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There are many retreat centers close to my home that focus on quiet meditation – places to “connect with the body”, empty the mind, or visualize success and happiness. For many modern Christians, this is the picture we have of meditation. But, the Bible frequently mentions meditating on God’s law and words day and night. Must we constantly stay in a retreat center environment, surrounded by the tranquility of nature to obey these commands? Is that really how we should meditate on Scripture?
What is Biblical Meditation
“Somehow the idea of meditation sounds like something medieval monks did in monasteries. Yet Joshua, a very busy commander-in-chief of the army of Israel, was told to meditate on the law of God day and night.” – Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
In Joshua 1, we see Joshua being established as the new leader of the Israelite people. As the Lord commissions Joshua, He tells him, “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 have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 ESV)
Although Joshua may have taken some moments of quiet retreat to reflect on God’s Word, we see a picture of an incredibly busy person, someone in charge of the care of millions, called to meditate on the Law constantly.
From this passage, we quickly see that Biblical meditation doesn’t require an emptying of the mind, but instead a filling. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney defines meditation as
“deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” (emphasis added)
How often as busy moms do we find ourselves quickly reading our Bible, only to forget what we read moments later? Maybe you try to fill your day with “good things,” listening to podcasts and audio Bibles, following a daily reading plan, and attending church one or more times a week. All of these are good things, but, if we never stop to think deeply about what we’ve learned, we never give the truths time to sink into our souls. In the words of George Muller, the words simply pass through our minds, “just as water runs through a pipe.”
Meditate on Scripture for the Purpose of Understanding
Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
John 14:26: 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.
When we take time to truly think about and consider what God’s Words are saying, we also ask the Holy Spirit to grant us understanding. We can read chapter after chapter, without ever stopping to think about the purpose or meaning of the text. In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges says, “Even the practice of daily Bible reading is insufficient if we go the rest of the day without meditating on some truths of Scripture.”
Take time to ask yourself, how often are you pausing to consider the truths being taught in your Bible reading?
Meditate on Scripture for the Purpose of Application
When God instructed Joshua to meditate on the Law day and night, it was for a purpose.
“… so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
Bridges says that “Daily review and meditation on key passages is far and away the most effective means of keeping God’s commands continually before us.”
Encountering God in His Word should always leave us changed. We must be diligent to learn the truths of the Scripture and then act on them, living according to our calling (Ephesians 4:1).
James 1:25: But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Meditate on Scripture for the Purpose of Prayer
Psalm 39:3: My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
“The failure to linger is the reason why many fail to remember or find their hearts warmed by the fire of God’s Word.” Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
Mama, what a privilege it is to encounter God through His words! Let us begin now, lingering over the Word of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the glorious truths contained within. If your prayers feel stagnant, robotic, this is where you must begin.
When we read the Psalms, we genuine and passionate cries to the Lord. David, who wrote most of the Psalms, was also said to meditate on the Law continually. Regarding this, Matthew Henry says, “…[the Law] was his meditation not only in the night, when he was silent and solitary, and had nothing else to do, but in the day, when he was full of business and company; nay, and all the day; some good thoughts were interwoven with his common thoughts, so full was he of the word of God.”
When you are full of the word of God, with thoughts regarding Scripture interwoven throughout your day, prayer and communion with God will naturally result.
How to Meditate on Scripture
Where do we begin when meditating on Scripture? How do we think deeply about a passage in a way that leads to changed hearts and minds and not just a scholarly understanding? Here are 10 steps to learn how to meditate on the Bible.
*Many of these steps are adapted from the 17 different ways Donald Whitney teaches Scripture meditation. I highly recommend his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, not just for learning about meditating on the Bible but for learning more about all the disciplines.**
- Pray that God would focus your thoughts on the Scripture
- Before you even begin, ask for the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding, convict you of sin, and use the words to help you grow in your relationship with Him
2. Read or listen to the Word
- Be willing to stop your reading, even if it means you don’t finish your chapter goal, if you find a verse or passage that you want to stop and meditate on. In Habits of Grace, another excellent book on the spiritual disciplines, David Mathis says, “I remind myself over and over that it’s not about checking boxes but communing with God in his word through meditation and into prayer.”
3. Consider what the passage means (in context)
- Think through where the passage fits in the larger picture of the Bible, the specific book, the surrounding chapters. Is it being written to a specific people in a particular situation?
4. Think about what the passage teaches you about God and praise Him for that.
- Does the passage display God’s justice, love, holiness, or role as a Creator? What other attributes do you learn about here? What is God doing in this passage? As you learn more about His greatness, stop to praise Him!
5. Does the passage convict you of anything? Is there anything you should be doing?
- Are there any sins mentioned that you are struggling with? Are there any commands that you are not following? Think through these, praying for forgiveness, a renewed mind, and the power to fight these sins.
6. How would you summarize the verse or passage?
- If you had to state the main theme or the verse in your own words, what would you say? How would you summarize it to your child?
7. How does it point to the Law, the Gospel, Jesus?
- Is there a specific prophecy or maybe just a glimpse at what is to come in Christ? Do you learn more about God’s revelation of Himself through the Law? What truths of the Gospel do you find in this passage, maybe ones you’ve never considered before?
8. Does it answer any questions you have?
- Have you been struggling with a specific situation that this passage helps you better understand? Does this passage answer a question you have had about a certain doctrine? Does it help you answer the questions your friends or family ask you about your faith?
9. Pray that you would be changed because of what you’ve read
- Pray that your encounter with the Word will not be similar to water that “runs through a pipe,” but that it will sink into you, changing you forever. Pray that the Holy Spirit will use this time spent reflecting on God and His holiness to grow you in Christlikeness.
10. Memorize it
- If you want to turn your thoughts continually to the things of God, what better way than to memorize His Words. If you’re a busy mom, be sure to find my tips on memorizing Scripture.
How can a busy mom meditate on Scripture?
As I’ve grown in learning how to meditate on the Word, I’ve seen the practice of this discipline transform my day. When I’m thinking deeply about Scripture, it changes the way I speak to my children. It changes my priorities. I find myself better equipped to worship God, even while going about the seemingly mundane tasks of my day.
Redeeming Routines are mobile-based guides that help busy moms learn how to implement Scripture meditation into their days. After listening to a passage, prompts and questions guide you through thinking about the words, praising God, confessing sin, and considering how to apply the truths to your life.
These guides can be pulled up on your phone and used while washing dishes, eating lunch, and any other daily routines.