Meditation is becoming popular among everyday Americans. People have taken religion out of the picture and have turned it into an academic program known as “mindfulness studies.” For many people, meditation conjures up thoughts of someone with a shaved head or wearing a brightly colored robe moaning and humming aimlessly for hours on end. But what is meditation, really?
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a purposeful act. It means to think about, reflect or ponder. Meditation isn’t a complex practice; it simply means to think deeply and intently.
What does the Bible say we should meditate about? Consider King David’s example in Psalm 1:2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Everybody with a functioning brain meditates daily; however, the content meditated on is up to the individual.
God gives a blueprint of what we should think about in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If we think more and more on the things of God, it enables Him to build within us a mind like His.
The Apostle Paul continued in verse 9: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” God will be with us if we follow the instruction in verse 8. By meditating on what we learn, we are more likely to apply it.
Distractions are the main obstacle to meditation. It is easy to be distracted. But meditation requires us to put away all distractions and seek to capture deep thought. We must resist distractions if we want to think more like God.
To grow spiritually, it is important to combine our Bible study and prayer with deep, rock-solid meditation. A good parallel is the digestion of physical food. What we eat isn’t immediately usable to the body. The nutrients in our food must be digested and distributed throughout the body in order to benefit it. The same applies spiritually. The spiritual food we eat (through Bible study) must be digested and absorbed (through application in our life).
Meditation is a powerful tool. It doesn’t require any fancy pose or specific regimen. A person can meditate on just about anything—it doesn’t have to be a spiritual topic. While it isn’t exclusive to your spiritual life or your faith, meditation is a key spiritual tool. The goal of spiritual meditation is to develop a stronger relationship with God as you learn to think more like Him. So use meditation to aid your Bible study and prayer. Try it out—think on the things of God!
Why should Christians meditate? Taking time out of your day to do what at first impression seems like staring off into space just doesn’t seem right. However, there are countless benefits to meditation.
What we feed our minds with is what we produce, in the form of our thoughts, words or actions. Jesus Christ Himself said that, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).
Your mind is like your stomach: It constantly needs to be fed. It is up to us to feed it a proper diet. Just as a healthy diet produces wonderful physical benefits, so a proper diet of meditation does bring wonderful mental and spiritual benefits.
1. Meditation nourishes our conversion.
When we meditate properly, it aids our conversion process. Conversion requires a change of heart and mind. Think about this in terms of what fills our mind. That is why the Apostle Paul told Christians to think on the things that please God the carnal thoughts of man (Philippians 4:8). Meditation reveals to God a lot about our hearts. God knows all that we think about (1 Chronicles 28:9). Knowing that God is aware of our every thought can be a pretty humbling fact. Our thoughts show God how committed we are to obeying Him and how much we try to emulate Him and live His way of life.
2. Meditate on godly things.
Meditation opens up our mind for God to fill us with His thoughts and desires. This helps us to think like He does (Philippians 2:5).
Filling your mind with godly things and keeping it focused on the goal of becoming more like God helps you to keep from falling back into the ways of the world. If we open our minds for God to fill, He will provide us with deeper understanding that we can use to the fullest in our lives.
3. Meditation fortifies prayer and study.
Herbert W. Armstrong was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. His mind was able to conceptualize many deep, spiritual subjects. In part, he was successful because he was a great meditator. In a 1948 co-worker letter, he admonished readers to “[p]ause, once in a while, and meditate, and let God talk to you [in prayer].” Mr. Armstrong explained that when we pray we talk to God. When we study, God teaches us. But when we meditate, God is able to put His thoughts into our mind. Through meditation, we give God the ability to let His words of life sink into us. It is important that we take time to listen to God and think upon the meaning of those words for us and how they can be applied.
4. Meditation protects our mind.
Meditation is an effective tool to ensure that we put the right thoughts into our mind. Sometimes the ability to maintain deep, continuous and constructive thought can be a challenge. This struggle occurs when we allow our minds to stagnate. Meditation can combat a stagnant mind.
Our environment, our daily interactions with others, and our own problems and difficulties can be some of our greatest distractions. They can occupy our mind, preventing it from growing spiritually. Our daily responsibilities can keep our minds occupied from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep.
Meditation can keep us from falling into a meaningless rut, and it promotes an active mind that engages in constructive thought. Don’t allow your daily cares to consume all of your attention; meditate to embed right and meaningful thoughts into your mind.
How to Meditate?
True meditation requires us to fill our mind with God and His Word. There are several steps we can take that will help us to really learn how to establish effective meditation. Below are some points to help you improve your meditation.
1. Meditate after you study.
Meditation can enhance your study by helping you remember what you have studied. It is important to turn over and over in your mind what you study as you study. Don’t just study as a routine—study to remember. Apply what we learn in our studies—meditation will enable you to do that. The more you think about something after you have studied it, the deeper will be your desire to apply what you have learned (Psalm 1:2). By thinking deeply about what you study, you engrave God’s Word and truth into your mind. Meditate on your Bible study. Adding meditation to your Bible study routine will help you to remember and do.
2. Couple meditation with prayer.
Another great benefit of meditation is that it allows you to enhance your prayer life. While meditation allows God to talk to you, it also can improve your interaction with Him on your knees. We can make our prayer life more dynamic by pausing to think from time to time during our prayers, as Mr. Armstrong suggested in a 1948 co-worker letter. This will make your connection with God more real. Pause and focus on God. Focus on who He is and what He does. Doing so can bring great energy to your prayer closet.
3. Follow King David’s example of daily meditation.
Look to the example of King David to learn how to meditate. His life provided a clear example on how to meditate. “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Psalm 143:5). David made spiritual meditation a habit.
Meditation shouldn’t be a once-in-awhile activity that you check off your to-do list after your weekly stroll through the park. David meditated daily.
God desires that we draw closer to Him through meditation each and every day. David was a man after God’s own heart who knew how to meditate. It helped him build a strong relationship with God. To effectively build strong meditation habits, meditation must become a daily exercise. It will become more natural the more frequent you do it. Begin building this habit by meditating each day after your morning prayers.
4. Meditate day and night.
David said in Psalm 1:2 that he meditated “day and night.” Meditation is a constant practice—it is a part of your daily life. Once you develop meditation as a daily custom, work on setting aside time both in the morning and at night to muse on the things of God. A good way to instill this day-and-night habit is to meditate after you pray on your knees in the morning and in the evening.
5. Make it constant.
The more you practice meditation, the easier it will be to develop it into a perpetual habit. Meditating every day, day and night, will help you eventually to develop this constant habit of meditation. Pause every once in a while throughout the day and think deeply about your work, decisions, conversations and even those beautiful views as you enjoy your drive to and from work. Strive to make meditation a constant as you go about your day-to-day activities.
This is just a progression to build on to enhance our meditation. Start with the basics: Work on making meditation a daily habit. Then work on setting aside time to meditate day and night. Eventually, if you stick with it, it becomes a habit. Then work to incorporate meditation throughout your day. Meditate constantly to help fill your mind with thinking that is in line with God’s.
Remember, meditation is about ridding Satan’s influence from our thinking and filling our minds with the things of God. Follow David’s example on how to meditate and you will more effectively serve God just as he did.
For more information on what to meditate on, read the article Know Your Bible: Meditate? Who, Me? on pcog.org.