Christian Meditation for the 21st-Century
… but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:2-3
The book of Psalms opens with a beautiful picture of the Christian. It’s a portrait of a tree planted by a stream of water. Firmly rooted in fertile soil, vibrantly healthy, nourished by water, yielding fruit and prospering. It is a picture of the Christian who delights in meditating on God’s law.
What is Christian meditation?
Meditation is a word rarely used in Christianity today, yet the psalmist’s words portray it as an essential ingredient of happy Christian living. We also see it in Joshua who was commanded to meditate upon God’s Word (Joshua 1:8), in Enoch who walked with God (Genesis 5:22-24) and in Adam and Eve conversing with God before the fall. So what is Christian meditation?
Meditation literally means to ‘mutter’ or ‘murmur’ to oneself. Talking to yourself is not necessarily the first sign of madness! Meditation is a conversation with oneself, and the subject is God and his Word. It is more than just reading large portions of the Bible, but rather it’s taking time to engage our mind in talking with ourselves as we read Scripture. Think of it as grazing in the rich pastures of the Word, allowing the truth to soak slowly into our thinking. Or letting God’s wisdom percolate in our hearts as we turn it over and over in our thoughts. Shaking the biblical text with questions and shining the light of Scripture on Scripture to better understand its meaning. It is looking into the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and the means of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).
A picnic spot
To say that meditation requires the use of the mind is not the same as saying it is a purely intellectual exercise. Or that it is a form of study. Meditation is a picnic spot, open to every Christian, a place away from the busyness of life where we can stop and take time to dwell upon God. A place to chew over the bread of heaven, allowing the narrative of God’s written Word to simmer slowly in our hearts in quiet reflection. The genius of meditation is that it is an intensely personal picnic spot. It is a place where all Christians may grow in grace and knowledge of their Saviour (2 Peter 3:15) if they choose to do so. Each Christian is also able to choose the time, place, duration and fare of this picnic table depending upon their circumstances, faculties, personality and mindset.
Meditation warms the heart
Paul speaks of fanning into flames the gift of God within (2 Timothy 1:6), and meditation awakens the soul as it ignites a fire for God within (Psalm 39:3). It is the pathway to a deeper understanding of God’s ways (Psalm 49:3), leading to an overflow of praise (see Psalm 45:1). Above all, meditation warms the heart with a sound love for Christ, as it engages the mind with the things of God and so draws out our love for him. Our love for Christ, keeping his commandments and the Spirit of truth who dwells within us (John 14:15-18) are woven together in the Christian life by meditation.
Meditation encourages the spiritual mind to flourish
The Spirit’s work in regeneration produces the spiritual mind in the Christian, and as he renews the mind, his indwelling makes meditation desirable (Ephesians 4:23). Making time to dwell upon spiritual things allows the spiritual mind to flourish, as the Spirit works in us more fully. Paul calls this setting our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2).
Meditation quickens one’s walk in the Spirit
Jesus’ promise of the Spirit’s ministry is made a reality as we let him guide us while we take time to listen to him (John 16:13-14). The Spirit will speak to us in our circumstances as we wait upon him. Obedience will flow as we allow the Spirit to declare the things of Christ to us.
Meditation will enrich the life of prayer
When prayer becomes a burden, musing upon God will reignite a desire within to confer with God. Arrow prayers, like Nehemiah’s (Nehemiah 2:4), are precious but how uplifting to the soul are those spontaneous prayers that flow from meditating upon God.
Meditation in the 21st century
Day and night
The beauty of meditation is the mobility that is inbuilt within its practice. When the psalmist speaks of ‘day and night’ he does not mean 24 hours nonstop but rather ‘at every opportunity’. David considered God on his bed at night (Psalm 63:6). We can turn our thoughts to spiritual matters anywhere, anyplace, anytime.
Memory is such a wonderful gift and using it to memorise Scripture is a great aid to meditation. This does not have to be large chunks, for memory can carry a single Bible verse to chew over as we find time during our day and may be more helpful than reading several chapters of Scripture. Memory can recall a great truth to delight in by singing God’s praise in the shower! It can allow one to pray over an attribute of God, which can lift the downcast spirit more than a sermon. Memory can delight the soul by reflecting on the wonderful way God has blessed and led us (Psalm 16:6). Have you ever thought about recapping the narrative of a Bible book or story to yourself on the journey to work? Or joining the psalmist in considering God’s works and meditating on his mighty deeds? (Psalm 77:12; 143:5).
The television programme, Salvage Hunters, follows the work of Drew Pritchard who travels the country searching out all manner of places to find trinkets, large and small, obscure and intriguing, to sell in his antique business. Christians must be people who spend their time salvaging the gems contained in the precious truths of God’s Word, buying back the time and making the most of every opportunity to meditate upon them (Ephesians 5:16).
Is there a meditation shaped hole in your spiritual experience? It’s never too late to commence this soul-satisfying practice. My in-laws have joined the couch to 5k running club, where you aim to build up to a 5k run by gradually increasing the length and duration you run while walking in between. Meditation too can be like this. The beneficial delights of meditation may be begun in a moment, but will last a lifetime and flow into eternity!