As we consider the discipline (and art) of meditating on God’s Word, it’s easy to focus mostly on the how of it. Of course, we need to learn the basics and some practical ideas for approaching this time. But just as important as the how of meditating is the why.
Like I said, for many years I had no idea that God not only approved of meditation, but that He calls us to do it. When I understood that, I plunged into learning the proper methods. I tried so hard to think about scripture that my brain hurt, and each session left me a little tired. That didn’t seem right.
What had happened was that I was so worried about “doing meditation right” that it was nothing more than an exercise for me, a box on my list of duties that I needed to check off. The how of it had become my focus, but I also needed a vision as to why mediation was important.
Joshua 1:8 clearly lays out for us both the command to meditate on scripture and what it will do in us and for us as well:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
This verse really describes a process:
- Treating God’s Word as important
- Thinking about God’s Word continually
- Following God’s Word consistently
- Experiencing the blessings God’s Word brings into our lives
What kind of success should we expect? Well, it’s not so much worldly gain, although when we do things God’s way they tend to go better for us. Think more of the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ the Apostle Paul mentions, like peace, joy, and contentment. This kind of prosperity is longer-lasting and more satisfying to our hearts.
Do you see both the how and the why of meditation? If so, are you setting aside time to practice it?
In my last blog, we looked at what it means to meditate in the Christian way – namely. putting our focus on God’s Word. So, is it just a matter of sitting and repeating a scripture over and over again? Well, that can have some benefit. For one thing, you might actually end up memorizing it, and having scripture tucked away in your mind and heart is always a good thing.
But there are other methods of meditating that can be powerful learning tools. One general thing to keep in mind is that you’ll do better with smaller “bites” of scripture – one or just a few verses as opposed to a whole chapter. Many passages are rich in both language and meaning. Trying to handle too much at one time may cause you to miss something valuable.
Once you have a passage to ponder, take some deep breaths to settle yourself. You can close your eyes, or find a scene out your window to watch as long as it doesn’t distract you. I’ve had some great times of meditation sitting out in my backyard. Read through the passage a couple of times, either out loud or to yourself, letting it sink in. Then the fun can begin! Ask yourself some questions:
- What is the litteral meaning of this passage?
Some verses, especially narrative style, are pretty self-explanatory. But others are a little harder to define. That’s okay – this is just a starting point to make you more aware of what you’re reading. I sometimes jot down quick notes alongside the verse in my Bible so I don’t forget them.
- Are there any words or phrases that stand out?
Scripture contains unfamiliar sayings, poetic imagery and strange prophesies. Rather than letting those scare you off, let them be an invitation to explore the language a little. I often look words up in the Merriam-Webster or Bible dictionary for more clarity.
- Is there a lesson in this passage for me?
This step is about applying what you’ve learned in the actual passage. For me, it’s the best way to really understand and remember scripture. God’s Word becomes much more personal and real.
When I have time, I finish up by doing a journal entry. I’ve found that part of the importance of meditating is when I go back later and review all that scripture has revealed. And it reminds me of how much our Heavenly Father wants to give us wisdom and encouragement.
What do you think of when you hear the word “meditate?” I’ll be honest, my thoughts used to run along the lines of sitting cross-legged and chanting a mantra. That was how I heard the word used most often growing up. So it was a revelation to me to learn that meditation is mentioned in scripture.
Christian meditation differs from the eastern version, though. Probably the most important way they differ is in where our thoughts are meant to be focused while we do it. Someone following the eastern style would use a mantra (a repeated word or phrase) or a visualization, to help the mind clear away distractions. The result would be an “empty” mind, and concentration on the act of breathing itself.
In the Bible, however, we see that God has a very different method and purpose for this discipline. These scriptures give clear direction about what we are to focus on:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8
“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Psalms 48:9
“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.” Psalms 119:99
“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalms 119:48
Did you catch all the things we can focus our thoughts on?
- His Law
- His love
- His statutes
- His promises
And how about these: His promises; His deeds; His wonders; His miracles: HIM! And the result? A more joyful heart and a stronger faith – much better than being empty, right?
So don’t shy away from the idea of meditation. It was used in God’s Word even before it took on it’s more popular associations with eastern religions. Set aside some time specifically to focus your mind on your Lord, and watch what happens.