Our hearts, are a little bit like campfires. We all have times when we burn furiously and brightly, then, left untended our hearts begin to cool; ‘dampen’ I think is the correct term, until we become ashy and needy for God’s Spirit to breathe on us again.
One of the ways — actually the primary way— God does this, is through his Word.
What is Scripture Meditation?
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”(Psalm 1:1-3 )
The meditation spoken of here is not the kind that might immediately spring to mind when you hear the word ‘meditation’. It is the same as yoga or other forms of meditation, where a person might be encouraged to posture oneself quietly and ‘empty your mind,’ while concentrating on the inhaling and exhaling of your breath.
Biblical meditation is actually the opposite. It requires engaging the mind, not emptying it. It calls for deep thought and reflection. And most importantly, our own breathing features very little, but instead we focus our thoughts on God’s breathed out words on the pages of the Bible, and as we do, the embers of our hearts begin to glow and burn bright again.
How to Meditate on Scripture.
Meditating on scripture isn’t as mysterious and mystical as it sounds. It is simply choosing a portion of Scripture that is meaningful to you, and thinking about it, reading it to yourself out loud, pondering it, allowing it to run through your mind until your heart grasps hold of the reality of it.
In Psalm 1:2, we can clearly see this is the lifestyle of the Psalmist. “Day and night” he thinks on, ponders and focusses his energy towards understanding God’s Word. He leans in, presses God’s revealed truth into his very soul, knowing that the “Law of the Lord” is the sap that runs through every part of his being, causing him to thrive like a tree, planted by a riverbank.
Here are some very simple steps towards Scripture meditation. In your ‘designated quiet place’, (See Step 1) choose the passage of Scripture you want to meditate on.
I must digress slightly here and say that Scripture meditation and Bible reading or study are not the same thing, although both are very important.
For me personally, meditation often begins when I’m reading a passage of scripture and am suddenly arrested by a little nugget within that portion; I pause to ponder over it — the sheer glory of it. Often, if I’m pleasantly ‘distracted’ in this way in my Bible reading, I sometimes go with the detour. Other times I make a little note, finish what I was reading, and then return to that specific little portion that so captured my attention, in order to examine more deeply, observe, search and understand.
As an example, I’ll use Psalm 23:1, because Psalm 23 is one of my favourite Psalms, and within that Psalm, verse 1 is possibly my favourite verse. My mind frequently goes to this Scripture and I say it to myself in exactly the manner described below.
1. Read it out loud, a few times, just as it is written: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And for the duration of your “intentional rest” time, whether ten minutes or thirty minutes, ponder this verse, allow it to sink deep in.
2. For the rest of the day, as you go about your usual routine, let your mind return frequently to the verse, thinking over each word. Say it out loud to yourself.
3. Change the emphasis of the words. This is such an effective way of deeply ingraining Scripture into the heart and mind: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Say this to yourself, over and over again, with the emphasis on “Lord”, linger over the word “Lord,” until your heart remembers who your Shepherd is; it’s not yourself, or any other person you might look to in times of need. It’s the Lord and him only.
4. Then affirm it to yourself: “The Lord IS my shepherd.” He is! No matter how I might feel today. Whatever anyone or any circumstance might say to the contrary. God IS my Shepherd, and he cares for me.
5. Then, in the same way try: “The Lord is MY shepherd.”
6. “The Lord is my SHEPHERD.”
Wherever possible, read or quote the scripture you are meditating on out loud. This might feel a bit strange at first if you aren’t used to doing it, but it’s an important part of meditation because it helps to combat distraction. Have you ever noticed how you can be meditating on God’s love one moment, and the next moment you realise that for the past few moments you have been thinking about what to make for dinner, or the parcel that needs to be posted later?
Speaking and reading God’s Word out loud to ourselves can help to focus our attention. The word for ‘meditate’ in Scripture often carries within it the idea of speech; for example, notice how God says to Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Joshua 1:8
Ask God To Teach You.
If you struggle with concentration and focus, or you battle to understand concepts in the Bible, don’t be afraid to ask God to help you, as the Psalmist did. He was determined to “meditate on [God’s] precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15).
A good ambition to aim for. But, read a little further in this Psalm, just a few verses down in fact, and you’ll find that although the Psalmist is genuine in his desire to fix and focus his eyes on God, he also acknowledges his desperate need of God’s help in this lofty ambition.
He prays, asking God to: “Open my eyes,” “teach me,” “make me understand” “strengthen me according to your word,” “put false ways far from me,” again he prays: “teach me.” He entreats, “enlarge my heart,” “give me understanding,” “lead me,” “incline my heart,” “turn my eyes.”
God will always answer these kind of prayers. Always.