We have seen how what some tout as “Christian meditation” is, in fact, a deception, a hybrid of Eastern or transcendental meditation mixed with Christian vocabulary. Is there such a thing as “biblical meditation” The answer is: absolutely!
In Psalm 19, King David is praying to God and meditates. Here we find the gold standard of biblical meditation, one which ends with a plea that it “may be acceptable” in God’s sight (v. 14). Following are some characteristics of authentic meditation, drawn from this prayer and other scriptural passages:
- The when and how. While some texts talk of meditating in the evening or at night (Genesis 24:63; Psalm 63:6; Psalm 119:48), other passages refer to praying in the morning (Psalm 5:3; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 88:13). Indeed, the Psalms admonish us “to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness every night” (Psalm 92:2) and to meditate on His law “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Finding quietness is mentioned (Psalm 4:4), but the Scripture does not give any other specific instructions on the modality of meditation. No mention is given to special positions or to breathing techniques, activities which are attributed only to Eastern transcendental meditation.
- It involves deliberate and deep cognitive activity. Psalm 77:6 reads: “I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search”. In the overwhelming majority of scriptural instances, the verb “meditate” is immediately followed by a preposition: “meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate your ways” (Psalm 119:15), “meditates on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:23), “meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:148), “meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty” (Psalm 145:5), “meditate on His name” (Malachi 3:16). Meditating is prefaced by asking God to “make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works” (Psalm 119:27). Thus, biblical meditation means ruminating and focused thinking about something specific. It is not some kind of mystical process or contemplative ritual.
- It concentrates strictly on God’s Word and His works. As seen above, that specific something is the Scripture and what it reveals about God’s deeds, His character, and His majesty. Meditation is linked inextricably to thoughtful reading of the Bible.
- It recognizes our feeble spiritual condition. The Psalmist asks to be cleansed from secret faults and be kept from presumptuous sins (Psalm 19:12-13). Nowhere does Scripture talk about getting in touch with an internal divine spark or with one’s immortal soul – there is no intimation of any divinity to be found within. The hope put forth is in God’s power to cleanse and redeem and the victory He provides through His work in us (Psalm 19:13-14).
- It draws personal teachings and lessons. King David recounts and dwells on various great truths concerning God’s ways: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statues of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8). While pondering on Scripture, the Holy Spirit brings home to the mind personal applications on what has just been read from Scripture.
- It has an effect on heart and mind. As we have seen, the teachings convert, make wise, rejoice the heart and enlighten the eyes. Through his meditation, the psalmist is “warned,” and finds the secret of a “great reward” (Psalm 19:11).
- It leads to action. “The 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 that is written in it” (Joshua 1:8). “I will also meditate on all Your work and talk of Your deeds” (Psalm 77:12). Authentic meditation leads to action, a life of obedience lived according to God’s Law and telling others about His redeeming grace.
The activities of reading and studying the Bible, meditation or contemplation on Scripture, and prayer, can be immensely rewarding. When heart and mind unite in focusing on God’s holy and loving character and His Word as revealed in the Bible, the Christian experiences deep fellowship with God.
Although at times silent, God will often speak through His Holy Spirit to His child who thirsts to find Him.
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