Have you ever been part of a conversation where someone says a phrase that is clearly important to advancing the conversation, but you have no idea what it means? What do you do? Most of us end up smiling and acting like we caught what was said. But sometimes we halt the conversation to simply ask: “what do you mean by that?”
Many Christians have heard the phrase “meditating on Scripture” (or similar phrases). But it’s possible that not many know what this actually means. And if we are continuing to be honest, even many church staff members a hard time articulating it!
We wanted to provide you some explanation and practical guidance on the spiritual delight (not merely a spiritual discipline) of meditating on Scripture.
Reading the Psalms you won’t get very far without encountering the word “meditate.” (Granted, it does depend on which translation you are reading from because some have moved away from the word “meditation,” to try to communicate the concept differently, but it’s still the same concept.) Consider this example from Psalm 63:6.
- In the NIV: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
- In the CSB: When I think of you as I lie on my bed, I meditate on you during the night watches.
It gets even more interesting. This one English word (“meditate”) stems from seven different Hebrew words: śyḥ, high, śîḥâ, śwḥ, hgywn, hāgût, śîaḥ. Those are not typos, those are transliterations of Hebrew words, though, admittedly, they do look absurd. The point is that this is much more of a Hebraic concept than it is one specific word with a narrow definition.
So, what is meditation?
We must lead with this clarification: Meditation, from a Christian perspective, is NOT like meditation from an Eastern perspective. The Christian concept of meditation traces back to the Hebraic concept found in the Old Testament (like Psalm 63:6, above, and also Psalm 1:2; 119:15-16, etc.). So, it is simply a fact that biblical meditation pre-dates Eastern meditation (like that of Buddhism).
While Eastern forms of meditation are about emptying your mind; Christian mediation is about filling your mind with God’s promises.
And that difference is key. When you read passages in the Bible about meditation you will find that is often is meant to strengthen the believer by means of remembering God’s character and how He can be trusted. Some of the Psalms call the reader to “remember” the specific ways in which God has proven His faithfulness in the past.
11 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12)
When we meditate on God’s faithfulness, both in the whole of redemptive history (Old and New Testaments) and in our own lives, we are likely to have more confidence to go through our day with courageous trust.
But meditation is not only about remembering history, it is about engaging God in our present story. In other words: meditation is a means of meeting with God (something we spoke about in a previous blog post). More specifically, meditation is a time when we really sit in a particular passage or thought about God. Like a song circling around a chorus, so a time of meditation circles around an inspiring thought about God (while being with God!), which ends up changing us in the process. It would be like repeating the phrase (guided by Psalm 23:6):
The Lord is good. I chase after Your goodness. And Your goodness chases after me.
As the phrase is repeated (out loud or in your heart), it is like the words wash over you like a river flowing through a canyon–carving the geography as it goes. This is a powerful thing because what is repeated in our minds influences how we think and feel.
Utilizing Scripture in meditation is like having an anchor that keeps you present in the moment. We all having distracting thoughts that try to invade our time of reading and meditating on Scripture. So, what do you do? You grab hold of the anchor and circle back to it. The Lord is good. I chase after Your goodness. And Your goodness chases after me. And then you can either keep drilling more into that meditative thought, or you could progress into a further meditative conversation with the Lord. And as the distracting thoughts come to interrupt (and they will!) return to grabbing hold of your anchor verse or paraphrased thought.
So, meditating on Scripture is about having God’s promises flood our mind, fill our hearts, and anchor our soul for the day.
Now that we have established a brief explanation of what meditating on Scripture is, let’s address some guidance on how to do it. Here are five movements (or steps) that can guide your Bible time so that you not only read but meditate on the text.
1) Read it
Have a plan. Those who read the Bible daily typically have a plan of where they are going to read, and it usually follows a reading plan they are subscribed to. You can try oscillating between times where you read larger portions of Scripture (maybe even 2-5 chapters in one sitting); and times where you read smaller portions of Scripture (like a single verse or two). If you feel like you lack motivation, try having a friend, family member, or Life Group member commit to the same reading plan as you. It can even become a topic of conversation for the two of you.
2) Reflect upon it
Meditation means thinking about what God’s word says, perhaps writing it down (journaling) so that you can go over it throughout the day. You can even try prayerfully ask what God is saying to you about Himself through His word and what he wants you to do in response.
3) Remember it
Commit Scripture to memory. Bible memorization is one of the most powerful tools in our discipleship toolbox. If we hide it in our hearts, no one can take it from us and it will be there when we need it. God will bring it to your remembrance. While we encourage memorizing verses verbatim, you can also try “verse paraphrasing,” which is when you internalize the meaning of the passage and then write it out in your own verbiage. It makes it more personal. However, with any verse paraphrase it is crucial to stay as close as possible to the inspired and original meaning of the text, not whatever you want it to mean.
4) Recount it
Share it with someone. Tell others what God is saying to you through His word. People are hungry for spiritual truth. Share what you’ve learned with others. Studies have shown that we retain 90% of what we learn when we teach it. “Teaching” it does not have to be formal and in front of a class, it could be talking about what we are learning in casual conversation.
5) Respond to it
Last, but not least, respond to God’s Word through obedience. If we don’t practice what we are meditating on, then what is even the point? When we respond to biblical truth, we are living out what it means to be a follower of Jesus–taking active steps of walking with Him.
We hope these serve you well! Comment below with what passage or thought serves as your “anchor” during your times of biblical meditation.