Is it Biblical to Meditate?

Should Christians meditate? Is it biblical? Isn’t meditation and silent reflection wrapped up with Eastern spiritualities or the New Age movement?

Should Christians meditate? Is it biblical? Isn’t meditation and silent reflection wrapped up with Eastern spiritualities or the New Age movement?

You might solely associate meditation with the New Age movement or Eastern spirituality practices but, while individuals from any worldview may practice “meditation” in some form, the Christian spiritual discipline of meditating on scripture is irreconcilable to what other worldviews or spiritualities teach and practice. Different worldviews may use the same terminology, but the contextual meaning behind any specific word may refer to starkly opposing practices.

Donald Whitney laments, “One sad feature of our modern culture is that meditation has become identified more with non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity… Because meditation is so prominent in many spiritually counterfeit groups and movements, some Christians are uncomfortable with the whole subject and suspicious of those who engage in it. But we must remember that meditation is both commanded by God and modeled by the Godly in Scripture. Just because a cult uses the cross as a symbol doesn’t mean the Church should cease to use it. In the same way, we shouldn’t discard or be afraid of scriptural meditations simply because the world has adapted it for its own purposes.”[i]

What the Spiritual Discipline of Christian Meditation is Not

Christian meditation is NOT:

  • Christian meditation is not New Age meditation or other form of spirituality where one empties the mind of all thoughts, thinks about whatever comes to mind, or enters into a trance-like state with chanting.
  • Christian meditation is not secular visualization techniques “to create your own reality” or what some refer to as the “law of attraction.”
  • Christian meditation is not trying to attain to a higher spiritual level or detaching from the world.
  • Christian meditation is not merging with nature or any other god or becoming one with “god.” This is pantheistic or monadic thinking, which sees everything as one or universal, uniting everything and making everything “god.”
  • Christian meditation is not “channeling” with another object or created being.
  • Christian meditation is not creating one’s own meaning for biblical words or passages outside of the biblical context.
  • Christian meditation is not a means to manipulate God into doing one’s bidding.

What the Spiritual Discipline of Christian Meditation Is

Christian meditation is reflecting on God’s attributes and his interactions with the world as described in the Christian Bible. One scholar defines biblical meditation as the “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”[ii]

Christian Biblical meditation IS:

  • Christian meditation is acknowledging God’s presence. The Almighty Creator fills heaven and earth, and yet He exists independently from his creation, including humankind. [iii] God exists outside space and time, and yet in his love He draws near to fellowship with those He created and indwells his people through his Holy Spirit.
  • Christian meditation is choosing to focus our mind on the words of scripture.
  • Christian meditation is contemplating, perhaps memorizing, one verse or a small passage from scripture, thinking deeply on each word while keeping context in mind.
  • Christian meditation is intending to be obedient and faithful to the Heavenly Father by applying his truth within one’s daily life of work, play, worship, and relationships with family, friends, colleagues, or strangers we pass along the way.
  • Christian meditation involves praying God’s thoughts from scripture back to Him, asking for wisdom and grace to live out his precepts within our own stories.

The Christian Scriptures Teach the Spiritual Discipline of Meditation

The Christian Bible refers to meditating on God’s words and precepts in many passages. Joshua encourages the Israelites to “meditate on [God’s Word] day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8). For millennia God’s people have prayed, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). In the psalmist’s conversation with the Lord, he wrote, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (Psalm 119:15).

One cherished passage that teaches meditation on the Lord’s sacred words is Psalm chapter one.

Psalm 1:1-3 teaches us,

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers. (NIV)

The Creator of life gave the words of scripture to humankind as a guide to true fulfillment. One scholar comments on this passage, “Life is lived in futility if its fundamental purpose is never discovered. It is the meaning of human existence which is enshrined in the Torah, and it is the discovery of that meaning which flows from meditation upon Truth, giving understanding of meaning.[iv]

Suggestions to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Meditation

  • Use a favorite Bible translation
  • Choose a specific verse or passage, perhaps from your Bible reading for that day.
  • Leave “hurry” behind and read slowly. Ponder each word, keeping the context in mind.
  • Write it in your journal; add any conclusions or questions from your reflection
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom to apply this verse in your life.
  • Pray through the text. [See this article on the spiritual discipline of praying scripture for additional insight]
  • When your mind wanders (and it will), refocus.
  • Consider memorizing a verse or portion of the passage.
  • Write the passage on an index card, a sticky note, or make a note in your phone. Put it somewhere you will see it throughout the day: the visor of your car, your electronic device or monitor, or a mirror where you get dressed in the morning.
  • Possible times to meditate include: during quiet time with the Heavenly Father, while doing chores, during commutes, when taking a walk in nature or a park, while enjoying coffee at a favorite hangout, while digging in the garden or engaging in another favorite hobby, or while falling to sleep at night.
  • Suggested scriptures on which to meditate: Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 63:6-8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Micah 6:8; Philippians 4:4-7.

Practicing the Spiritual Discipline of Meditating on Scripture Deepens a Christian's Relationship with God

When the beloved 20th century German author and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was asked why he meditated on scripture, he responded, “Because I am a Christian.”[v] God commands Christians to practice the spiritual discipline of meditation, not in the twisted fashion of non-Christian spiritualties, but in beautiful communion with his presence through his holy Word.

This spiritual discipline is an act of worship as one thinks God’s thoughts after Him. It is an avenue for the Creator to pour his grace into the soul and engrave wisdom on the heart. As Christians respond in obedience, they sense renewed joy and strength for the journey to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

[i] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, page 47.

[ii] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, page 48.

[iii] See Jeremiah 23:23-24; Genesis chapters 1 and 2.

[iv] Peter Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50, page 60-62.

[v] Dietrich Bonhoeffer Meditating on the Word, page 22.

How to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Silence

When was the last time you experienced a few minutes of complete quiet? Is it even possible in our noise-saturated society?

When was the last time you experienced a few minutes of complete quiet? Is it even possible in our noise-saturated society?

Ringtones abruptly waken us in the morning. The voice of a beloved author reads her latest bestseller as we drive. The chitchat of coworkers interrupts our concentration on a project due yesterday. A small child questions for the umpteenth time, “Why?” We exercise while streaming informative podcasts. Our phones ding notifications incessantly.

Silence is awkward. Dead air on the radio makes us anxious. When discussion lulls during a meeting, we become uneasy. Quick, somebody say something! We turn on the TV to hear the voice of another human being to fend off the loneliness. We numb our relationship pain by streaming a favorite movie on demand.

Practicing the spiritual discipline of silence helps to restore the peace and clarity that eludes the soul of a weary Christian pilgrim.

What Is the Spiritual Discipline of Silence?

One author defines the spiritual discipline of silence as, “A regenerative practice of attending and listening to God in quiet, without interruption and noise. Silence provides freedom from speaking as well as from listening to words or music.”[i]

In this practice, Christians intentionally place themselves in a quiet place to focus on God and His presence. They refrain from speaking, move away from the voices of other people, and turn off technology and entertainment.

Susan Muto observes, “In a noise-polluted world, it is even difficult to hear ourselves think let alone try to be still and know God. Yet it seems essential for our spiritual life to seek some silence, no matter how busy we may be. Silence is not to be shunned as empty space, but to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God.”[ii]

The Christian Scriptures Teach the Spiritual Discipline of Silence

In the opening of the book he authored, the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was confused and demanded answers from God. Why were the wicked prospering in the nation? From his Holy Temple, God then answered and shared his own viewpoint. He assured Habakkuk that He certainly was not blind to the violence and evil on the earth. God was neither absent nor idle. God’s vision and plan for his people would certainly be fulfilled, but in a radically different way than the prophet had expected.

God’s words deeply affected Habakkuk.

But the LORD is in his holy temple;

let all the earth be silent before him.[iii]

In this passage, the term silent refers to a respectful silence filled with awe, a holy hush, a time without speaking. For Christians to practice this command, they must strive to create quietness in the clamor of noise that infiltrates their everyday lives.

Out of the silence, the prophet responded with a new perspective in a beautiful prayer of trust in God. With catastrophic events on the horizon, Habakkuk praised God for his splendor, salvation, and strength.

Suggestions to Practice the Discipline of Silence

1. Find an intentional place

Think of a quiet, safe place where you can escape from the racket and chaos of your life. A sacred space set apart to be with God where other voices cannot reach in, technology cannot distract, and intrusive sounds cannot interrupt.

  • A secluded spot in your home
  • Alone in your office or workspace
  • A quiet corner of a library
  • An isolated seat in a museum
  • A bench in a city park
  • A hiking trail in the woods
  • A solitary walk through your neighborhood or garden
  • A path by a lake
  • Sitting or walking on a beach

2. Set an intentional time

Make a sacred appointment. Put it on the calendar. Other responsibilities will easily push this appointment aside. Resist the call to attend to “higher priority” or “urgent” tasks.

  • Over a coffee break or lunch hour
  • While preschoolers are napping or after their bedtime
  • Before sunrise
  • Before the rest of your family begins their day
  • Arriving to your workspace before anyone else
  • In the evening after work
  • Early on a weekend morning

3. Intentionally listen

At first, we may feel lonely, awkward, fearful, or out of control. If this practice is new to you, start small. Ten minutes is a good place to start. Experiment with what works for your everyday reality.

  • Turn off your phone, iPad, laptop, and other technology.
  • Set a timer to keep from watching the clock.
  • You may be tempted to fill the noiselessness with words. Resist.
  • You may be tempted to do something in your isolation. Just be still or walk quietly.
  • Your thoughts will scream, “This is a complete waste of time!” It’s not.
  • Listen to the quiet.
  • Still your soul in the silence.
  • Turn your thoughts to God.

Calhoun encourages, “And as the silence settles in and nothing seems to be happening, we often struggle with the feeling that we are wasting time… As we remain in the silence, the inner noise and chaos will begin to settle… Silence is a time to rest in God. Lean into God, trusting that being with him in silence will loosen your rootedness in the world and plant you by streams of living water.”[iv]

Practicing the Spiritual Discipline of Silence Deepens a Christian's Relationship with God

When Christians create silence, they place themselves in a consecrated space to begin to hear the gentle Whisper of God. They become aware of their own sacred personhood in the Creator’s eyes, unattached to a career, another person, or perhaps most importantly, their electronic devices.

As the quiet and calm seeps into our harried soul, the chaos in our life is stilled for a few moments. We gain clarity and perspective. As we practice the spiritual discipline of silence, we come to echo the prayer of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier,

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of Thy peace.

[i] Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, page 107.

[ii] Muto, Susan. In Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg, page 107.

[iii] See Habakkuk 2:20.

[iv] Calhoun, page 109.

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