In Hebrew, the word for meditation literally means to mumble to oneself; speaking to oneself audibly or in one’s heart. But it is not a mindless activity or the repetition of a mantra. Biblically, to meditate means to ponder, consider, chew on, and mull over the word of God. Biblical meditation is full of content, not void of it; it is thoughtful, not thoughtless.
While many Christians know that spending time in Scripture must become a priority—a valuable discipline—in our lives, we will keep ourselves from much blessing if we don’t also make the discipline of meditation an essential part of our worship.
The moment I mention the word meditation, however, it is possible that you are immediately drawn to images of people sitting in the Lotus Position: eyes closed, legs crossed, with palms up on one’s knees, with the thumb and middle finger on each hand slightly touching. That’s because our culture is fascinated with Eastern meditation and, most recently, something called “Mindfulness” (although mindfulness experts do not all insist on one specific kind of posture, even though they would say posture is important).
What Biblical Meditation Is Not
This kind of meditation is generally characterized by the use of repeated mantras, the constant act of releasing one’s “bad” or “harmful” thoughts or the clearing of one’s mind of any “thinking” whatsoever. Mindfulness is not meditation per se but is usually achieved through a kind of meditation that focuses on controlled breathing and fixing all of one’s concentration on the “now” of one’s experience. “Mindfulness,” we are told, “is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
It is not an exaggeration that biblical meditation is almost completely antithetical to the brand of meditation described above. First, we know that biblical meditation doesn’t include the use of repeated mantras, for Christ himself tells us to not multiply thoughtless words in our prayers to God (Matt. 6:7).
Second, biblical meditation is best understood, not as mind-emptying, but mind-filling; not thought removal, but thought replacement. Nor is biblical meditation mere “mindfulness,” for without the instruction of God’s Word our act of being “fully present” may leave us vulnerable to deceitful spirits (Eph. 6:12); and our endeavor not to be “overly reactive or overwhelmed” will merely be an act of our will, unguided and unprotected by divine wisdom.
Finally, the effectiveness of biblical meditation is not dependent on a certain kind of posture. In fact, it’s not dependent on posture at all. You can meditate on your bed (Ps. 63:6), or you can meditate in the midst of your preparations for battle (Josh. 1:8). You can meditate day and night, no matter what you are doing (Ps. 1:1-6).
What Biblical Meditation Is
Meditation, very simply, is ruminating on, thinking over, and pondering God (Ps. 63:6), his works (Ps. 72:12; 119:27, 148; 145:3, 5), and his Word (Ps. 1:1-6; 119:15, 23, 48, 78). In Hebrew, the word for meditation literally means to mumble to oneself; speaking to oneself audibly or in one’s heart. But it is not a mindless activity or the repetition of a mantra. Biblically, to meditate means to ponder, consider, chew on, and mull over the word of God. Biblical meditation is full of content, not void of it; it is thoughtful, not thoughtless.
Why Is Biblical Meditation So Important?
The central reason why meditation is vital in the life of the believer is that meditation is the bridge between knowledge and obedience (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:98-100). How many of us have our minds filled with a broad knowledge of biblical truth, but have remained, for the most part, superficial and spiritually immature because we don’t allow the truth to go deep into our hearts through meditation?