Biblical Meditation Introduction
Biblical meditation is not at all like transcendental meditation, in which the objective is to empty the mind of all rational thought and so allow it to dwell on whatever ideas just happen to enter it. On the contrary, biblical meditation is the process of allowing God's Word so to fill our minds that, in time it not only occupies our thoughts, but it also governs our every word and action.
Although biblical meditation requires both time and effort, many believers testify to it being one of the most profitable ways of using the Scriptures for their personal benefit, and that, because of this, it is also one of the most effective methods available for restoring and enhancing Confidence in the Word.
Joshua's success in leading God's people into the land he had promised them was conditional upon his constant meditation on the Book of the Law - God's Word (Joshua 1:6-8). If an accomplished military leader like Joshua needed to meditate on the Scriptures to ensure his success, can we do anything less if we are to live as our Lord requires?
The Process of Biblical Meditation
We turn now to the actual process of meditation itself. At first sight, the nine steps we describe may appear rather daunting, but we assure you they are not difficult, and with a little practice they will become almost second-nature. We therefore commend them to you.
The first step is to select the passage of Scripture on which you intend to meditate. The Psalms, in particular, provide a rich source of material for meditation. This is why we have chosen a Psalm for this exercise. Again, the parables and miracles of our Lord in the Gospels are another favourite source for meditations.
One indirect benefit of reading the Scriptures regularly is that you will frequently come across unfamiliar verses which say to you, "Please meditate on me." It is a good idea to keep a note of these, which you can refer to later when choosing a portion of Scripture on which to meditate.
2. Settle Down
Be quiet, and allow yourself to be still in the Lord's presence. This is most important if you are to hear what God has to say to you through his Word. Try to reduce external distractions to a minimum, and relax your body by taking some deep breaths. Above all, try to be quiet within as well as without, by putting any pressing concerns aside, committing any anxieties which may be troubling you to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), and confessing any sins which he brings to your mind (1 John 1:8-9) before continuing.
Thank God for his Word, and ask him to open it to you in a new way, by showing you the things he wants to teach you. Remember, meditation is not Bible study; there is no syllabus to follow, there are no "right" or "wrong" answers. Your sole object is to hear what God has to say to you, which will not necessarily be what he has said to anyone else before (but see step 5 below and also our marginal article, Testing the Words).
(You may at this point like to use the prayer and hymn we have included in Challenge, Promise & Prayer.)
Firstly, read the passage you have chosen a number of times. Read it slowly, so you can appreciate its particular "flavour". Then, write it down, as we have already recommended in Healing Words. If at all possible, learn the passage off by heart, memorising every word so that you can easily and quickly bring it back to mind at a later time.
Seek to understand the meaning of your chosen passage in its context. Nothing is worse than misunderstanding a single verse (or even part of a verse) simply because it has been taken out of context. For example, Jesus' famous statement that, "People need more than bread for their life ..." has nothing to do with our physical diet but, as our Lord's next phrase explains, it has everything to do with what we consume spiritually (see Matthew 4:4). Indeed, quoting Scripture out of context in order to distort its meaning was the method the devil used to tempt Jesus in two of his three temptations (Matthew 4:1-11), but Jesus countered him by quoting the Word of God accurately by affirming the underlying principles involved. This is something we need to learn to do too!
We may sometimes need to refer to a commentary or dictionary to get to the true meaning of the passage we have selected to meditate upon before we begin, especially if we have chosen a passage from a book we have not read before. This does not contradict what we said earlier about meditation not being study. All we need is the general sense of what the passage means within its immediate context, in order to prevent us from misunderstanding what the Holy Spirit intended to convey when the text was first written down.
Bringing to Remembrance...
you are meditating on one passage of Scripture, God will sometimes bring other related verses to your mind, sometimes even verses you thought you never knew! Don't be surprised or frightened by this. God is merely bringing these scriptures back into your consciousness from deep within your memory banks. It is a perfectly normal spiritual process. Just note down the verse, or verses God gives you for later reference and possible meditation. You may find they are to help you in a particular situation, or to enable you to give just the right word to a fellow believer, or even an unbeliever (see Proverbs 25:11 and 2 Corinthians 1:4).
this is primarily an activity of the Holy Spirit, his work in this respect can be greatly assisted by our regular reading of the Word. This is one reason why it is so important for us to read the whole Bible, which is not nearly so impossible as it sounds, as we explain in Help with Daily Bible Reading.
This is the very heart of the process. Turn each verse - even individual phrases - over and over in your mind, allowing God to show you the different shades of meaning in each one. You may wish to underline some key words in your transcript and note down any thoughts which seem especially significant. Is God perhaps showing you something you need to do, or even something you ought to stop doing?