True Meditation

by Justin Craft

“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.” (Psalm 119:27)

Read: Psalm 119:9-32

Do you meditate? When you hear the word “meditation” what is the first image that pops up in your mind? How would you define meditation? The practice of “Eastern meditation,” characterized by the attempt to empty your mind of all thoughts and mindlessly chanting one phrase over and over again, has so flooded our modern culture to the point that it’s likely that such a practice is what you thought of when I asked if you “meditate.” Because Eastern meditation is so pervasive, and because its roots are Buddhism, Hinduism, and other pagan religions and philosophies, Christians might have a strong aversion to the word ‘meditation.’ Meditation, however, is biblical, and God even commands his people to meditate. But—and this why you have a strong queasiness toward the concept of meditation—we have to define what we mean by meditation, because biblical meditation is fundamentally different than Eastern meditation.

In fact, to call biblical meditation essentially different than Eastern meditation is itself a little bit of an understatement. These two practices are complete opposites. As previously noted, Eastern meditation’s goal is emptying the mind—freeing yourself from every thought so that you can become one with yourself, or one with the universe, or so you can reach a higher level of consciousness, or all of the above. Often you are told to chant a simple phrase or word or the name of a god over and over again to help free you from your other thoughts.

Biblical meditation, on the other hand, is the filling of your mind with truth, with God’s Word, work, character, and attributes. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” How can one live righteously? How can one live in a way that pleases God? How can one live in a fulfilling way and guard themselves against sin? It’s not by emptying the mind. It’s by guarding your ways according to God’s written Word and not wandering from his commandments. How does one do that? By meditating on God’s Word. By storing it in our hearts (v. 11). That’s memorization! How else? By declaring all the rules of God’s mouth with our lips (v. 13). That’s speaking the word to ourselves and to others.

Note how God instructs his people immediately after he gives them the “Greatest Commandment”:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Far from emptying your mind, biblical meditation is the practice of filling your mind with Scripture at all times and talking about it as often as you can. The Hebrew word for meditation can also be translated as “to talk about” or “to mutter to oneself.” This isn’t the mindless muttering of Eastern meditation, where you are just repeating a meaningless phrase over and over again. This is an intentional and thoughtful speaking to oneself and pondering over the truth of Scripture. This is taking a passage of Scripture into the mind and thinking deeply on it. What does the passage say? What does it reveal about God? What does it teach about the world or about yourself? How should you apply this passage to your life and walk with the Lord? Is it convicting or encouraging or both?

For the believer, the answer to the initial question of, “Do you meditate?” should be an enthusiastic “Yes!” In this day and age we need to be clear about what we mean by meditation, but every single believer should be, and needs to be, meditating on God’s Word constantly and consistently. As Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when he was being tempted by Satan, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt 4:4). This is how vital and necessary it is for us to be in the Scriptures. So, just as you wouldn’t voluntarily starve yourself, don’t neglect true mediation upon God’s Word.

Discuss and Pray Together: With a Christian friend or family member, discuss how often you deliberately and intentionally think about a passage of Scripture or the truths of Scripture during your week. Talk about how you can improve in this and how you can encourage one another in this discipline.