want to introduce you to the practice of biblical meditation. In doing so, I hope you will see its benefit for your spiritual life. The material for this tip is adapted from David Saxton’s excellent book on the subject titled God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation. So, let’s start with a definition.
The world has muddied the definition of what it means to meditate, so we must be clear and deliberate in defining “biblical meditation.” To do this, let’s look at what it is and isn’t.
As we describe what biblical mediation is not, we begin with the church. Within Christendom, there are several movements that encourage mysticism and contemplative prayer. Through stillness and repetition of words & phrases, these forms of meditation seek an encounter and union with God. While both have been practiced for centuries, neither finds its foundation in the Word of God. Instead, they seek a spiritual experience apart from the Bible. I grew up in churches that encouraged forms of contemplative prayer, and I can personally attest to how harmful the practice is. You can attribute nearly anything that comes to mind as a word from the Lord. Inevitably, this means we attribute words to God that he never said, yet we often give them equal or greater weight than Scripture. That’s dangerous!
At the other end of the spectrum are Transcendental Meditation and Far Eastern religions. In contemporary culture, these methods are taught as relaxation and stress relief techniques. By becoming a passive vessel and emptying one’s mind, the practitioner focuses on inner awareness and connection with the universe. Much like mysticism & contemplative prayer, the center of thought becomes one’s own imagination and reasoning, without basis in hard truth. A very real danger of such meditation is that emptying one’s mind leaves it open for spiritual enemies to invade.
Additionally, Biblical mediation is more than focusing your thoughts on a specific subject. Many promote the idea that we spend 10 to 15 minutes a day in silence, settling our mind, and finding one thing to think about. While this can prove helpful in some settings, it too is not biblical meditation.As a Christian, there is a right way & a wrong way to meditate. Our meditation should be biblical. Click To Tweet
The best definitions for biblical meditation can be found in Scripture. The Bible has much to say on the subject of meditation and uses quite a few words to describe it.
In the Old Testament, there are two key Hebrew words translated as “meditate,” they are hagah (Strong’s H1897) & siychah (Strong’s H7881). The first word connotes an “internal brooding over something in the heart.” The latter involves lovingly going over things in one’s mind. Both words have the heart and one’s thoughts in view. Therefore, meditation is not a mindless or empty activity; it is an activity that engages the mind. Key passages where these words are used give us a picture of what biblical meditation looks like. A sampling includes: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:97, 148.The Bible has much to say on the subject of meditation and uses quite a few words to describe it. Click To Tweet
Likewise, the concept of meditation is throughout the pages of the New Testament. The imagery is bountiful, using words like: dwelling, thinking, considering, pondering, setting one’s mind, and remembering. No matter the word used, the idea is the same. As Christians, we are to constantly have the things of God before our mind so it can direct our lives. A sampling of passages for New Testament meditation include: Luke 2:19; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 10:24-25; 12:3; and Revelation 2:5.
The Puritans frequently taught on this subject, but I like Thomas Watson’s definition of biblical meditation best. He writes, “Meditation… is a holy exercise of the mind whereby we bring the truth of God to remembrance, and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves.” In a nutshell, that is how and why we meditate.
When it comes to the practice of meditation, the Puritans put forth two types: deliberate and occasional meditation.
Deliberate meditation is the most familiar; and, of the two, it is by far the most important. Deliberate meditation is an intentional time set aside when one opens the Bible and studies it, pondering the truths of God, joining it with prayer. This time ought to be as regular as possible. Here the believer lingers on the truth of Scripture and applies it to his life. In other words, this is your normal time of Bible study.The Puritans put forth two types of meditation: deliberate and occasional. Intentional times of study as well as thinking about it throughout the day. Click To Tweet
Secondarily, you can practice occasional meditation several times throughout the day. This type of meditation compares everyday experiences to the truths of God’s Word. With this practice you can transform mundane tasks and thoughts into opportunities for spiritual pondering. Proverbs 6:6 illustrates the concept when Solomon taught diligence in work by looking at the habits of ants. Everyday moments can point us to God’s Word and how it applies to our life.
Both types of meditation are beneficial to the life of the believer and provide opportunity to think about heavenly truths at any time.
For any habit to stick, it’s helpful to know why you’re doing it. We workout because we want healthy bodies & to live a long life. Likewise, there are many reasons why a Christian ought to practice biblical meditation. David Saxton offers eight reasons.
Much like there are reasons to meditate, there are just as many benefits to be had by the practice. Such benefits make keeping the habit worthwhile. David Saxton lists the following:
For a deeper understanding of the reasons and benefits of biblical meditation, I recommend reading the corresponding chapters in God’s Battle Plan for the Mind.
The quickest way to dive into biblical meditation is to start with what you’re already doing in your Bible study.
When you start, ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. Without his assistance, our Bible study and meditation will be fruitless. When we petition him, our prayer should be for clarity in understanding, as well as the mental capacity to restrain distraction. Both tasks are easier when distraction is kept at bay.The quickest way to dive into biblical meditation is to start with what you’re already doing in your Bible study. Click To Tweet
With prayer in place, we then turn to our text of Scripture. Biblical meditation is not to be done apart from God’s Word. As you study the Bible each day, spot a verse or two that stand out above the rest. Make note of it in some way so you can refer to it later.
One key way to meditate on any given verse is to examine how it applies to your life. Sometimes this is an easy process; yet, other times it can take a bit longer to figure out how God desires you to change through his Word. Application should be a regular part of your Bible study. You should have some level of application before you walk away from your time of study. All of this is part of deliberate meditation.
Now, as you go about your day, occasional meditation kicks in. Use free moments in your day to ponder the words and meaning of the verse(s) that stood out in your study. The moments of your day are ripe for spiritual application and seeing the beauty of God’s Word at work.
Finally, thank God for it all. He is the one that allows and helps us meditate on his Word. In all, our days should both begin and end with prayer & thanksgiving.
That’s how you meditate!
Even if you didn’t know what biblical meditation was before reading this Bible study tip, I’m sure you’ve practiced it in one form or another. Now that you know the in’s & out’s, be more deliberate and occasional in your meditation. Don’t let a day go by without meditating on God’s Word.
As Scripture says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:
Note: all quotations are from God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David Saxton.