Author Sarah Geringer, in her book Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus, addresses the difference between our society’s current understanding of meditation and genuine Christian meditation.
“You may be skeptical about the word meditation because of its association with New Age and Eastern religions. I can understand if you feel hesitant, but I’d like to reassure you that the idea of meditation is not foreign to Christianity. It is simply the practice of thinking about Scripture and communing with God. I think you will find it to be a powerful tool for increasing peace in your life.
“(Christian meditation) involves the solid truth of God’s Word… It’s an invitation to deeper relationship with the One who perfectly loves us. When we make God’s character, laws, promises, and works our focus, we engage in Christian meditation.”
Last week I wrote about one of the world’s ways to use meditation, the process of Mindfulness Meditation. Today, I am looking at the biblical model of meditation.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines meditation as:
“Close or continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation.”
Some form of the word meditation is mentioned in the Bible 23 times, 19 of which are found in the Psalms. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, mentions the Word of God in almost every verse. That Psalm alone uses some form of the word meditate eight times, in verses 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97. 99, and 148.
Biblical meditation was first mentioned in Scripture in Joshua 1:8. In the middle of an exhortation for Joshua to be strong and courageous as he was commissioned to lead Israel into their Promised Land, God gave a command to meditate on the Book of the Law.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8 NKJV
Biblical meditation is one of several ways to commune with God. It focuses our thoughts on a specific verse or short passage of Scripture or on one of the names or attributes of God that are given in Scripture. It is different than prayer, but can include prayer. It is an important part of a growing relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation begins with prayerfully reading a passage of Scripture, asking God to speak to us. Often when we do this, one or more verses will stand out to us. Maybe within those verses, one or two words catch our attention. For me, this is usually a prompting to look up the words in a biblical resource, such as the Blue Letter Bible, to learn what the word(s) actually meant to the original audience. I usually do this with my current journal in front of me, which I use to record any new insights I’ve gained from the verse(s).
What is the difference between Bible reading and Bible meditation?
The website of Billy Graham Evangelistic Ministries, http://www.billygraham.org, clearly answers this question.
“We believe that it is essential to differentiate between reading and meditating on the Bible. Reading is primarily assimilation of facts without application. In other words, it is for gathering of information.
“When we meditate on the Word of God, we seek to make personal application of the Scriptures to our own lives and circumstances. This results in more than the intake of information; it transforms by leading to the formation of the individual into Christlikeness.
“It is at that very moment that the Holy Spirit is able to speak to us, for as the apostle Paul said, “All scripture is … profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We never know how or when the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to bring conviction and correction. As God promises in Isaiah 55:11, the Word “will not return to me empty.”
“It is also essential to remember that Satan knows the Scriptures well. He often uses Scripture, out of context, to tempt us. He is a master at distorting what the Word of God says (Genesis 3:1). However, when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Luke, chapter 4), Jesus correctly used the Scriptures to defeat him. The Word of God is our sure defense against Satan’s attacks.”
An important part of gaining benefit from meditating on Scripture is repetition. When we meditate on a verse or short passage of Scripture that is personally applicable to our current lives and circumstances, it’s important to meditate and repeat. I offen do this for a week or more, until I sense that my response to the situation has begun to change.
Romans 12:2 (NKJV) says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds… “ One of the most effective tools to renew our minds and experience transformation is biblical meditation.
In a world that has taken the God-given discipline of meditation and distorted it to the point that some Christians are afraid to even use the term, God has given us a major key to seeing lasting change in problem areas of our lives. Whether you choose to use the term meditation (which the Bible uses) or a synonym such as ponder or muse, please don’t ignore this valuable Spiritual Discipline.
Biblical meditation is incomplete until we apply what we’ve learned though the Word of God to our personal lives and our circumstances. In a Bible study group I’m a part of, we call these our Faith Actions. How does God want us to apply the lesson(s) He has been teaching us through meditation on a verse or short portion of Scripture?
Let the Holy Spirit lead you in this. Remember, the purpose of biblical meditation is first a transformed way of thinking and finally a transformed way of living. Permanent change takes time, so don’t rush through the process.
Thanks, Barbara, that’s really helpful. I find one way that helps me “ponder” some of the great truths is in the words of the great hymn writers. Having attended church all my life, many of these hymns are well and truly embedded in my brain and I find it is easier to recall words set to music. Many of those I am talking about are from the Scottish Psalte,
Many people find it easier to remember truths set to music. I miss hearing hymns at our new church.