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Time to mull, ponder, meditate

June 28, 2010

According to Psalm 1:1-3, God will bless the woman who does not embrace the world and its ways, but instead finds her delight in God’s Word and “meditates” on it “day and night.” Sounds like we should all practice a little biblical meditation.

Unfortunately, while we are often encouraged to foster many of the spiritual disciplines, we don’t hear much about meditation. Why is that? I think many of us have misunderstood what it means to meditate on God’s Word because other forms of meditation carry a negative connotation. We don’t know what it is, why we should do it, or how we should do it. Well, let’s dig in and try to gain a little understanding of this overlooked spiritual discipline.

What is meditation?

Because of many New Age religions and practices like transcendental meditation, many of us picture “meditation” as emptying our minds of all thoughts. This is not biblical meditation. In fact, God’s Word makes it clear we are to meditate by filling our thoughts. A few things God tells us to meditate on include His law, love, mighty deeds, statutes, and promises. He also encourages us to “think on” whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).

In his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” Donald Whitney helps us understand biblical mediation. He uses the analogy of a tea bag. While reading and hearing Scripture may represent a dunk or two, meditation is like letting the bag steep. It’s the idea of “mulling” something over or “pondering” a subject.

Whitney defines biblical meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”

Why should we meditate?

Charles Spurgeon said that anyone who wanted to possess the treasure of God’s Word “must dig into Scripture as one who seeketh for choice pearls.” Meditation takes dedication, time, and hard work. So why would we want to practice this spiritual discipline?

First, as we’ve already seen, the Bible establishes meditation on God’s Word as the example for His people. Second, our meditation on God and His truth pleases God (Ps 104:33-34). And third, meditation benefits us spiritually. Meditation helps us better understand and apply the truths of God’s Word. Someone who regularly meditates on God’s Word will not simply survive in this life, she will flourish.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3

Simply reading through or hearing a biblical passage will not affect our hearts, minds, and lives like steeping in its richness. We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word, holding onto it in our thoughts until its truth becomes a part of who we are. Then we will be like a tree whose roots reach down to an endless supply of living water. We will be sustained in drought and difficulty. And in God’s timing our lives will produce an abundance of fruit for His glory.

How do we meditate?

Let’s get hands on and practical so we can get a feel for how to meditate on God’s Word.

  1. Choose a passage. It may be one that God impressed on your heart during Bible reading or one that jumped out at you during a sermon. It should be small enough to work through thoroughly.
  2. Reread with different emphasis on different words and phrases.
  3. Rewrite the passage in your own words.
  4. Ask questions about what it teaches. For instance, does this passage reveal something I should:
  • Believe about God?
  • Praise or thank or trust God for?
  • Have a new attitude about?
  • Do for the sake of Christ, others, or myself?

5. Look for personal application then obey.

6. Pray through the Scripture.

7. Think on it throughout the day.

I want to be like that tree planted by streams of water. I long to please God and flourish through the truth of His Word. I think I’ll go ponder for a while.

Recommended Reading:

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney

Meditating on the Scriptures, by Charles Spurgeon

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2010 9:41 am

    Great explanation, Kathy! This is one of those areas where I struggle to be disciplined. I appreciate the suggestions for ways to meditate.

    • June 28, 2010 9:49 am

      Thanks Teri! Probably for many of us – me included – it’s the time factor. We are all so used to our fast-paced culture. Meditating on God’s Word requires us to slow down and take our time and that goes against the “let’s get it done and move on” message that constantly bombards us.

      • June 28, 2010 11:32 am

        Isn’t it the truth! In culture today if we aren’t “busy”, we aren’t “productive”. Something that has been pressing on my heart for the last year is “Be Still…”

        Thanks for the great post. Wonderful practical steps to meditation. Looking forward to putting them into practice. It’s My turn! 🙂

        Blessings~
        Marita

  2. June 28, 2010 9:56 am

    What a truly fabulous post! This will be so helpful to so many of us.

    • June 28, 2010 10:13 am

      Thanks Sheri! I think too often we assume that all of us know how to do something when we say “mediate, pray, memorize.” We all need practical direction and advice on how to do it. I am so glad that Scripture Dig is able to do that!

  3. June 28, 2010 10:07 am

    Hi Kathy,
    I loved this article. Just what I needed today. I especially like the ” prescription for meditation” and see how that can apply to just a good basic Bible study. Isn’t that just a little like meditating? And so much better for us godly women than medicating!
    Just kidding.. but I do believe many women who are anxious, depressed and even confused who take meds for relief would find lasting relief from regular meditation on God’s Word. I thank you for your leadership, skills, and heart in helping get us into God’s Word regularly and deeply.
    Blessings,
    Joneal

    • Kathy Howard permalink
      June 28, 2010 12:29 pm

      Joneal, you are so right about meditating and study. There is a lot of overlap. And yes, God’s Word can bring the comfort, peace, and healing that we so often look for other places. Thanks for joining in the Scripture Dig conversation!

  4. June 28, 2010 12:22 pm

    Marita, God has been impressing the same thing on me for a while now too. I have Ps 46:10 stenciled on the wall of my home office where I have my quiet time and write. Regularly God says to me “You can’t just write it on the wall you have to do it!”

  5. June 28, 2010 12:49 pm

    Kathy, I really appreciate how you explained the difference between Biblical meditation and the kinds of “empty” meditation we so often hear about. The mystical approaches have caused many of us to stay away from understanding how to meditate, and I fear we’ve missed out on what God wants to teach us, though our desire to stay away from temptation is good. I want to be a well watered tree growing on that riverbank with you!

  6. June 28, 2010 1:27 pm

    I just found this blog last week and already have it on my blog listed as a favorite…I love it! God has encouraged me and comforted me so very much through His word and over the past 2-3 years His word has grown even more dear to me. I posted last week a little of my own meditation on Phil.4:8, I thought I would just share since you mentioned this verse also!! 🙂

    http://candacemercyisnew.blogspot.com/2010/06/think-on-these-things.html

    Thank you for this blog, it is wonderful!

  7. stephanieshott permalink
    June 28, 2010 6:53 pm

    I LOVE how practical you made this! Thanks for all you do to help us dig deeper.

  8. June 29, 2010 6:16 am

    As someone who understands the Hebrew text, I wanted to supplement your wonderful message about meditation.
    The second sentence at first encourages us to seek and desire God’s words and teaching – in contrast to those of scorners and sinners in the world.
    Then in regards to meditation it uses the term “His word or His teaching” in which we should meditate.
    R rather than it be written meditate “in it” or mediate in “God’s words”, it is written and “in His words” you should meditate.
    Some interpret this with ambiguity, that it may refer to the person who is meditating, immersing himself in God’s words.
    In the beginning it is called the words of the Lord you shouold desire, but after you have meditated on it you are incorporating it within you as well.
    By your personal mediation you are integrating the words and message of God in your own personal way.

    • June 29, 2010 9:05 am

      Thank you Morris! I pray that we may all “integrate the words and message of God.”

  9. Cyndie Casey permalink
    June 29, 2010 9:50 am

    Thanks for you post on meditation. I related with this; I often try to clear my mind before spending time in meditation in God’s Word. I was going about it all wrong.

    • June 30, 2010 8:26 am

      Cyndie, let us know how things go as you “fill” your mind with God’s Word! Thanks for joining us on the Dig!

  10. July 14, 2010 7:34 pm

    If you know how to worry you know how to meditate. Worrying is just meditation on the wrong things.

    Great post!

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