Meditating on God’s Word
While meditation often evokes new age or Eastern religion practices, Scripture commands us in several places to meditate — on God and His Word, that is. According to Donald S. Whitney, in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “…the kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and His truth.” Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.” It allows God’s Word to be absorbed into our hearts and minds.
Just two of the many encouragements in the Bible to meditate on Scripture: Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3. Also from Whitney, “They each point to the result of obediently meditating on God’s Word, which produces stability, fruitfulness, perseverance and prosperity.” He goes on to say, “The more we obey God’s Word, the more we become like Jesus— the more we are fulfilling God’s eternal plan to make us like His Son. That’s why God loves to bless obedience. And so meditation leads to obedience, obedience results in God’s blessing.” Just to be clear, obedience does not earn God’s blessings, as we are saved by grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). But as we meditate, thereby becoming doers of the Word and not hearers only, abiding in it (James 1:22-25), this leads not only to God’s blessing, but to godliness.
So, now that you’ve read all that— you may be wondering how to get started.
Here’s a few helpful suggestions. First, select the verse or passage. This usually comes from something you’ve already read. Remember, Scriptural intake methods build on each other! From Whitney, “Verses that conspicuously relate to your concerns and personal needs are clearly targets for meditation. One of the most consistently profitable ways to select a passage for meditation is to discern the main message of the section of the encounter with the Scripture and meditate on its meaning and application.” But again, you have to be IN THE WORD in order for a passage to speak to you on a particular subject. According to Whitney, “The general rule then, in your personal, daily intake of Scripture is both to read and meditate. Read at length— such as a chapter or more— then go back over what you’ve read and select something specific from that as the focus of your meditation. Read big; meditate small.”
Questions to ask of the Lord as you begin:
- What are You teaching me from this passage?
- Is there a question that is answered?
- Is there an action that should be taken?
- Other questions may come to mind as you meditate.
One of the most significant aspects of meditation, for me, is that it bridges the gap between Bible reading and prayer. In the past, I would read the Bible and then pray, almost as two separate acts. But as I began to meditate on what I was reading, I actually found myself praying over the text. After all, Scripture is divinely inspired. In fact, according to 2 Peter 1:21, “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So it is the same Spirit in us that makes the Scripture come to life as we pray over it.
One of my first experiences with meditation happened without me even realizing I was meditating on the Scriptures. I was a fairly new Christian, working in the publishing firm I had co-founded. We happened to be in the middle of a very stressful company move which had my stomach in knots. I was reading through the Bible in a year during that time (it pays to have a reading plan). By no coincidence, I came across this verse: Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God provided that truth to me in a time that I was in need of His grace over my situation. As I read it, I immediately prayed, “Lord, I come boldly to your throne of grace right now. Please help me!” As I prayed, I felt God’s peace come over me like a wave. I knew he understood my difficulties (v. 15) as He gave me grace to help in my time of need. In fact, those two verses became embedded into my heart that day, almost 20 years ago— they are there still.
Remember, the Scriptures haven been given to make us wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15). As we taken them in as spiritual food, we yearn for them even more as they become a joy and delight of our hearts. CH Spurgeon said, “The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.”
May it be for you!
– Pastor Joe Garofalo