There are many connotations that come with the term meditation. Some involve deeply mystical practices that Christians rightly reject.
But beyond the kinds of spiritual meditation promoted in many Eastern religions, there are various approaches to meditation involving stillness, silence, and deep concentration that have become the focus of countless self-help books, yoga classes, TED Talks, and morning routines over the years.
Today, many see meditation as a practical discipline for combating stress, anxiety, busyness, and distraction; and in some instances, setting aside quiet time at the start or end of the day can be an effective approach to strengthening one’s focus and mental health.
But is there a place for meditation in the Christian's life? It probably depends on what we mean by meditation.
- Psalms 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.”
- Elijah learned to listen for the “still, small voice” of the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-13).
- Even Jesus made quiet time and prayer a priority to start His day (Mark 1:35).
However, David also wrote that, “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).
Evidently, the man after God’s own heart understood that not all thoughts or forms of meditation, like our words, are spiritually edifying or even acceptable to God.
Focus and concentration are certainly important disciplines, as are stillness and reflection, but concentrating on the wrong things or seeking inspiration and revelation from the wrong sources can lead to further confusion, anxiety, division, and separation from the heart and promises of God.
This is why the Bible makes clear that meditating on Scripture and the truth found in God’s word, not the wisdom or practices of the world, is the key to understanding, peace, focus, and discernment.
Meditating on Scripture, therefore, is not only a biblical principle, but it is also an essential discipline for spiritual growth.
Scripture Is God’s Guide for Spiritual Living
God gave His followers the perfect guidebook, road map, and instruction manual for spiritual living in the Bible.
More than just a book of poetry, short stories, or human wisdom, Scripture is the ultimate, eternal authority for godly living, perfectly sufficient to guide, equip, encourage, and instruct God’s followers (Isaiah 40:8).
The Apostle Paul writes that “all Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The author of Hebrews also states that “the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Christians would be wise, therefore, to not only read God’s Word but also follow it closely.
As Joshua prepared to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, the Lord not only gave Him His law to guide Him, He gave him this command,
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success” (Joshua 1:8).
It’s much easier to be misled, distracted, or deceived when we don’t know the God of Scripture or instructions found in His word.
The children of Israel were guilty of this on more than one occasion, easily influenced and misled by foreign gods or rulers when they let go of the promises of God or forgot about His miracles and instructions entirely.
Remember also that during His temptation, Jesus overcame Satan’s lies and misrepresentations of Scripture by knowing the true meaning of the Word of God and quoting Scripture back to Him (Matthew 4:4).
David concluded, “your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105).
Those who disregard or neglect the Word of God or forget His promises and miracles often find themselves wandering in life, hopeless, aimless, and confused.
This is why, more than just reading the book or glancing at the map, Christians are charged with understanding and applying it.
They become better equipped to navigate life, knowing which paths to take and which to avoid when they do.
This is where meditation comes into play.
Meditating on Scripture Leads to Spiritual Growth
Meditating on Scripture involves more than just reading God’s Word but also taking the time to study, contemplate, reflect, and memorize what it says (Psalms 119:27).
Those who meditate on Scripture learn to ruminate on the meaning of Scripture and chew on it until they digest and absorb every good and perfect bit of wisdom from its words.
Once they have, they often return to the word to chew on it some more. Meditation helps Christians integrate the truth of God’s Word into their personal lives where they can become not just “hearers” of the Word but also “doers” (James 1:22-23).
In time, the Word of God becomes a daily delight in the Christian’s life, and the principles of Scripture often stay with the reader well into the day (Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:97). David writes in the Psalms that the one who “delights in the Law of the Lord” is truly blessed.
On His Law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers (Psalms 1:1-3, emphasis mine).
Those who build their lives on the truth and wisdom found in God’s Word not only establish a firm foundation to weather the storms of life, they gain the kind of nourishment that leads to spiritual growth. More than reading about God, they learn to actually spend time with God through His Word (John 1:1).
David also recognized that keeping God’s Word in his heart and at the forefront of his mind was the key to keeping his life free of sin.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word (Psalms 119:10-16).
Furthermore, meditating on the things of God helps flush negative, polluted, and evil thoughts from one’s mind, filling it instead with the goods things of God (Philippians 4:8).
The Word of God becomes the key to developing focus and discernment, helping one know and identify the truth, and cut through the noise, distractions, and deceptions of the world (2 Corinthians 10:15).
However, in order to enjoy the full benefits of Scripture, Christians should make meditating on God’s Word a daily discipline and priority.
As most trees cannot thrive away from water or good soil, so too will a Christian who lives separate from the Word of God become spiritually dry or malnourished.
However, as it is written, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalms 19:7-8).
Thankfully, God has provided the perfect, life-giving guide to instruct, equip, inform, and even replenish and restore the lives of those He loves.
Those who love the Lord delight in His word and delight even more in obeying it; and in doing so, they are truly encouraged, empowered, and uplifted.
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Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s author, artist, professor, and speaker who is passionate about helping young writers unleash their creativity and discover the wonders of their Creator through storytelling and art. In his blog, Perspectives off the Page, he discusses all things story and the creative process.