In the circles in which I run, many folks seem nervous about meditation, mostly because they equate meditation with anti- or sub-Christian practices. This is understandable. A quick walk through the “Self Help” or “Religion” section at a Barnes and Noble will demonstrate that meditation is all the rage, regardless of one’s religious convictions. Some forms of meditation are, at best, unhelpful, and at worst, likely diabolical. But we must not thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As earlier generations of evangelicals understood, there definitely is a place for meditation as a spiritual discipline. Specifically, evangelicals should be willing to make meditation on the Scriptures a regular part of their personal devotional habits.
In his book An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, Andy Davis notes the importance of Scripture meditation (p. 246):
Few things are as fruitful and productive as a consistent pattern of meditation on Scripture, for by filling our minds with verses, we automatically push out impurity. This kind of meditation is simply deep, repetitive thinking on passages of Scripture, mulling them over in our minds to draw out the full truth, connecting them to other truths, applying them deeply to our own lives. Psalm 1 speaks of the blessedness of the man who constantly meditates on the word of God, likening him to a tree planted by streams of water, constantly fruitful (Psalm 1:2–3).
In his book The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality, Michael Haykin agrees on the importance of Scripture meditation. Nevertheless, many Christians have no idea how to go about adding meditation to their normal devotional routine. Haykin offers nine helpful suggestions about biblical meditation (pp. 66-67), which I have summarized below:
- Find a place of quiet and solitude
- Approach meditation from a submissive, God-centered frame of mind
- Have a plan for consistently reading the Scriptures
- Cultivate the discipline of Scripture memorization
- Read aloud the Scriptures you are meditating upon multiple times
- Set aside the necessary time to read and meditate on the Scriptures
- Consider using a hymnal as an aid in Scripture meditation
- Ask questions of the biblical text to stimulate your meditation
- Move from meditation on the Scriptures to prayer arising from the Scriptures
I appreciate this list very much. In my own experience, I have found that reading the Scriptures aloud and praying through the Scriptures I’ve been reading to be very meaningful ways to meditate on the text and make sure I’m not just reading for the sake of acquiring more biblical knowledge. (The latter is especially tempting for those of us with some theological education.)
If you are interested in learning for a past evangelical who made meditation a central spiritual discipline in his own walk with Christ, check out Kyle Strobel’s stellar book Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013). If you want to read some practical advice on meditating on Scripture, check out this nifty handout by Don Whitney.