To meditate on God’s Word is to think about it. Not just to read it. Not just to hear it. Not just to possess a copy of it. To meditate is to focus on a part of the Word, to pray over it, to ponder words, phrases, verses, paragraphs, chapters, stories. Meditation is not disinterested examination. It is passionate exploration. Nor is Biblical meditation a mentally passive exercise—instead it’s a very mentally active spiritual discipline! Meditation is an active treasuring of, searching out, and seeking for the meaning of God’s Word in order to help me love God more, experience the riches of His Word better, and embrace its implications for my life more thoroughly and more genuinely. Meditation involves dependence on the Holy Spirit and the intent to take the Word and make it my own. Meditation, as my pastor has taught me, involves “mental conversation with myself and with God about the applications of His words to my ways.” Meditation is a discipline that binds Bible reading and prayer together. And it is a God-given gift that helps take Scripture from my head and put it into my heart, and then to my feet as it works its way through my life.
Though there are many Scriptural topics for meditation, there are two basic kinds of meditation, as Joel Beeke has pointed out in his book, How Can I Practice Christian Meditation? (Reformation Heritage, 2016).
First, there is “occasional” meditation throughout the day, a returning of my mind to the Word, often prompted by circumstances. It is impossible to do this kind of meditation without previous memorization of Scripture.
Second, there is “deliberate,” focused meditation that should be part of personal daily worship, perhaps at a set time. This kind of meditation can take God’s words and drill them deep into our hearts. Very often, we will find that it is nearly impossible to meditate long on a passage without discovering that we’ve begun to memorize it in ways that will enable us to carry it with us throughout the day!
On a practical note, if you have trouble getting started with meditation, start by asking questions. For occasional meditation, learn to prompt yourself to think in Bible terms. You could ask yourself, What does the Bible say about this kind of situation?; or, What is true about God that I need to remember given what I am facing today?; or, Does the Bible have anything to say that would guide me in this decision?; or even, What truth about God does this beautiful scene remind me of? For deliberate, focused meditation in set-aside time for personal worship, you can begin by asking questions about the passage. You might ask, Why does God use this particular word?; or, What truth about God does this passage reveal?; or, Is there a warning in this passage for me?; or, How does this verse apply to me today?; or, How does this verse connect with the previous verse? or, How can I turn this passage into a prayer back to the Lord?; or, This verse says to cast all my cares upon the Lord—what are the cares I am right now holding on to that I need to commit to the Lord?; or, This verse teaches that the Lord is the Beginning and the End—what does that mean—and how can I live joyfully in light of that truth today?; or, This verse is identifying a sin in my life—what is the antidote it prescribes for that sin?; or, This verse says to let my life be free of covetousness, and the next verse reminds me of God’s promise to always be with me—what is it about God’s promised presence that should cure me of covetousness—and how does this tie in with the Bible’s teaching that covetousness is idolatry? Allow the questions of one passage to be answered by another. Seek, as you grow in meditation, to bring more memorized Scripture to bear as you encounter questions in a less familiar passage. Ask God for wisdom and illumination. As part of your meditation, think about how the passage applies to your life and your situation. And remember, this is a time for your heart be engaged along with your head. Otherwise, it’s not really meditation.
You may be surprised at the truths God will open your eyes to and let you see! Be ready to write them down, in a journal or perhaps on a card you can carry with you to prompt occasional meditation throughout your day. These moments of meditation could be some of the richest moments of your Christian life. Don’t you want that?
Let’s let this be a life-changing year. Let’s ask the Lord for illumination. Let’s commit, or re-commit, ourselves to this spiritual discipline of Biblical meditation. And let’s do so with a spirit of anticipation, knowing that the Lord truly will delight, this year, and throughout our Christian lives, to open our eyes, and to show us wonderful things from His Word.