Mr. Carl T. Knott, Jr., resides In San Leandro, California. He has completed a year’s training at the Discipleship Intern Training Program.
The Psalmist wrote concerning the blessings of the godly person, “His delights is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he mediate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, its leaf also shall not whither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2, 3). And again, “Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). But today the sad truth is that meditation is one of the lost arts in the typical Christian life. Today’s “now generation” doesn’t seem to have time to meditate. We are accustomed to instant coffee, instant tea, instant photographs, instant printing, instant everything! But meditation takes time. The words “meditation” and “hurry” do no go together. This lost art yields results that are worth the time it takes, for the Scripture associates blessing with the one who makes and takes time to meditate. None of us can afford to pass up that blessing. How, then, are we to learn the lost art of meditation?
What Is Meditation?
It is deliberate reflection on some aspect of the truth of God’s Word. It is not “emptying your mind of thoughts,” but concentrating upon a particular subject to the exclusion of other subjects. A commonly used illustration of meditation is that of a cow chewing her cud. This process consists of bringing up previously eaten food for renewed chewing to make it more digestable. For Christians, meditation is the recalling of some verse or truth from the Bible that was previously read or heard and focusing one’s concentrated mental attention upon it in a deliberate way.
Knowing what meditation is doesn’t mean that a person will then incorporate it into his or her daily lifestyle. Many Christians seem to feel that they are doing just fine without meditating, and there is a lack of desire or a reluctance to begin to do it on any consistent basis. But the Word of God makes it very clear that if a person is godly, that person meditates on God’s Word. As a result of this certain benefits are gained by the godly person. What are they?
First of all, meditation brings about a deeper understanding and, therefore, a greater appreciation of God and His Word. So many Christians never get past the surface conversation level concerning truths in Scripture. Great passages of the Bible and pivotal verses remain, at best, cliches to them. This can be seen in the often quoted phrase, “Well, all things work together for good…” Usually the person’s voice trails off at the end of the sentence as if they are unsure what to say next, which is a sign that their understanding of the verse, and how it might apply, goes no deeper than a simple knowledge of how to quote it. This is not what God intended. 1 Corinthians 2:10 tells us that the Spirit of God searches out the deep things of God, and then reveals them to us. Meditation is the process of ferreting out these deep things and getting a firm grasp on them under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, meditation on a verse or passage will help to fix it in the memory more clearly than before. This will mean a better ability to recall and apply the verse when needed in daily living. Instead of vaguely remembering that, “somewhere in the Bible it talks about that,” the exact message and reference can be recalled, and the meaning as well.
Thirdly, meditation helps to bring about a more accurate and useful application of God’s Word in daily living. The more accurately a passage is recalled and understood the better it can be put to use in a practical way in one’s life. This will mean an increased ability to use the Scriptures effectively in other’s lives as well. The ability to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16) is enhanced by meditation.
Fourthly, meditation is a process of becoming deeply rooted in God’s Word. Psalm 1:3 speaks of the one who meditates as “planted,” or rooted, by rivers of water. The picture is that of the cedars of Lebanon, which are known to have more root structure than surface foliage. In other words, more of the tree is beneath the surface in roots than above the surface in branches and leaves. This means the tree will be sturdy and unmovable in times of storm, and this is the way Christians should be. When the storms of life beat against a believer, through sickness or hardships of various kinds, those times of meditating and “putting down roots” in God and His Word will be a source of strength and comfort.
How To Meditate
Meditation is not done by sitting in some “lotus” position with a blank look on your face. It is a mental process and should be pursued mentally with a very definite plan in mind. It is the process of:
1. Remembering a verse or truth from God’s Word.
2. Re-examining it as a whole.
3. Breaking it down into different parts and key words.
4. Analyzing words and thoughts.
5. Drawing comparisons and contrasts.
6. Identifying other Scriptures that are related.
7. Making a practical application in daily life.
It is best to meditate in a place that is as free from interruptions as possible. Start with a brief prayer like that of Psalm 19:18, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Then take the verse or truth that you are going to meditate upon and begin the above process. It is a good idea to refer to your Bible for the exact verse or thought, and to use a dictionary to define key words and any words that you don’t understand.
After breaking the verse down into parts, examine each part for its meaning and relation to the whole. This is like picking up a cut diamond and turning it slowly in the light, so that each of its surfaces will sparkle separately in the light. Just as each facet of the stone has its own particular beauty, so also does each key word and thought in a verse of Scripture. The beauty of the Scripture is that, since the very words are inspired, even the words like “a,” “and,” and “the” are important. As you examine your verse in meditation try to think of examples of its truths being worked out in the lives of Bible characters. Recall other portions of the Word that use the same key words or discuss the same thought from another perspective, and think how they relate to the verse in your meditation. Ask yourself, “What is a key thought, truth, or guideline from my meditation that I need to apply in my life today?” Think in terms of something to start doing, or some important reminder, warning, or encouragement that you need to remember and heed that day. Your meditation is not complete until you make a specific application in an area of need in your life. This is where you will reap the benefits of meditation.
In conclusion, remember that meditation is not a skill that is instantly developed. You will probably need to use the above guidelines each day for a few weeks in order to learn and be “at home with” the process. But the best way to learn to do a thing is not to keep reading books and articles and listening to tapes and lectures on the subject. The best way is to gather the essential information and then begin to do it. The best and only real way to learn a skill like this is by practice, practice, and more practice. As you commit yourself to restore the lost art of meditation, and begin to practice, God will enrich your life.