The Lost Discipline Of Christian Meditation
I’ve been meditating on Christian meditation for a while now. It really began in the first few weeks of COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. When everything slowed down and shut down it presented an opportunity that most never realize or take advantage of naturally. It was the opportunity to sit, think and meditate upon scripture. In that season I felt drawn to the Psalms and began studying them one more time. I was struck with the repetitive theme of meditation of God’s Word. It is all over the Psalms, in particular, but is also a biblically consistent theme.
When I look at scripture’s emphasis on meditation and then look at the church’s practice of it, there is a major discrepancy. Why is that? How do we change it?
Main Roadblocks to Christian Meditation
Meditation has been distorted and hijacked by Eastern religions.
One probable reason why we don’t practice Christian meditation is because we don’t know what Christian meditation really is. More often we hear meditation attributed to Eastern religions that empty their minds and focus on their breathing to obtain some form of inner peace. Eastern religions’ idea of meditation works off of the worldview that evil is outside of you. The problem is in the world and the solution is in you. You can achieve peace and comfort on your own.
Christian meditation couldn’t be further from that idea. Christian meditation begins with the problem being you and the answer is outside of you. The answer is God. Christian meditation is about filling your mind with the truths of God (Col. 3:2). It is about thinking deeply on these truths, their implications and applications. It is about communing with the God of these truths to bring you peace because He is our peace (Col. 3:15).
The Information Age has taken over our approach to studying the Bible.
We are bombarded with information everywhere we go: digitally and physically. If that weren’t enough, we are also expected to know a little bit about everything. Think about the types of questions we receive from friends, spouses, co-workers, etc. Did you see that news story last night? Have you listened to that podcast? Have you heard the latest on…? Our society values being in the know on whatever the latest thing is. But here is what is subtle, yet so damaging. We value knowing the information not understanding it. In order to keep up with everything we have to keep up with on a daily basis, we have trained ourselves to read quickly, listen on the go, and multitask while watching. We’ve traded knowing for understanding, pondering, and meditating.
This approach can clearly be seen in our methods for studying scripture. We take on “Reading the Bible in a Year” plans. We read a chapter a day no matter what. We’re in three to four different texts in the Bible in a week. From whatever text our pastor is preaching from to our small group and our own personal study time — we can be gaining a lot of knowledge of the Bible. Now there is nothing wrong with doing these things, especially because they serve to increase our biblical literacy. But biblical literacy without comprehension and application is a futile exercise. The Bible places priority on the meditation, application, and transformation of God’s people from His Word.
We have de-incentivized slowing down.
In the western capitalist society of America, to slow down means to lose. This, coupled with the Information Age norms, brings meditation to its most logical place — LAST. I have seen many invites by people/churches on social media to read the Bible in a year with them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone invite others into a year of studying an epistle of Paul. Most expositional preachers will take their time through a book of the Bible but are we training our congregations to take their time as well? I try to read a chapter of scripture a day. I have to admit that there are some days where one verse stops me in my tracks. It lays me bare and bids me to stay right there for a while. Have you ever had those moments? What do you do? Do you just keep on reading? What are we submitting to: The Spirit or our reading plan?
We have forgotten the benefits of meditation.
Could you list the top three ways that your study of the Bible changed you this past year? Not what you’ve learned from Bible study but how what you learned conformed you into the image of Christ.
There is a direct correlation between meditation of scripture to application of it and subsequent transformation through it (Psalm 1:1–2). During my last study of Psalms, Psalm 119 struck me. Not by just the truths contained but by the accomplishment in writing it. Psalm 119 is 176 verses. 176 statements and truths about one thing — God’s Word. Have you ever attempted to write 176 truths about anything in your life? I dare you to take the thing that you love the most and try to write 176 statements about it. You may be able to do so but taking on that challenge will force you to stop and think like you never have before. This is what David did in order to write Psalm 119.
David was a meditator of God’s Word. Is it any wonder why he was a man after God’s own heart? With every Psalm that David penned, we see a different result of his meditation of God’s Word. I’ve dabbled in writing poetry and songs. Whether it is any good to a poetry purist, this I know, it took meditation. It took stopping and thinking about truth and the layers of implications of that truth. It took seeing all the ripple effects of that truth. It took examining my application, or lack thereof, of that truth. It was one truth that led to a poem, song or article.
David writes in Psalm 40:3a, He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. I truly believe that when we meditate on God’s Word it will lead to a new song, poem, faithful sermon, clear lesson, edifying blog, inspired painting, etc. The Lord uses our meditations to sanctify us and edify the Body of Christ.
So now what? Here are some tips to get started on Christian meditation.
Set up a reading plan that is intentionally slow. One of the things that I do with new discipleship relationships is go through the book of Ephesians in 3 months. We study half of a chapter each week. I instruct them to read through that half chapter each day. They write down questions, observations, thoughts, applications. They think through the different implications of those truths. To think through implications sounds like this: If this is true then what does that mean for this circumstance? It is going through an “If, Then” exercise. Remember we study scripture to be transformed by it.
Take good notes during the Sunday sermon and schedule an intentional time each week to review your notes and the passage. Some churches organize their small group ministry around sermon review and application. If you are a verbal processor then invite a fellow brother or sister in the Lord to join you for discussion. Before you move on from the sermon to the next podcast, take some time and meditate on it.
Get comfortable with silence. Get alone. Get still. Be silent. Just you and your bible and a pen. Meditation is a discipline. It will be hard. It will feel awkward. Fight through it. Fill your mind with the truths of God. Think, write, pray.