“Prayer, reading, temptation, and meditation makes a minister.” Martin Luther
To abide in God’s word, we must abide wide and deep at the same time. Reading the Bible daily (e.g. following a daily reading plan) is how you abide wide. Meditation which is rumination is how you abide deep.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Two Ways to Picture Meditation.
Two Ways to Define Meditation.
Why Meditate On God’s Word?
How do we to Choose Passages to Meditate on?
What Should We Meditate On?
How to Meditate
Two ways to Picture Meditation.
1) What is Meditation? : Meditation as “chewing the cud.”
We grew up raising goats. Our goals where kept in a fence and taken out to eat during the day. When the goats were taken out so they could eat, they would eat grass and send it to their first stomach. Later when the goats are taken back to the fence, they would lie down, regurgitate the grass and chew on it thoroughly before swallowing it again. This process allows for proper digestion and breakdown of the tough cellulose that is found grass. A christian who meditates does with the Word of God what the ruminant does with grass. He eats the word of God (by reading and memorizing a passage). Like the goat, he leaves the field of grass (which is the Word of God, the Bible) and then goes and lies in a comfortable position. Then while the goat brings up the grass back into his mouth, the Christian brings the Word of God he had eaten back to his memory and then chews it again in the presence of God, with the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Through this process, the goat digests the tough cellulose in grass while the christian digests the inexhaustible Word of God of God. The goat gets nutrients out of the process to feed his body. The Christian gets a revelation from the Word he is meditating to nourish and sustain his spirit!
2) What is Meditation? : Meditation as “brooding.”
We also had the privilege of raising chickens. The picture of a mother hen brooding is another good way to picture meditation. After laying her eggs, the hen lies on them for a long period of time. It spends most of the day and all of the nights sitting on the eggs, brooding over them to keep them warm until the eggs hatch to produce chicks. There are two lessons we can gain from this. The first is that you can compare the word of God to the egg. After all the Bible speaks as the word of God being a seed. You can plant the seed of the Word of God in someone’s heart. Some plant and some water it. Like the seed is to the plant, the egg is to the chicks. Out of it will come new chicks. The egg has potential in it just like the Word of God that you take in has only potential until it becomes a revelation to you. The Word of God that changes you is the one that you have sat on, brooded upon, and digested until it makes an impact on you, it becomes a revelation to you. You can memorize the entire Bible and not be transformed by it. To put it another way, the egg or seed of the word of God that you take in must be brooded upon until it hatches and produce beautiful chicks that are in your image, that are made just in your likeness, in the likeness of your spirit. You must meditate on the word of God until it becomes yours, it becomes as precious to you as your baby. That word is the one that transforms you. The second lesson that you can get from brooding is that it reminds us of the brooding that we all do when we worry about the issues of life often leading to stress and anxiety. As such, we all know how to brood, we have all brooded on something. We just have to practice directed purposeful brooding on the word of God that will yield transformation in our lives.
Two ways to define Meditation.
1) What is Meditation? : Meditation as “focused thinking”
Meditation is “directed thinking”, it is “focused thinking”, or “focused brooding” on God and his Word. In his book, Knowing God, J.I Packer gives a stellar definition of meditation that has been quoted by thousands of people. Here it is.
“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; indeed often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us—‘comfort’ us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word—as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
When I read this definition as I was learning to MEDITATE several years ago, I came up with an acrostic to help me remember the key parts of the definition so that I can use them when I meditate. I actually wrote the acrostic on the wall of the place I had my daily devotions. The acrostic is MEDITATE. In the acrostic, the same letter is used for the same word. The two Es stand for the same thing, and the two Ts stand for the same words. Also notice that there is a little bit of redundancy built into the mnemonic, but the redundancy is actually a great thing.
From the definition, I noted the words in bold face.
M: Memorize and bring to Memory, Move from word to word in the passage –that is calling to mind.
E: Eat the word, Explain it to self, Express it to self– that is talking to oneself
D: Dwell on it, for a Duration of time, Dissect the passage—that is dwelling on it
I: Internalize it and personalize it to make it mine– I added this also good method of meditation.
T: Think over it, Teach it to self, talk to oneself—that’s for thinking over.
A: Apply to self, Argue with self.
T: Think over it, Teach it to self, talk to oneself—that’s for thinking over
E: Eat the word, Explain it to self, Express it to self– that is talking to oneself
By creating this mnemonic, I was able to remove the parts of Packer’s definition that I think I need to remember when I am sitting in my meditation room. I want to go “M” for Memorize and bring to Memory. Then I do that on a passage after I have read it at least 7 times. It’s a short passage of no more than 2 lines or 20 words that is easy to memorize. Then I go “E”, Explain it to self, Express it. And I literally call my name and say my name and say this is what this scripture means and explain it to me. Then I proceed to Dwell on it for a Duration of time, Dissecting the passage word by word in my head. If I lose my focus, I come back again and simply continue…
This acrostic was tremendously helpful to me as I was beginning my meditation. I realized that I could spend 20 minutes or more going over the mnemonic. Most people when they start meditating or praying, the run out of material to pray or meditate very quickly. As they grow in the process, they pray longer or meditate longer. This mnemonic cures that completely and you can start meditating deep immediately!
2) What is Meditation? : Meditation as “thinking and muttering”.
Meditation means to “moan, growl, utter, speak”
There is some small disagreement among Bible experts over the fine details of the definition of meditation as used in the Old Testament. Two words are used in the old Testament to for meditation. The first is hagah which literally means “to utter in a low sound” So some experts believe that in the Old Testament meditation on scripture was done by reciting them in a low murmur. The second word used is siach. It has the basic meaning of “to be occupied with” or “concerned about”. Putting the two meanings together, some experts argue that meditation refers to the repetitive going over of something (scripture in this case) in your mind because it is the chief concern of life. As one goes over in the mind he mutters or speaks out in a low voice. Let’s take a look at how Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines meditation as used in the old testament.
To Meditate (Hagar) : “‘to meditate, moan, growl, utter, speak.’ This word is common to both ancient and modern Hebrew. Found only 25 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, it seems to be an onomatopoetic term, reflecting the sighing and low sounds one may make while musing, at least as the ancients practiced it. This meaning is seen in its first occurrence in the text: ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night…’ (Josh. 1:8) Perhaps the most famous reference ‘to meditating’ on the law day and night is Ps. 1:2
Hagar also expresses the ‘growl’ of lions (Isa. 31:4) and the ‘mourning’ of doves (Isa. 38:14). When the word is used in the sense of ‘to mourn,’ it apparently emphasizes the sorrowful sounds of mourning, as seen in this parallelism: ‘Therefore will I howl for Moab, and mourn for the men of Kirheres’ (Jer. 48:31). The idea that mental exercise, planning, often is accompanied by low talking seems to be reflected by Prov. 24:1-2: ‘Be not thou envious against evil men,… for their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief'”
[Onomatopoetic is the adjective of onomatopoeia which is defined as “the formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.”]
When you see videos of orthodox Jews today who are meditating and praying at the wailing wall, they are muttering and rocking back and forth as they recite scriptures, think about them and mutter them.
This second definition is not very different from J.I. Packer’s definition at all. However, many shorter definitions that are frequently given for meditation basically say it is focused thinking, going over something in the mind. That is correct for the most part. But speaking out God’s word, declaring it as you meditate on it does something very powerful. First, Jesus spoke the Word to Satan and that’s how he overcame him. He didn’t think the Word. Satan is a spirit. When Satan went to the wilderness to tempt Jesus, he didn’t go in the flesh. Jesus could have thought about the scriptures in his mind but he spoke it. The second and very important reason is that many thought experts will agree that our thoughts and our speech (what we say) is one and the same thing. There are two sides of the same coin. But they are more than than. Our invisible thoughts are expressed through our speech but our speech also completes and shapes our thoughts. There is a feedback. It has been said that thoughts unravel when they pass through the lips or through the finger tips. When you speak what you are thinking, it actually enhances, complements and completes your thinking. That is why we teach that you lean better by combining hearing, thinking, writing, speaking, and doing what is learned. Many people who practice daily declarations of God’s word testify to tremendous blessing from the practice. That has also been our experience and we have a list of verses we use for declarations.
J.I Packer’s definition is very complete and covers both the thinking and the talking to oneself. My acrostic from his definition also incorporates speaking God’s word audible as we meditate on the passage.
Why meditate on God’s word?
For the same reasons we should study his word.
How do we choose passages to meditate on?
What should we Meditate on?
Meditate on Christ.
Meditate on the attributes of God.
Meditate on the Promises of God.
Meditate on the Commands of God.
Meditate on the Works of God.
Meditate on the Holy Spirit.
Meditate on God’s unchanging nature.
Meditate on the majesty of God.
Meditate on the wisdom of God.
Meditate on Love of God.
Meditate on faith
Meditate on the Grace of God.
Meditate on the Goodness of God.
Mediate on the wrath of God.
Meditate on the adequacy of God.