How To Meditate On God’s Word

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.

Meditate Prayerfully
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.

Meditate Quietly
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.

Meditate Vocally
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.

Two questions:

  • What helps you meditate on God’s word?
  • What benefits have you seen from meditating on God’s word?

Originally published January, 2008

  • Emily

    One of the biggest things that has helped me to meditate on God’s Word has been the encouragement of my friends. Through their sharing what He is teaching them and vice-versa, we have been studying individually but reaping benefits collectively.

    Also, I have found that as I seek to memorize a certain passage of Scripture, God brings it to my mind throughout the day, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for His living Words.

  • Jennifer Partin

    I really enjoyed this post—-especially since my Blog is called Meditations and Musings. (it sums up perfectly what my Blog is all about)

    Emily’s comment about the encouragement of her friends reminds me of Richard Sibbes saying, “godly friends are like walking sermons.”

    I’ve found what helps me slow down to meditate on those truths is the act of writing. It is also encouraging to look back on how He has grown me over the years too.

    Memorization is another good way of meditation.

    I’m stopping now b/c I’m only reiterating what you have said already. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of meditation. (By the way, I plan to link this article since it fits my Blog!)

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Emily,

    Great thoughts. I agree, friends are a great way to grow in meditating on God’s word. And memorization is key!

    Jennifer,

    I love the quote that “friends are like walking sermons.” I want to be like that…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post.

    bret

  • Stephen Altrogge

    bret,

    I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • micky

    im am so relaxed my soal feels great there are no winners or losers in life and there are no accidents everything happens for a reason u might think im dunb but if u were in my shoes u will no i calm i feel…

  • Deborah Smith Bensen

    I have journaled scripture and my thoughts, and His thoughts for years, and find this is helpful for meditation. Our minds can't take in everything that God has to say in one sitting…
    Another thing I find helpful is that when I read a passage in the morning and one verse just really seems to jump out at me or speak to my spirit especially, I write it on a 3 x 5 card, and take it with me that day to keep it in front of me.
    The benefit (can't count them all) is a deeper understanding of what God is saying, and time to think about what it means to me and my life.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/StephenAltrogge StephenAltrogge

      I really appreciate the idea of taking one verse with you throughout the day. I haven't done that very much, and it's something I want to grow in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.gunter2 Lee Gunter

    Another worthy article, Stephen. I needed to read that. and I need to get off this machine sooner rather than later. Interesting that I read this right after reading Albert Mohler's article about teens spending all their time online – his article could have been titled "How NOT to meditate on God's word". Today's word for me is pretty vivid. Thanks for helping give it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/StephenAltrogge StephenAltrogge

      Glad you found it helpful Lee! Sometimes we just need to shut down the computer and open the Bible!

  • http://landryglaubemann.blogspot.com landryglaubemann

    godly meditation is the practice of filling the mind with God’s word for the purpose of applying God’s word.
    I like this from you.
    And I will add this Meditation is the encounter of every child of God with Living God through the Written Word.
    Don´t it sound great?
    Be Bless

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/StephenAltrogge StephenAltrogge

      That does sound great!

  • http://www.asacrificeofpraise.wordpress.com emily

    one thing that i like to do is "rewrite" Scripture in my own words… not to change the meaning or to make it say what i "want it to say" but instead to better understand what is being said. I love to rewrite the Psalms either as a prayer or as a poem (since many of them were one or the other or both). I also love to memorize Scripture to music… either a scripture song that someone else has written or just a little "diddy" that i come up with in my head.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/StephenAltrogge StephenAltrogge

      Rewriting Scripture…kind of like The Message right? Good idea because it forces you to REALLY think through the meaning.

  • http://bondchristian.com/ bondChristian

    How about putting on a perspective hat? I love this one (though I wish I could spout off some Scripture to back it up). You can read a passage of Scripture or just think of a particular issue from a certain perspective. For example, you might ask yourself how the issue might reflect God's meekness or how it might reveal an insight about peace or how it might relate to thankfulness. Alternatively, you try to think from someone else's perspective, say from a pastoral perspective, a motherly perspective, an "emo kid who thinks no one understands him" perspective.

    The opportunities here are endless. And the more you push a certain perspective, the more you'll see from it.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • http://bondchristian.com/ bondChristian

    Now that I posted that, I'm thinking I should have come up with some other way cool name instead of "perspective hat." That doesn't even make sense. How about "perspective goggles"? That's perhaps a little better.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/StephenAltrogge StephenAltrogge

      perspective goggles is so much cooler…

  • http://twitter.com/RuelBass @RuelBass

    Great post, thank you.

    I have a stack of index cards with verses on them.

    In addition to memorization, I read the verses out loud and meditate on them.

    Lately, I've been going right into my prayer time and praying the verses for people and myself

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Mark_hereiblog Mark | hereiblog

    Thanks for this post. I took Dr. Joel Beeke's work from the Puritan's and broke it down: How To Meditate On Scripture

    Interesting approaches.

  • http://micey.wordpress.com michelle

    I recently learned what it means to meditate on God's word. I'm a slow learner. Anyway, one of the pastor's wives gave me her method. Read a portion of scripture and then with pen in hand, write down what God is like, what needs to change in me, and what can I do today to effect that change… It has been amazing! It has really helped me focus on Him and how He wants me to live my life for His glory.

  • Jenny

    Having recently been hugely unsettled by the 'emerging church/meditation/new age' discussion elsewhere, I have found this posting to be absolutely wonderful. I want to thank you as it has given me an answer I was seeking. The 'discussion' was really throwing me for a loop and your post was such a wonderful fresh breath of air. Sometimes I like to make things soooo complicated when they just arent.
    Thanks for all the comments as well. They have helped also with clarification.
    Blessings.

  • Bryan

    I enjoy the "lectio divina" approach to Scripture and think it is beneficial. I would also suggest to read Scripture in large chunks or entire books at a time. It takes a bit of the focus off of "me" and what do these select verses say to "me" and instead puts the emphasis on what does the entire Bible or book of the Bible say/mean.

    It can be easy to miss seeing and understanding better the whole forest (Bible) because we put to much emphasis at time on studying a specific tree (couple verses or chapter).

  • Shay

    This has been very helpful, my mind is alway's thinking about things that do not line up with the word of God, meditating should put me back on focus, and instead of having a racing mind thinking about everything i have no buisness thinking about, I can replace the thoughts with the thoughts of God, and hear his voice a little clearer!

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  • Dave

    One of the things that helps meditiate is the believe that I have that I am communicating with God.
    My spirit is always get high when am meditiating with the word of God. I feel strong and I feel touched by God. I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit

  • http://www.freequicksolution.com Abdul Samad

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