By: Doreen Abraham
You have most likely heard or used the word meditation before. Maybe you have even practiced it. Likely thoughts of sitting cross-legged, closing your eyes, and repeating a phrase over and over come to mind *cue peaceful flute music with waterfall sounds*. Meditation is often described (or practiced) as emptying one’s mind of any distracting thoughts and focusing on one thing, whether that be your breathing, a positive thought, or a specific phrase to bring clarity and focus.
For most of us, meditation has not been used, heard of, or practiced in the context of our Christian faith. It’s rarely something talked about among believers. But, it turns out meditation (or reflection) has been practiced by believers for centuries! However, Biblical meditation looks vastly different from the picture described above and serves a much greater purpose.
Let’s do a bit of a word study:
The Hebrew verb for meditate, hagah, means to ponder, imagine, speak to oneself, or study.
The Hebrew noun for meditation, siyach or siychah, means a reflection, contemplation, or prayer.
So far this looks familiar. The original Hebrew words seem consistent with what we know about meditation already. So, what sets biblical meditation apart then?
The answer can be found in Joshua 1:8 in the midst of the LORD’s charge to Joshua before he begins leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land:
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
- We are to study, or meditate on, the Word. Instead of meditating to clear our minds, we should be meditating to fill our minds with the words of the Bible – the Word of God.
- Meditating on God’s word is not something we do for a few minutes every day before our day starts or the night ends. We are to meditate day and night, round the clock, 24/7. Christian meditation is the act of renewing our minds daily to keep from conforming to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). We must allow the words of the Bible, the truth of the Gospels, and the character of God, to be at the forefront of our minds all day, every day.
- Obedience to God’s call on our life is what follows when we spend time meditating on his Word. This is what sets biblical meditation apart – it takes us from just being filled with knowledge of His word to living in the truth of His word. Biblical meditation takes a verse from going in one ear and out the other, to being part of the fabric of our minds; deeply planted and rooted in the depths of our hearts. And the Bible is clear that what is in our hearts determines what we do with our lives (Proverbs 4:23).
- Notice that the LORD gives Joshua this instruction in the midst of his commision into a role of leadership. Every single one of you is a leader. Some of you may be thinking, “Say what?! You’ve got the wrong girl.” Yes, you! You are a leader. At school, at home, at work, with your friends – you have the opportunity to shift culture and change the atmosphere. But to be effective leaders who prosper and succeed (read: show people Jesus and grow His Kingdom), we must spend time studying, pondering, imagining, and reflecting on the Word.
Some practical ways to practice meditating on the Word:
1) Ask questions about the text you are reading in the Bible.
2) Challenge yourself to memorize scripture. Putting scripture up on your walls, desk, phone background etc. are simple ways to help you practice throughout the day
3) Be intentional about what you listen to & watch. Have you ever had a song get stuck in your head? Or day dreamed about that tv show you are (binge) watching? How much more do you think about social media than the truth of the Bible? Being intentional about the content we put into our minds will help our minds default to life-giving content in those moments.
Extra Reading: Often throughout the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible, which we have used for this study, the word “meditate” or “meditation” has been translated to a variation of the phrase, “think about” or “thinking of”. Spend some time looking at the following verses in both the NLT and English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible to see what we mean: Psalm 49:3, Psalm 104:34, Psalm 119:97-99, Luke 21:14