Thoughts from Canaan…

"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8

Spiritual Disciplines – Meditation

“I have set the Lord always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” – Psalm 16:8

The Word of God’s unique nature demands that we approach it unlike any other text. As we discuss the various spiritual disciplines that Christians have practiced throughout history, we will see that scripture can and should be read in a variety of ways. The disciplines of meditation and study are two sides of the same coin. Study conforms our minds to Christ; meditation conforms our hearts. Both, however, are borne out of time spent in the Bible.

1. In your mind, what is the difference between ‘study’ and ‘meditation’? Give an example of each.

2. How have you used/read the Bible in the past?

3. Why is it important that we both study and meditate?

What is Meditation?

Today, the word ‘meditation’ is more heavily associated with Eastern religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism than with the religion of the Bible. However, the authors of scripture speak often of ‘meditating’ on God, His Law, His Word, etc. It’s important to recognize that there is a distinction between the two forms of meditation; however, we mustn’t neglect to practice a scriptural discipline just because others in the culture have co-opted the term.

In Eastern forms of meditation the primary goal is to empty the mind and reach a state of non-thought and non-desire. The Biblical method of meditation also begins with an emptying of the mind but it doesn’t end there. Scriptural meditation seeks to then take our empty mind and fill it with the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

The Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words has this to say about the primary Old Testament term for meditation: “The Hebrew verb hagah, used in [Psalm 1] and in Joshua 1:8, means ‘to muse,’ ‘to meditate,’ ‘to moan,’ ‘to think,’ or ‘to speak.’”[ Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.] Biblical meditation cannot be rushed. It is the art of ‘chewing the cud.’ Like a cow that consumes grass by chewing it, allowing it to digest for a time, and then bringing it back up to chew on; we must take in the Word of God and spend some time savoring it, chewing on it, reflecting on it from various angles and pulling out every implication we can find. It is by its nature a slow process.

Colin Peckham defines it this way, “Biblical meditation is the practice of pondering, considering and reflecting on verses of Scripture in total dependence on the Holy Spirit to give revelation of truth and meaning, and, by obedient response to that Word, having it imparted to the inner being.”[ Peckham, C. N. (2007). Joshua: a devotional commentary (p. 60). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.]

Keep these definitions and thoughts in mind as you read over the following verses and answer the included questions.

Psalm 16:8-11
1. What are we encouraged to meditate on in this passage?
2. How are we encouraged to meditate in this passage?
3. What does meditation accomplish in the believer?

Psalm 1:1-3
1. What are we encouraged to meditate on in this passage?
2. What does meditation accomplish in the believer?

Psalm 77:11-15
1. What are we encouraged to meditate on in this passage?
2. What does meditation accomplish in the believer?

Philippians 4:8-9
1. What are we encouraged to meditate on in this passage?
2. What should these meditations lead to, according to verse 9?
3. Have you seen this to be true in your own life?

2 Timothy 2:7
1. What are we encouraged to meditate on in this passage?
2. What does the meditation accomplish in the believer?

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
1. How does this passage relate to the previous verses as well as the Hebrew word, ‘hagah’s definition?

How Can We Meditate?

Basil Pennington describes meditative prayer beautifully when he says, “It is not a question of reading a paragraph, a page or a chapter. It is, rather, sitting down with a friend, the Lord, and letting him speak to us. We listen. And if what he says in the first word of the sentence strikes us, we stop and let it sink in. We relish it. We respond from our heart. We enjoy it to the full before we move on. There is no hurry. We are sitting with our friend … We let him speak. We really listen.”[ Eyre, S. D. (1995). Drawing close to God: the essentials of a dynamic quiet time: a lifeguide resource. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]

There is a time for quickly reading through chapters and books of the Bible. Meditation though is not one of those times. Instead, we need to view meditation as a time of communion with God; a time to let him speak to us. Unfortunately, if you’ve never done it, it can be awkward or even uncomfortable. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel like you’re “hearing” from God. Just rest in his presence and wait on him.

Here are some suggestions for how you can make the most of your time spent in meditation but keep in mind that they are just suggestions. There are no legalistic rules to follow. Don’t get caught up in trying to do it ‘right.’

Suggestions for Meditation
1. Get in a quiet, secluded place – This isn’t to say that you can’t meditate on the things of God while you go about your normal routine. You can. In fact, Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God is basically a treatise on making every moment a prayer to God. But think of your relationship with God as being somewhat analogous to that of a spouse. Sure, you can spend time with your spouse while you watch TV, play with the kids, cook, or do any number of other activities but there’s something special about setting aside a time and space that’s dedicated solely to being together and enjoying one another’s company. God wants the same from us.
2. Read until you find a verse that grabs your attention and ponder each word – Don’t just rush through the reading. Take the verse apart and reflect on what each word means. Just the other day as I reflected on James 5:16, each word came alive for me. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” What is an effectual fervent prayer? Are my prayers effectual and fervent? How could they become more so? Am I righteous? Is there anything in me that would hinder my prayers from being answered? What does it mean that these prayers ‘availeth much’? How much? The questions could go on and on and on. Allow each question to enter your mind and think about any other scriptures that might answer them. Allow yourself to be drawn into those other scriptures and reflect on them as well.
3. Write it down – Writing down your meditations and prayers is helpful because it will lodge the thoughts deeper in your memory. It will also give you the opportunity to return to it later for deeper thought or simply as a reminder.

1. Have you ever practiced meditation before using any of the above methods? What were the effects?

2. Do you find it difficult to get in a quiet, secluded place? What could you do to make it easier? Is there someone who could help you with this?

3. Is there anything else you can think of that might help the process of meditation?

Where Should I Start?

God’s Word is filled with verses to ponder and meditate on from Genesis to Revelation; however, there are some books that just seem to lend themselves to deep meditation (especially for those new to the practice). Psalms has been called the book of meditation with good reason. It’s filled with verses to reflect on regarding God, his nature, his word, his law, his works, etc. Honestly, the important thing isn’t a specific book or chapter to start with; it’s simply setting the time aside to commune with the creator. Start today.

Homework

Saturday – Set aside 15 minutes of quiet time and open your Bible to the Psalms. After an opening prayer, begin reading whatever catches your eye and work your way through one psalm paying careful attention to each word and phrase. Reflect by asking questions like the ones we discussed above. Listen for God’s still, small voice.

Sunday – During one of the sermons, take note of any passage that jumps out at you. When you get home, spend 15 minutes reading the passage as well as the chapter that it’s in. Reflect on the verse and its context in the Bible as well as its context in the sermon.

Monday – Set aside 15 minutes of quiet time and open your Bible to one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Skim until you find a verse or passage that grabs ahold of you. Then, put yourself in the position of the person with whom Jesus was interacting. Imagine hearing Jesus speak the words to you. Think about what your reaction would have been. Listen for God’s still, small voice.

Tuesday – Set aside 15 minutes of quiet time and open your Bible to Philippians 4. Keep in mind the fact that Paul was imprisoned when he wrote this book, then begin reading. Read slowly, savoring each word. Reflect on how Paul’s thoughts connect with his situation in prison. Think about what effect this should have on you.

Wednesday – During the sermon, take note of any passage that jumps out at you. When you get home, spend 15 minutes reading the passage as well as the chapter that it’s in. Reflect on the verse and its context in the Bible as well as its context in the sermon.

Thursday – Set aside 15 minutes of quiet time and read Psalm 8 by a window. As you read, take notice of God’s creation. Reflect on the majesty of God as revealed in the created order. Spend some time thinking about how nature can help us draw closer to God.

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2014 by in Discipleship and tagged , , , , , , .
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