The good fruit of biblical meditation
The words, “meditate” and “meditation”, appear around 30 times in the Bible but the idea of meditation is covered throughout God’s Word. It is synonymous with phrases such as, “think about,” “fix your eyes …,” “set your mind on…,” “ponder on…” Biblical meditation should not be foreign to a believer. It is in fact, a spiritual discipline that helps us mature as believers. Through regular practice, we will gain deep personal insights into God and His ways, as we invite the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us as we meditate.
Philippians 4:8 ESV 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.
Psalm 119:15 ESV I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Colossians 3:2 ESV Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Psalm 77:12 ESV I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
The differences between secular and biblical meditation
The term, meditation, can mean significantly different things, depending on who you ask.
To a Buddhist or a Hindu, meditation is the act of quieting or emptying one’s mind so that a person can enter an altered state, which then deepens one’s understanding of, or connection with, some mystical divine force. The hope is to attain inward peace and contentment.
To a new age practitioner, meditation is the act of focusing one’s consciousness on the inner self or the universe, which is said to help build self-awareness and self-perception, reduce stress and anxiety, and give a sense of well-being.
Sometimes, such forms of spiritual meditations involve focusing the mind on an object, practising certain body movements, chanting, reciting a mantra, breathing exercises, and even the use of herbs or drugs. Taichi and qigong, for example, are forms of meditation that involve physical exercise with mental focus and breathing exercises. The Hindu practice of yoga also includes meditating using the word, om, a mantra that is meant to connect oneself with the universe.
Matthew 6:7 ESV “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
To a follower of Jesus Christ, meditation is the act of reflecting on God’s magnificence and quietly reciting His commandments. Our minds are not empty and we don’t use any tools. We simply present ourselves before God and sit in His presence, allowing ourselves to be amazed by His glorious ways and teachings. Such meditation is intentional and contemplative. It is a form of worship.
Psalm 119:15 ESV I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Psalm 143:5 ESV I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
Biblical meditation is the act of seeking to know God and honouring Him above all else. Figuratively speaking, it is a picture of Mary, the sister of Matha, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching. The Lord called it “necessary” and “the good portion” that should not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:39-42 ESV And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
We can anticipate that God will reveal Himself to us when we seek Him with all our hearts. The Bible shows us how Jesus would often retreat to lonely places to seek His Father in heaven, away from the crowds and His own disciples. As Jesus did, so should we.
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Jeremiah 29:13 ESV You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Luke 5:15-16 NIV … crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Matthew 14:22-23 ESV Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Note: Biblical meditation is a conscious act, where we are actively engaged with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. It does not involve mindlessly chanting scripture or religious text or putting ourselves into a trance or under self-hypnotism.
Biblical meditation is hindered by a lack of the fear of God
Why don’t more professing Christians practise biblical meditation? The Bible shows us that when we do away with holy reverence for the Lord, we will also tend to ignore and neglect thinking about or meditating on Him and His ways.
Job 15:4 ESV But you are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God.
Modern-day practices such as surfing social media also re-wire our brains and can hinder us from being able to focus on a subject long enough to receive spiritual insights as we meditate.
Biblical meditation brings good fruit
God’s Word contains a large tapestry of deep insights that biblical meditation unlocks.
To meditate, believers quietly read God’s Law out loud and continue to reflect on it throughout our day, so that it becomes embedded in our subconscious and transforms our ways of thinking, including our desires, and our emotions from the inside out.
This is a crucial practice for our minds because our brains learn through repetition and build deeper, more developed neural pathways for the things we tend to think more about. The more we fill our minds with God’s Word, the less room we leave for things such as doubt, fear and anxiety. This is how we renew our minds and have the ability to test for God’s will based on our deep knowledge of His Word.
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God’s Word promises that as we meditate on God and put our trust in His Word;
- The Lord will keep us in His perfect peace | Isaiah 26:3 ESV You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
- His Word will strengthen our souls and spirits | Psalm 119:28 ESV My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
- His Law will make us wiser than our enemies | Psalm 119:97-99 ESV Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
- His words will bring new life and healing to our bodies | Proverbs 4:20-23 ESV My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
- His implanted Word will keep us from sinning against God | Psalm 119:11 ESV I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Biblical meditation is a crucial practice for any believer, especially as we face an onslaught of temptations and deceptions every day. To overcome this world, we cannot rely solely on our human wisdom or strength. We need to know God’s will.
Hence, we cannot afford to forget God’s ways and statutes. We need to store His Word in our hearts by meditating on it regularly. The Holy Spirit will often bring specific Bible verses to mind to teach us how to address any situation in life — if we have first meditated on God’s Word and committed it to memory.
Psalm 119:15-16 ESV I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Deuteronomy 8:19 ESV And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
John 14:26 ESV But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
The crucial step in inviting the Holy Spirit into our meditation
Not everything in the Bible is immediately understandable by casual reading. It requires some intentional reflection and spiritual discernment. We need to have the patience to dig deeper into God’s Word and have the humility to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what His Word means.
2 Peter 3:16 ESV … There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Biblical meditation is an opportunity to seek God’s wisdom, something that He promises to be generous with! The Holy Spirit connects with our spirit and deposits His wisdom, counsel, and insight into our spirits to give us understanding, whenever we ask Him questions.
James 1:5 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Romans 8:16 NLT For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
Isaiah 11:2 ESV And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
For example, as we meditate on God and the truths found in the Bible, we may want to ask:
- “Holy Spirit, please open my spiritual eyes so that I can see and behold the wonders of Your Law.” | Psalm 119:18 ESV Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
- “Help me understand what I’m reading and reflecting on.” | 2 Timothy 2:7 ESV Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
- “Show me how Your Law applies to me personally and convict my heart and mind so that I may not sin against You.” | Psalm 26:2 ESV Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
Psalm 25:5 ESV Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in a soft still voice. We will miss hearing His voice in our spirits, when we are distracted by the noise from this world or when our thoughts are focused on ourselves or the things of this world. It is therefore critical that we keep our minds and hearts as still as possible, in order to hear from God.
1 Kings 19:12-13 ESV And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Some practical steps in biblical meditation
How do we practise biblical meditation? Here are some practical suggestions.
- Retreat to a private inner sanctuary at home where we can seek God alone, away from everyone else | Matthew 6:6 ESV But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
- Consider meditating in the quiet hours of the night | Psalm 63:6 ESV When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
- Command the mind-blinding spirit, spirit of unbelief, spiritual slumber, and any other spirit that is not of God that may obstruct our time with God to leave in the name of Jesus | 2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
- Welcome the presence of God’s Spirit | John 16:13 ESV When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
- Use the time to praise God | Isaiah 25:1 ESV O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
- Focus and meditate on God’s commandments | Psalm 1:2 ESV But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
- Reflect on His works | Psalm 119:99 ESV I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
- Ponder on God’s promises and memorise them in our hearts | Psalm 119:148 ESV My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
- Always ask the Holy Spirit to make us understand His Word (and not be tempted to use our human understanding in case we mis-interpret and twist God’s truths) | Psalm 119:27 ESV Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
God is also described as the Word. When we meditate on the Bible, we fill our hearts with God. We begin to have an active relationship with the Holy Spirit as we humbly seek His tutelage and counsel. Biblical meditation bears much good fruit and helps us prosper in whatever we do in this life, because we begin to develop the mind of Christ.
John 1:1 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV Blessed is the man … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
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