How to Meditate
Choose a brief passage, Pray, Read, Memorize and Meditate, Pray, Journal, Apply
Step 1. Choose a brief passage. A passage that is just about two verses or less than 20 words is a good length to meditate on.
Step 2. Pray: Before praying, some people spend 45 seconds to one minute in silence before God, just being still in His presence. We have found that to be helpful. As you pray, ask God for guidance and for him to open your eyes and teach you what he wills from the scripture and give you strength and wisdom to apply it to change your life. Many times I will sign a song of praise or play a CD to a song and that praises God before I move on to reading. We do this when I feel like it and we’ve seen great benefit with it. Many others who use this variation have reported similar benefit.
Step 3. Read: Select a brief passage of scripture, read it slowly and read it repeatedly. I would read it at least 7 times.
Step 4. Memorize and Meditate: Memorize the short passage after you finish reading it at least 7 times. Meditate on the short passage using visualization, dissection, personalization, and paraphrasing methods of meditation. Some of the other books on daily devotions that I have read place memorization after devotion. I prefer to memorize the short passage, usually less than 20 words and then meditate on it from my memory. I don’t meditate by looking at the text. After reading the text over and over slowly at least seven times, memorizing it is often very easy since the text is very short.
Things that I do after I meditate using any method. I use the acrostic, PRECEPTS to probe the text to see how I might apply it to myself right as I am meditating it.
PRECEPTS (Prayer to pray, Reason to Praise, Error to avoid, Command to obey, Example to follow, Promise to claim, Truth to believe, Sin to confess). Some people combine a couple of the meditation types above into one and use the mnemonic MVP to remind them for Memorize, Visualize, Personalize (or Paraphrase). The can use that for a season of time to mediate on God’s word. Note that we don’t encourage people to do all of these methods in one sitting. I frequently just use one of them or sometimes two of them but not more in one sitting.
Step 4. Prayer: As with George Muller, it’s been our experience that meditation often leads into hearty prayer. A good mnemonic to use to guide your thoughts as you pray is:
ACTS (Adore, Confess, Thanksgiving, Supplicate): You start your prayer by adoring and worshiping God. With adoration, you just worship God for who he is. Then you can move to confessing sins that come to mind. Then praise God for what he has done by giving him thanks. Then you can move to supplication where you ask God for what you need. Note this is only a mnemonic to guide you. You don’t even have to follow the order or use it at all. It just helps when you don’t know what to say in prayer. But usually, if you have been meditating, you may be moved to pray in response to what you have been meditating on that you don’t end up following the mnemonic. That is fine too.
Step 5: Journal : It has been our experience and the experience of many others that God speaks to us during worship and prayer. He may make the passage so much clearer in a light that we didn’t even get when we were meditating on it. Our thought process may be taken into a very new area where God may be speaking to us. During journaling, you listen to those thoughts and desires and write them down in your notebook without censoring them. You just let it flow through you. Michael Hyatt, the Chairman of Thomas Nelson and a New York Times best selling author wrote a blog post about journaling in which he discussed 7 benefits that journaling has afforded him. Journaling gives us the opportunity to record significant lessons, process previous events, clarify our thoughts (thoughts unravel when they pass through the lips or the finger tips), understand the context better, notice our feelings, connect with our hearts,and ask and wrestle with important questions. We first began journaling several years ago when we learned journaling from a chapter in a book by leadership expert and best selling author John Maxwell who provided similar benefits as Michael Hyatt did in his post. Our experience has been on par with that of Michael. We find ourselves going back and reading journals we had made months or years ago and see how God was speaking to us through the things we thought and wrote down even though we may not have been so sure when we wrote them.
Step 6: Apply.
End every meditation method or Bible study method by writing out an application. Application is the most important part of either meditation or Bible study. The scripture that will change you is the one that you have applied to yourself and have become a doer of. The goal of meditation or Bible study is so that we become doers of the word, not only hearers of the word.
It’s very important to write your application down in a journal that you can refer to in the future. God speaks to us during meditation and it is amazing to come back and see how God had been teaching us in the past. In addition to keeping record of what God reveals to you, writing things down enhances memory and recall. We learn by seeing, hearing, writing, doing etc.
Write your application as goals. There is a common acrostic for goal setting that comes in handy at this point. You need to write SMART goals. They need to be
Specific: Your goal must be specific so that you can carry it out. To set specific goals, use 5 Ws and 1 H.
Measurable: You need to establish concrete criteria that will help you determine if you are meeting your goals. This will allow you to audit yourself, stay on track and increase your chances of achieving your goals. To set measurable goals, you may ask questions like: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?
Attainable: Do not bite more than you can chew. Setting attainable goals is important for success.
Relevant: Your application goal needs to be personal to you.
Time-Bound: Set a time by which you want to have accomplished your goal. That helps to motivate you and also helps you know how you are doing with your application. You need to give enough time for the application to work and realize that merely writing the application doesn’t guarantee that it will work. It’s been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit but it can take much longer than that to break a bad habit. So allow enough time for change to occur when necessary.