It’s morning. You open your Bible and begin your day with God. You read a section of Scripture, pray and then leave for work. You come home, eat dinner and go to bed. As you lay your head on your pillow, you reflect on the day and realize something: after your time in Scripture you went the rest of the day without giving God another thought. Has this ever happened to you?
James says that this is like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and then immediately forgets what he looks like when he walks away (James 1:23-24). Why do we often read the Bible and walk away without applying it to our lives? I think one reason is because we do not practice the spiritual discipline of meditation.
When you hear the word “meditation” you may picture someone sitting Indian style, emptying his mind and repeating “Om” over and over again. This idea of meditation comes from Eastern religions. However, biblical meditation is much different.
Meditation according to the Bible is thinking deeply or considering what a passage of Scripture teaches. Meditation is therefore not emptying your mind but rather filling it with Truth.
Here are some examples of meditation in Scripture:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” -Joshua 1:8
Meditating on God’s Word:
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” -Psalm 119:15
Meditating on God’s Works:
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” -Psalm 143:5
Meditating on God Himself:
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you.” -Isaiah 26:3
Meditating on Worthy Things:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8
Meditating to Gain Understanding:
“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” -2 Timothy 2:7
When we read Scripture we seek to understand it in its original context, consider its meaning, and apply it to our lives. Before we can be “careful to do according to all that is written” in Scripture, we must first “meditate on it day and night” (Jos.1:8). Maybe we do not live Scripture because we do not meditate on it first.
Here is a practical way of reading Scripture that will help you apply it to your life. There are three simple steps: Contemplate, Communicate, and Cultivate.
(1) Contemplate. When you read Scripture, read it out loud and focus on each word as you read it. Read the text many times if necessary. Ask questions about the text. What is the original author trying to communicate? Is there a command to follow? Is there a sin to confess? Ask God to bring to your attention one phrase or verse in the text. Think deeply about what you read and consider how it applies to your life. Slow is key. Push away all distractions and focus your attention on God and His Word.
(2) Communicate. Once you have contemplated the passage, now talk to God about it. Express praise, lament, repentance, or thankfulness in response to the Scripture. Ask God to help you apply the Scripture to your life.
(3) Cultivate. This step is the key to biblical meditation that helps you “carry Scripture” with you throughout your day. Remember the phrase or verse and how it applies to your life as you go about your day. You could even put a reminder on your phone to help you remember. As you continue to think about the Scripture you read, pray that God would show you opportunities to live out His Word. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you strength and remember that apart from God, you can do nothing (John 15:5). At the end of the day, return back to the Scripture and prayerfully reflect on how you lived God’s Word that day.
A Doer Who Acts
Meditation is not just thinking about Scripture immediately after you read it, but bringing it back into your mind throughout your day. I have found that I do not apply Scripture to my life because (1) I often do not remember what I read and (2) I try to apply too many things at once.
If I focus on applying one thing in Scripture and I meditate on it all day, then I begin to practice it. Meditation could be the spiritual discipline that helps you become a “doer who acts” instead of a “hearer who forgets” (James 1:25).
Let me know your thoughts on the practice of biblical meditation in the comments!