I recently read a quote on meditation. It really had an unexpected impact on me. When I hear the word “meditate,” I get uncomfortable visions of silence, stillness…something like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love when all she can focus on is that stupid fly.
We hear that we should “meditate” on the Word, but sometimes that’s a hard concept to apply. What does that look like (besides sitting crosslegged and trying to manifest positive vibes)? Seems sort of abstract, doesn’t it?
The Benefits of Meditation
And yet, this abstract idea is known to have benefits for our health and wellbeing. The NIH says, “Some research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.”
Live and Dare lists 76 Scientific Benefits of Meditation! WHOA! This was a highly informative read–recommended if you have the time. Or, here are just a few benefits that were good news to me:
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety
- It improves your ability to make decisions
- It increases your pain tolerance
- And it improves your memory
The list goes on and on listing benefits for not just mental wellbeing but also physical and social health. Are there any moms out there who don’t need the extra boost? I know I’m stressed, multitasking, and constantly forgetting where I put things. I need all the help I can get. Maybe this meditation thing is worth a second look.
Applying Meditation To Your Quiet Time
But wait, there’s more. All of these studies are in relation to the benefits of just meditation in general. But you have to meditate on something. (Even the meditative practice of trying to empty your mind is a goal.) And guess what? We have the most powerful source from which we can draw our strength. True, meditating on positive thoughts, what you are grateful for, or your ambitions are all good and beneficial things…But how much more powerful when your meditation is on the Word?
Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Meditation by itself can be a good thing, but why not take it to the most powerful level and learn how to meditate on the only thing that can truly change our lives? Warning: long-winded, comprehensive how-to ahead!
The Lost Art of Meditation in Christianity
As I was saying, I recently read a quote that really began to open up doors for me on how to meditate on Scripture. So, without further adieu:
“We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God; as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us–‘comfort’ us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word–as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ…as we enter more and more deeply into this experience of being humbled and exalted, our knowledge of God increases, and with it our peace, our strength, and our joy.” – From Knowing God by J. I. Packer
I read this quote and knew there was a lot of valuable instruction in it, but it was SO packed with nouns and verbs and clauses that I had to back allllll the way up to the first sentence and write down the action steps in bite size pieces.
*Cracks knuckles* Let’s just take it one piece at a time and apply it tooooo… Oh, let’s just do the Verse of the Day on Bible.com. (Another super valuable resource you need if you haven’t dowloaded the app like 265 million other people!!) And I will be using the Amplified Version because it’s my favorite.
The verse of the day is Hebrews 6:10:
“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown for His name in ministering to [the needs of] the saints (God’s people), as you do.”
The WHAT of Meditation
According to this oh-so-helpful Packer quote, meditation is “calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.” (See what I mean about verbs?)
The WHERE of Meditation
Meditation should obviously happen in the presence of God. And here’s what you may not know: it can be a means of communion with God. Really, ANYTHING can be. If you invite God to join you, anything can be a means of communion with Him.
The WHY of Meditation
The purpose of meditation, as stated by Packer, is to “clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart.”
The HOW of Meditation
Here is where we put all these savory bits together and make a hearty meditation feast.
1. Replace what you think about God with what His Word says about Him
Assuming you have prayed for insight as you read, your first step is to call to mind what you know about God. And what you know about God is what the Word says about Him. As you call these things to mind, begin to simultaneously dismiss any preconceived ideas you may have constructed about God and His character. Prepare yourself to receive Him just as He is–not as who you want Him to be.
What does Hebrews 6:10 say about God?
God is not unjust; He won’t forget your good work and the love you show His people.
2. Draw out an application
Think about that. Think about the feelings you have tied to being forgotten. When is the last time you felt that way? When is the last time your good work was overlooked? This morning? How often do you show love to others and feel neglected in return? Hold His Word up next to your life and ask yourself, What is going on in my life and how does this Word from God speak to those circumstances? This is how you draw an application.
–Here is my side soap box. I was having a conversation with my husband not long ago about the “church-y” answers that people sometimes submit when studying the Bible in groups. There’s nothing wrong with this! When time is limited, more general answers can replace deeper reflections on personal applications–that’s understandable. But we need to go deeper. As you meditate on Scripture and a question comes up, don’t allow yourself to generalize its application to your life. Think of specific instances and specific actions you can take to apply Scripture. Make a plan! You will never go deeper with God if your answers to the question “How do I draw closer to God?” are “Read the Bible,” “Pray,” and “Love others,” but you never make a plan of action.
So, yes, you need to read the Bible more. But that is a flimsy goal. Choose your book, choose your chapter, download a 30-day plan, create a system. Make a plan of application.
Yes, you need to pray. But that is a flimsy goal. Get a journal, use the journal, create your prayer closet, set a time, keep the time. Make a plan of application.
Yes, you need to love others. But that is a flimsy goal. How are you going to love others? What would show love to your spouse? Your friends? Your parents? Your children? Make a plan of application.
*Steps off soap box*–
How can we apply Hebrews 6:10? This one is a little tricky because we aren’t given a specific action we can take; this verse is about God’s character. Nonetheless, it is still packed with good things! It tells us that God will not forget the good works you in His name. Therefore, work as unto the Lord and make a plan to remind yourself of this as you go through your day. The kids don’t care about how much laundry you do for them? Remember: God won’t forget. Husband isn’t thrilled with what you made for dinner? Remember: God won’t forget. You don’t feel appreciated for keeping 12 kids in the nursery last Sunday? Remember: God won’t forget. Go through your day meditating on the crux of this verse: God sees you.
Before I get off in the weeds, I’ll reiterate: draw out a specific application for your life. Make it your goal to use it that day.
3. Talk to God and talk to yourself
Prayer takes many forms (praise, thanksgiving, supplication, etc.). One form is to talk with God about you. Packer says, It is a matter of talking to oneself about oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.
So talk about what’s going on with you as you read the Word. Talk to God about what Hebrews 6:10 means for your life. Ask Him to reveal truth. Argue with yourself in His presence about your feelings. Are you finding it hard to believe God hasn’t forgotten you? Are circumstances wearing you thin? Talk about it! Talk OUT LOUD. Meditation doesn’t have to be silent. Words are powerful and thoughts can wander; say the words so thoughts CAN’T wander!
4. Contemplate all of these things in light of the Gospel
As you read, apply, and talk it out, remember to do so with the intention of receiving truth–the truth of the Gospel. Bring all points back to the Cross. What is the end-all-Gospel-truth of Hebrews 6:10? That Ultimately, salvation in Christ is ours. We are free to serve, minister, and love others intensely and sacrificially without fear of it being all for nothing.
The Result of Meditation
All of the 76 benefits Live and Dare lists aside, there is one more critically important result you can glean from meditating on the Word. And, once again, Packer says it beautifully:
“Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us–‘comfort’ us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word–as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ…as we enter more and more deeply into this experience of being humbled and exalted, our knowledge of God increases, and with it our peace, our strength, and our joy.”
Now It’s Your Turn
I used Hebrews 6:10 as an example for how to meditate on Scripture. Now it’s your turn! Plug your own reference into the steps above and begin to experience the art of meditation in your Christian walk.
Need help figuring out what to meditate on? Check out this book where I read the Packer quote: Disciplines For the Inner Life. I can’t tell you what an AMAZING tool it is for practicing the art of meditating on Scripture. However, I doubt you will be able to find an unused copy. Nevertheless, it is worth hunting down.
I hope this little how-to has been helpful. Now I’ve got to go rest my fingers. Happy meditating!