What does it mean to meditate on the Bible? | The life of Brazos
As a child growing up in church, I remember being warned about meditation. Meditation was a strange and frightening habit, practiced by Hollywood actors sitting in the lotus position while reciting ancient Hindu mantras. Perhaps because of fears that meditation is too closely tied to Eastern religion, I have rarely heard of a pastor encouraging his congregation to meditate.
The Bible, however, encourages God’s people to meditate on his word. In Psalm 1:2, the scripture says that the blessed man meditates on the law of God “day and night.” Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, tells us at least six times about the importance of meditating on God’s Word. In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells his readers to “think” about things that are true, noble, righteous, pure, etc. The Greek word he uses in this passage is that which has the idea to meditate carefully or to reflect on certain things. In other words, we are called to meditate on what is true, and what greater truth is there than the word of God?
However, biblical meditation is quite different from Buddhist or Hindu meditation. The purpose of meditation in Eastern religions is to empty the mind of all thoughts, desires or opinions. Rather, the purpose of Bible meditation is to fill our minds with the truth of God’s word. What we hope to do when we meditate on the scriptures is to replace our sinful and carnal thoughts with the holy and spiritual thoughts of God.
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How then do we meditate on Scripture? Meditation begins simply by reading a section of the Bible repeatedly, perhaps five or six times in a row. I find it helpful to read it out loud and not just in my head. Saying something out loud not only engages our mind in the act of meditation, but also our body. Speaking out loud also helps us remember – the more we repeat a passage out loud, the more likely it is to stick in our minds so we can remember it later. As we read the passage, we want to turn the words around in your mind. In other words, meditation calls us to think carefully about the words we read. We can formulate questions and answer them ourselves to better understand the word of God.
Here is an example: Imagine reading Psalm 1:1: “Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, who does not stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. After reading it aloud several times, you might ask yourself, “Why is there a progression of movement in this verse, from walking to standing to sitting?” Or, “What does it mean to be blessed?” Or perhaps, “What are the benefits of enjoying the law of God?” You can simply ponder these questions and envision the answers in your mind. Then ask God to give you wisdom to understand his word more deeply.
Meditation is not quite the same as detailed Bible study. When we meditate, we simply meditate on the word of God, chew it into our mind, and allow the spirit of God to speak through his words. When we meditate on the scriptures, we are not necessarily writing anything down or analyzing Greek words. We simply let the word of God saturate our hearts and minds so that it becomes a part of us. As we do, the Holy Spirit will begin to transform our way of thinking. Our values will slowly align with God’s values. Carnal thoughts – anger, lust, pride, greed, envy, etc. – will be replaced by spiritual thoughts and feelings. Meditation is not a pathway to immediate spiritual transformation, but it is a powerful step in the process of learning to know and apply the word of God.
So there is no need to be afraid of biblical meditation. This is not some weird spiritual exercise invented by celebrities and New Age gurus. Instead, it is a biblical practice that, when properly applied, helps us to know and obey God in a deeper way.
Matt Morton is the Teaching Pastor of the Creekside Campus of Grace Bible Church in College Station.