We usually think of prayer as our talking to God. We petition God for things in times of need. We thank God for gifts received. We praise God at times simply because God is all good, when we recognize the truth, the goodness and the glory of God. You may notice in these three forms of prayer that we are the ones doing all of the talking. But prayer should also include listening to God. We not only need to pray to God, we also need to listen to God speak to us.
One form of prayer that emphasizes listening to God rather than speaking to God is meditation. Meditation may be deﬁned as engaging in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness or insight. Though Christian meditation need not be conﬁned to meditation on the Bible, in this article I will focus speciﬁcally on this form of meditation which is very easy for anyone to begin to do.
No matter what book of the Bible you choose to read, the words are inspired by God and God’s presence is found there. In the Old Testament God speaks as a friend to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to Cain to admonish him after he killed his brother Able, to Noah to save his family and him before the destruction of the world by a great ﬂood, to Moses to guide him as he led the Israelites from slavery back to the promised land, and to prophets and other individuals on various occasion. In the New Testament God speaks to us through the words and actions of Jesus in the four Gospels and through the instructions of His ﬁrst disciples found in the Epistles that follow the Gospels. Time spent reading the Bible is time spent with God. Time spent meditating on the Bible is time spent open to God speaking to you through the sacred scriptures and listening for what He has to say to you.
Meditating on Sacred Scripture is a form of prayer that has been practiced by Christians in monastic religious orders since at least the forth century AD. The Bible itself encourages meditating on God’s word. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The psalmist says “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). We read in the Bible that during Jesus’ infancy and childhood, events happened which Mary could not understand at the time and that she held these events in her heart so that she could meditate on them and grow in understanding them. Meditating on the Bible is a way of hearing God’s word more personally and making it one’s own. To meditate fruitfully on the Bible, one need only follow a few simple steps.
First you should choose a place with as few distractions as possible to read the Bible, and sit down there with the desire to simply spend some time with God. Take a moment to relax and give total attention to the Bible you are about to read.
Next, ﬁnd a passage or selection in the Bible and read it deliberately and attentively. For beginning meditation on the Bible as Christians I would suggest selecting something from one of the four Gospels. Try to absorb every word that you read as if it is directed to you.
Next, ponder the text, think about it, and consider what is intended by it. Next, pray about what you have read. Ask God to reveal deeper meaning of the reading for you so that you can apply the reading to your own life.
Finally, simply remain at rest in the presence of God and experience God in the silent, receptive space you have created in your heart. Every experience of God in meditation will draw you a little closer to God.
Scripture meditation is a form of prayer that can also incorporate the imagination. For example, when reading about events such as Jesus approaching Peter, or James and John mending their nets on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, you can imagine being there, standing near the boat when Jesus says to them, “Come follow me and I will make you ﬁshers of men.” You can imagine watching them leave behind everything familiar to them to follow Jesus. Then you can imagine Jesus approaching you, pausing for a moment and saying to you, “Come follow me.” You can feel Jesus’ genuine invitation and desire for you to come with Him as you look within for your response.
Meditating on Scripture helps us experience the presence of God through the inspired words of the Sacred Scripture writers. We are no longer just reading historical words written to others but experiencing them as words God is speaking to us.
Meditating on Scripture is quiet time spent in the presence of God where we are able to hear God speak to us in our hearts. This practice allows us to personally apply the Bible to our lives.
Another example of applying a Bible meditation to ourselves is the reading about two of John the Baptist’s disciples hearing him point out Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. These men then set out to follow Jesus so noticeably that Jesus turned to them and asked, “What are you searching for?” In meditation, Jesus’ question suddenly becomes a question asked to you. What are you searching for in your life? The two disciples responded, “Where do you stay?” and Jesus said, “Come and see.” They went to see and spent the next three years of their lives with Jesus and became Apostles commissioned by Him to go out to all the world with the good news of Him. Are you ready to see where Jesus lives and possibly live there with Him for some time?
Some have mistakenly associated meditation with the practice of the New Age movement and the Transcendental Meditation developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the Hindu religion that is steeped in Hindu philosophy. But Scripture Meditation has no relation to the New Age movement. Scripture meditation is reflecting on God’s Word in the Bible. What we think about is very important. Meditation on the Bible is focused thinking about selected Scripture passages through which one begins to desire to become more like Jesus. If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will be amazed at the beneﬁts He has promised to those who take the time to reﬂect on His Word.
Meditation redirects our focus from ourselves and the world to God, God’s Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works. By prayerfully pondering the words of Scripture, we allow the Holy Spirit to enhance our awareness of the presence and activity of God within us. An hour spent with God is worth more than years spent at other activities. To love God is to desire to be in God’s presence. Meditation on the Bible is one way to do that.