Meditation is Scriptural
In recent memory the spiritual practice of meditation has been mostly neglected by the people of God and instead counterfeited by practitioners of “Eastern” categories of religion and spirituality. Many Christ followers in the west shy away from this practice for the simple reason that the word “meditation” has taken on a New Age connotation. I believe it is time for us to reclaim this very Biblical practice. The following list is by no means exaustive, but I believe it is representative of the way scripture speaks of the practice of meditation.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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, ESV)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. ” (Psalm 19:14, ESV)
“We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. ” (Psalm 48:9, ESV)
“My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. ” (Psalm 49:3, ESV)
“when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; ” (Psalm 63:6, ESV)
“I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: ” (Psalm 77:6, ESV)
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. ” (Psalm 77:12, ESV)
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. ” (Psalm 104:34, ESV)
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. ” (Psalm 119:15, ESV)
“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. ” (Psalm 119:99, ESV)
“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. ” (Psalm 119:148, ESV)
What is Meditation?
The Hebrew word translated “meditation” has two roots. The first root means to mutter or speak in a low voice. The second means to consider something inwardly or to be occupied with an idea. Meditation therefore involves the focus of my thoughts and words upon a particular idea. In scripture we see that the object of our meditation is either scripture (the Law, his precepts, etc.), the deeds or works of God (his testimonies, his might acts in scripture, the works one has personally experienced in life, etc.), or the attributes of God’s nature and character (his goodness, love, etc.).
Everyone Knows How to Meditate
Anyone who has struggled with either fear or lust knows how to meditate, inwardly considering scenarios, ideas, and images in ways that powerfully affect and shape our inner world. Most, however, have not learned to intentionally harness this capacity in the manner in which it was designed.
How to Meditate
1. Memorize a phrase or verse from the Bible. Though you can choose an attribute of God or consider a story from your own life when God demonstrated his faithfulness and power, I find it is best to begin with a particular section of scripture. Start with something short. I find it best to consider a verse or phrase which speaks of who God is (his goodness, nearness or power for instance) or who I am in Christ.
2. Choose a time. The Bible speaks of meditating all day, morning and evening, day and night. There’s no bad time to meditate. If you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t start with the “all day” goal. I recommend setting aside 20 minutes toward the beginning of your day. It has been my experience that setting aside a particular time for focused meditation actually affects the occupation of your thoughts throughout the day.
3. Choose a place. Find a quiet place that’s free from distraction. If it’s aesthetically pleasant and peaceful for you, all the better. Calm is important and if your environment contributes to this it will be helpful. At the very least, locate a spot that doesn’t work against you.
4. Choose a posture. No – you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands in a particular position. You do, however, need to find a position you can maintain without movement for 20 minutes. Slouching, crossing one leg over the other, and things like that will require you to shift positions frequently because of their effect on your circulation. I find it helpful to sit in comfortable chair (not a recliner) with both feet flat on the floor in front of you. Sit up straight and rest your hands palm down on your legs. There is nothing special about sitting in this position other than the fact that it allows you to not be distracted by how you’re sitting at all.
5. Turn your inward focus upon God’s presence. Jesus promised he would never leave you. 2 Cor 3:16 tells us that when we turn to the Lord the veil is removed (revelation occurs). Simply choose to be aware that God is with you and choose to be aware of nothing else. You might find it helpful to breathe deeply. Meditation is an act of the mind and body.
6. Bring to mind the verse or phrase from scripture you desire to meditate on. Begin to repeatedly rehearse this phrase or verse in your mind. As you do so, maintain your awareness of God’s presence.
7. Once you feel you are inwardly quiet and fully occupied with both God’s presence and the truth of scripture, begin to speak that phrase or verse from scripture repeatedly. No need to do it loudly or dramatically. Remember, the root word means to mutter quietly. You are now meditating on scripture!