The word ‘meditation’ is a pretty cool word these days. Everybody is in to meditation. A lot of productivity websites say that when you feel burned out it’s really helpful to take a ‘meditation break’. Recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show (yeah, yeah I was watching Oprah) a guy named Dr. Oz (no relation to the wizard) said that meditation can significantly lengthen your life. Meditation isn’t just for Tibetan monks wearing burlap robes that chafe their armpits. No, everybody loves meditation.
The truth is, the Bible is big on meditation as well. Psalm 1:2 says of the godly man, “… his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Which brings me to the question: what exactly is meditation? According to our culture, meditation is the relaxation of the mind to the point where little or no thought occurs. But according to scripture, meditation is the increased focus of the mind with much deep thought occurring. The goal of secular meditation is to empty the mind, the goal of godly meditation is to fill the mind with God’s truth. To put it in a succinct definition, godly meditation is the practice of filling the mind with God’s word for the purpose of applying God’s word.
So how do we meditate on God’s word? What does this look like practically? Here’s just a few suggestions.
When we read the Bible, we’re not just reading a book – we’re reading the sacred word of God. The Bible is the very words of God, given to us that we might know him, love him, and obey him. Which means that we simply can’t understand the Bible apart from the enlightening power of God’s spirit. We must have God open our eyes to understand and apply the glorious truths that we read in scripture. Apart from the spirit of God our devotional times will be dry, listless, and fruitless. Before you read God’s word, pray that God would give you understanding.
It’s difficult to give deep, concentrated thought to a passage of scripture if you’re surrounded by distractions. I realize that this isn’t the case for everyone, but for most of us effective meditation on God’s word occurs in quiet places. If you’re trying to do your devotional time in the middle of Starbuck’s, you might be selling yourself short. I find that my most effective times of biblical meditation come in the quiet of the early morning, before my day is rolling. Psalm 131:2 says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Effective meditation usually happens in the stillness.
Just because you’re in a quiet place doesn’t mean that you need to be quiet. God speaks to us when we read scripture and it’s often appropriate to respond vocally to God’s promptings. Take for example, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When I read this verse, I want to respond out loud to God with rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving. Scripture isn’t a dry textbook, it’s the living word of God. We must interact with scripture, responding to it’s commands, rejoicing in it’s promises, and delighting in its revelations.
Meditate With Pen In Hand
I first heard of this from John Piper, who said the following:
“A pastor will not be able to feed his flock rich and challenging insight into God’s word unless he becomes a disciplined thinker. But almost none of us does this by nature. We must train ourselves to do it. And one of the best ways to train ourselves to think about what we read is to read with pen in hand and to write down a train of thought that comes to mind. Without this, we simply cannot sustain a sequence of questions and answers long enough to come to penetrating conclusions”
The practice of writing down my thoughts as I read my Bible has had a transforming effect on my devotional times. Writing forces me to think through each verse, and to trace the logic of each passage. It helps me to fight distraction and to focus all my attention on the words before me. Go out and get yourself a Moleskine journal and start writing as you read.
- What helps you meditate on God’s word?
- What benefits have you seen from meditating on God’s word?
Originally published January, 2008