If we are to gain any true and lasting benefit from lingering over God’s words, we depend on his help. Without him, our hearts gravitate toward the world, rather than his word. Without him, we cannot see true glory in his word. Without him, our souls will not be satisfied in him. Without him, we will not have strength to do his will. And so, we pray.
What in the world did people do after dark on lonely nights before we had television? And before we had our litany of pixelated devices that so often light our nights, and days, absorbing our priceless commodity of human attention?
To go way, way back, Genesis 24:63 gives us an interesting peek into what Abraham’s promised son did, however often, after dinner: “Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.” See him there alone, pacing in the field, with nothing in his hands, and his eyes wide open to God’s three-dimensional world — with a screen far more powerful and enriching than our modern pixels: his imagination.
Meditation is a lost art today. And one way to reintroduce it to the church is to consider how it relates to something many of us know much better: prayer.
What Is Meditation?
But before we pair it with prayer, let’s rehearse just the basics of what the Bible says about meditation. To meditate in Hebrew means literally to “chew” on some thought (as an animal chews the cud) with the teeth of our minds and hearts. To ponder some reality, to roll some vision around on the tongue of our souls, savoring it as it deserves and seeking to digest it in such a way that produces real change and benefit in us. What I am describing is the opposite of Eastern meditation that aims to empty the mind. Judeo-Christian meditation aims to fill the mind while engaging and nourishing the inner person.
God made plain the necessity of the leaders of his people meditating on his words, as he said to Joshua:
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. (Joshua 1:8)
So also with all of his people, as we find in Israel’s songbook. The Psalms frequently celebrate the kind of life formed and filled by meditating on God’s words day and night (Psalm 1:2; Psalm 63:6; 119:97). Such meditation happens by fixing our eyes (Psalm 119:15) on God and his wondrous works (Psalm 119:27; 145:5), pondering him (Psalm 77:12; 143:5) in our hearts (Psalm 19:14; 49:3; 77:6). Meditation reveals our true loves. We will meditate on what we love (Psalm 119:48, 97), and also that on which we meditate, we will grow to love more.