How to Meditate on God's Word
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night
"Meditation" is a popular practice for many people, yet also a confusing one for many Christians. Is it OK to meditate like other people do, seeking to cleanse or empty the mind of all distractions, worries, burdens, etc? Is meditation spoken of in the Bible similar to that, or altogether different?
The short answer is biblical meditation is altogether different and completely better than any other form of meditation practiced in other religions or systems of philosophy. Biblical meditation is simple. It is the practice of FILLING your mind and heart with God's Word.
So, how do you go about meditating on God's Word in 2017? To answer this question, we lean on John Owen, a pastor and theologian who lived in the 1600's. Owen gives 3 simple stages of biblical meditation. Use this to guide you in your reading and study of the Bible all year. You can also print this PDF for putting in your Bible as a reference.
Stage #1: Engage your mind with God's Word
Biblical meditation starts with reading God's Word. Here, you are reading to understand what the text is saying. Ask questions like these:
What does this teach me about:
2) Human nature?
3) Jesus and his salvation?
4) The church, or life in the community of God's people?
Important to note is that you may need to slow down in your reading in order to meditate on God's Word sufficiently. "Read the Bible in a Year" plans are great tools to take in God's Word, in fact I'm going to be using this 5-day-per week reading plan in 2017. But do not let yourself simply read a large chunk of Scripture then close the book!
Choose a smaller portion of Scripture (one chapter or less), and read it a few times. Look for connectors like "therefore" and "for" and "so that", with the purpose of understanding the argument or point being made, and the truth being revealed. If you're new to the Bible, consider purchasing a study Bible like the ESV Study Bible to help you understand key words, biblical characters, and the context of the section you're reading.
Stage #2: Incline your heart to God's Word.
This is an intentional turn from "What does this mean?" to "How should this affect my life?" Here, you will ask yourself 4 primary questions:
1) Do I believe what God is telling me?
2) How would my life change if I really believed this?
3) What false beliefs do I need to leave behind in light of this?
4) How should this affect me today?
Narrow in on an even smaller portion - a few verses, one verse, a phrase, or even a key word. Find something that challenges, encourages, or instructs you and ask for God's help as you think through these questions, to not only understand it but have God use it to change you.
Stage #3: 2 responses based on stage 1 and 2
Reading the Bible and meditating on it does not produce the same results every day. "Results may vary" is an adequate slogan for meditating on the Bible. Based on how your time has gone, do 1 of 2 things:
Option A: Move to joyful worship and praise.
If it is an especially encouraging, strengthening time in the Word, celebrate! Thank God for his love tangibly affecting your heart, or for his faithfulness, grace, forgiveness, and presence. This is the enthusiastic "Yes Lord!" at the end of meditating on God's Word.
Option B: Cry out to God for help
Maybe you were distracted with life's worries or your long to-do list for the day. Or you felt condemned instead of encouraged as you read, aware of your sin. Or you are burdened by suffering in your life, a loved one's life, or just generally by the reality of evil in our world. Do not despair! Bring it all to God, with your heart laid bare about how you are feeling. Seek his mercy, strength, peace, and for his presence to be fresh in your heart and mind today. These feelings are not a fail! The only "fail" is if, in your distraction or disappointment, you walk away from your time meditating on God's Word without concluding your time in honest prayer to God.
You know what happens, over time, as you commit to meditating on God's Word regularly? it will become the delight of your heart! You will find it increasingly valuable, increasingly indispensable to your day, your marriage, your entire life. Make your new year's resolution to be in God's Word every day. You will never regret it.