Meditation is one of the fundamental, but long-forgotten, disciplines of the Christian life. If we don’t meditate - and meditate biblically - we disobey God because it is exemplified and commanded in scripture. When Dietrich Boenhoffer, the German pastor-theologian, was asked why he meditated he responded, “Because I am a Christian.”
So, what is meditation? Meditation is the thoughtful reading, thorough pondering and questioning, and lingering over God, His works, and His word. Meditation is a serious and solemn contemplation of God’s word for the purpose of piety. Biblical mediation will produce a holy frame.
J.I. Packer says it well,
“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, thinking over, dwelling on, and applying to oneself the various things one knows about the works and ways and purpose and promises of God. It is inactivity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communication with God. Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself. It is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of GOd’s power and grace.”
Before laying out practical steps for meditation here are some things to remember about meditation:
- Christian meditation is not an emptying of the mind - such as transcendental meditation - but a fixing of the mind.
- Work on the soul is a serious matter, thus meditation must be taken seriously as it leaves us exposed in the presence of God.
- Christians are to discipline themselves for godliness and meditation is a discipline that leads to godliness. Meditation must be formed by daily, consistent, steady, and gritty effort.
- Meditation is for the purpose of obedience. Meditation gives us the wisdom (Psalm 119:97-99) needed to carefully observe all that is written in God’s word (Joshua 1:8).
- Remember, one hour spent in meditation is worth more than a thousand sermons.
10 factors for biblical meditation:
- Pray. We should want to be free from sinful ailments or hindrances before we approach God’s throne of grace. It is with a clean heart which God restores your joy and love for Him, so confess your sin, ask that you be washed and cleansed (Psalm 51), and ask the Spirit to help you read, study, and meditate - you need Spirit-empowered disciplines.
- Read. The book of the law is the object of our meditation so reading scripture must precede meditation (1 Timothy 4:13,15). For imprinting the word into your mind, reading the chapter or whole passage several times is fruitful.
- Study. Studying is an exercise of the mind and meditation an exercise of the heart, but meditation depends on a working understanding of the passage, doctrine, or truth. You can’t draw out gospel implications nor application on something you don’t know. Two good - hermeneutical - questions to ask are: 1) What is the original intent the author attempting to convey? 2) How does this fit into the redemptive story of scripture?
- Memorize. Memorization helps to stimulate meditation throughout the day and strengthen your faith, serving as a divine guide throughout your day.
- Connect. Think about every word, bring to mind any cross references that are suitable for the word or verse, think up illustrations, quotes, previous sermons heard and books read, etc.
- Application. As you introspect through meditation, examine yourself and how the scripture must be applied to your life. Meditation is to help us live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
- Resolutions. Something the puritans would do was to turn heir applications into resolutions. Resolutions are what you are committing yourself to do. We are to meditate so that we can obey all that is written in the word of God, resolutions put us in the right state of mind.
- Journal. Writing down our application and resolutions sets our newfound commitment into stone.
- Pray. Pray over your meditations and ask for help to live out what you drew out from the text. Thank the Lord for assistance and for enabling you to believe in Christ and have the power, through the holy spirit, to understand and live according to His word.
- Sing. Meditation should lead to a glad heart. Singing is an expression of thankfulness (Colossians 3:16). Not only that, but singing helps further incline our affections unto God.
- Meditation should be delightful, not dutiful (Job 23:12). If so, fight for joy like the Puritans who would sit there until they found joy. Otherwise, we should repent of our apathy.
- If you’re excuse is lack of time and only have, for example, 15 minutes, then read for 5, meditate for 5, and pray for 5 minutes.
- Don’t give up! Psalm 1 describes the meditative man as blessed because he is like a tree planted firmly by deep root by streams of water and it bears fruit in its season… Trees mature steadily and slowly. Continue to dip your roots into the streams of living water and God will bless your efforts and make you into an evergreen!
- Remember, Joshua was to meditate day and night. Take some note cards, or use apps such as quizlet, to help you memorize and meditate on scripture all day long. Using what we learn is also great for memorization and recall.
- If all else fails, don’t fail at this: fixing your mind and heart on Jesus the incarnate word.