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The Necessity of Biblical Meditation in The Modern World
Meditation: Entering an altered state of consciousness by use of a mantra, yoga, deep relaxation techniques, controlled breathing or visualization.
When I googled the word meditation I was overwhelmed (although not particularly surprised) by the sheer number of sites that linked to Eastern metaphysical philosophies, the New Age and/or Eastern religions, promote Buddhist/Hindu/New Age breathing meditation, the aim of which is to empty ones mind by focusing on the sensation of breathing and gently bringing ones mind back from all distracting thoughts that can and will arise.
In other words, the practitioner is to empty their mind and to focus on a sensation to the exclusion of all else including critical thinking. This is different from Biblical Meditation where one is encouraged to meditate on God, His attributes or His word, employing the whole mind (Joshua 1:8; Luke 10:27).
However, what I don't understand is synonyms for the word meditate are contemplate, think, muse, ponder, consider, reflect, ruminate, deliberate, etc. So how in the world can 'meditation' be applied to emptying one's mind of all thought and imagination?
While the word obviously means different things to different people, it is out job as believers to find out what the Scriptures mean when they use the word.
Meditation is mentioned numerous times in the Scriptures, most often in the Psalms. However, when the Bible speaks about meditation, it means exactly what the synonyms do, i.e. contemplate, think, muse, ponder, consider, reflect, ruminate, deliberate, etc.
But what are we supposed to mull over?
In the Bible, meditation is almost always related to the study of God's Word. The person is encouraged to employ their whole mind and meditate on God. The psalmists for example contemplated very specific topics - God's word, His precepts and statutes. For example,
I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. (Psalms 119:15 NASB)
I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders. (Psalms 119:26-27 NASB)
I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes. (Psalms 119:47-48 NASB)
And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes. (Psalms 119:48 NASB)
My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. (Psalms 119:148 NASB)
and on several occasions - His works,
I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds. (Psalms 77:12 NASB)
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. (Psalms 143:5 NASB)
One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. (Psalms 145:4-5 NASB)
All of which means that when the Bible talks of meditation, it has nothing to do with clearing your minds of all thoughts, but prayerfully focusing your conscious, undivided attention on something specific. In fact, when the Father commanded Joshua to meditate on the book of the law, He told Joshua why - so that he would be careful to obey the law and thus make his way successful.
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8 NASB)
The theme is continued in the New Testament, when Paul wrote the following to Timothy
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate (Gr. meletao) upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:12-16 KJV)
Note: The Greek word meletao means to ponder, to think about - to revolve in the mind.
The Necessity of Biblical Meditation in The Modern World
The Old Testament authors were from another place and another culture - a simpler time when people were not so caught up in the hurry and scurry of life as we know it. They valued wisdom and saw the benefits of quiet contemplation. Not so in the west, where the hectic pace and demands of modern life result in a never ending round of 'doing'. That we are far more accustomed to busyness and value action over stillness makes it extremely difficult to pause for a few moments and just ponder.
But we need to.
We need to take the time to stop and meditate, think, muse, ponder, reflect and contemplate God's Word and His promises.
Far from emptying one's mind, true Christian meditation is focused thinking that takes serious effort. It is an active thought process whereby we read the word, repeat it to ourselves, reflect on it, analyze it, and deeply contemplate what it means for us personally and how we need to apply it to our lives.
This takes the Word to a much deeper level than simply glossing over a passage or two and fondly imagining we have done our spiritual duty for the day..
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. (Psalms 1:1-3 NASB)
Like, Joshua, we need to meditate on His word day and night. Like Joshua we need to do so so that we will be careful to obey what it says and thus make our way successful.
CONTINUE ON TO - Chapter VI - Experiencing God
Because confessing our sins, reading our Bibles, praying, attending church services and/or Bible studies can all be done without a smidgeon of heartfelt emotion, they can leave us as dry and barren - feeling as far from God as before. Which is why I believe we need to change our mind set, and how we view and tackle the problem of that some believers face, ie. their relationship with the Father seems distressingly and frustratingly distant and barren. We need to realize that some aspects of faith should be objective and others are subjective, and we really need to stop confusing the two.