Is Meditation an Important Part of the Christian Life?

Is Meditation an Important Part of the Christian Life? | A Quick Tutorial

Sunday Scripture

Have you ever wished you could open the Bible and read it for the first time? What if you could hear the words with new ears and see them with new eyes? How would it feel to rediscover the words you’ve heard for so long that you’ve stopped hearing them, like the sock on the living room floor that magically disappears because you have walked by it too many times without picking it up and doing something about it?

I suggest that we put the words of scripture to work in our brains by meditating on them. Meditation is the spiritual discipline we’re leery of. Isn’t it sort of Eastern? Isn’t it a lot of hard work and sort of out there? It sounds as if it’s only for saints and varsity-level Christians!

Here’s the truth about Christian meditation: Yes, it takes mental effort. No, it’s not out there or dangerous. The goal is not to empty one’s mind for occupation by whatever random thought floats by. Instead, we use that time of quiet focus for solid and comprehensive consideration of scripture–either memorized verses or selected words on the page before our eyes.

Christian meditation is a time of quiet focus for solid and comprehensive consideration of scripture–either memorized verses or selected words on the page before our eyes.

A Guided Meditation on Deuteronomy 6:4

Let’s practice together!

In my role as chief operating officer and sandwich maker in our family mowing business, one fringe benefit is the privilege of either pushing or riding on a mower within sight of beautiful Penobscot Bay. Last Tuesday, as we caught up on our mowing after a rainy weekend, my hands and feet did their thing while my brain ransacked one short verse:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

Deuteronomy 6:4

The words of the verse were already in my head and heart, so word by word, I considered this ocean-dwarfing truth about God.

Hear–Am I treating God and his Word like the sock on the living room floor, walking on by without paying attention to what’s required of me? What is God saying to you about your attentiveness to his words and his ways?

O Israel–Sometimes I picture the nation of Israel with their fingers in their ears. The Old Testament is a tragic tale of God speaking–loud and clear!–and his people failing to respond. But don’t be too hard on that disorganized rabble of former slaves. After all, they didn’t have a written word or the New Testament or the indwelling Holy Spirit… [ahem]. Let’s practice inserting our names after the word “hear,” because God continues to speak to you today. Are you in a hearing posture?

The Lord–Lordship is leadership. Could a casual observer of your life discern that God is your Leader and your Lord?

Your God–One of the reasons present day believers give the side eye to the nation of Israel in the Hebrew Bible is their continual slide into idolatry, forgetting that, just like us, they were surrounded by pagan nations with all their competing deities. How’s your relationship to the first and second commandments? Are their “other gods” in your life? Who or what is your heart bowing down to these days? If you need help discerning an answer, consider first how you are using your time.

The Lord–Here it is again! What one very specific area do you need to hand over to the Lord of your life today? It’s one thing to say, “Take my life, Lord,” but quite another to say, “Be Lord over the way I talk to my husband,” or “I give you, God, total control of the way I use my free time.”

Is One–Here’s a horizon-filling concept that will occupy your mind for all eternity! As bizarre as monotheism was in the ancient world, it’s pretty foreign to us as well, particularly if we force ourselves to do business with the mystery of the Trinity. In order for us to know him, God took on a body and came to earth as a man and then descended on the New Testament church and continues to indwell believers, and yet he is one, and he is God alone.

Make a Practice of Scripture Meditation!

You can see, now, from this little exercise that originated on the business end of a push mower that meditating on scripture is a natural part of the believer’s formation and a spiritual discipline that honors the words of God–while changing your life!

In my June newsletter (they show up in subscribers’ inboxes on the third Thursday of every month), I’ll be sharing a PDF based on this guided meditation, something printable that you can keep with you and use as a format for pondering first this verse, and then your own familiar verses. If you’re already a subscriber to the newsletter, just watch your inbox in the early morning of June 17. If not, just click on the button below to subscribe:

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Is Scripture meditation a regular part of your spiritual formation? If so, I’d love to hear about what’s working for you! If not, I hope you’ll venture into the practice with me!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

Meditating on scripture is a natural part of the believer’s formation and a spiritual discipline that honors the words of God–while changing your life!

My friend Sarah Geringer has written compellingly about Christian meditation in her book Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus. Joining the likes of Thomas Chalmers, Geringer argues for the “expulsive power of a new affection” as God’s thoughts and values, communicated through the Bible, become a replacement for a host of negative mindsets that plague us and range on a bandwidth from negativity and passing discontent to crippling self-criticism, toxic unforgiveness, and debilitating anger or guilt.

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45 thoughts on “Is Meditation an Important Part of the Christian Life? | A Quick Tutorial”

  1. As many times as I’ve read and recited Psalm 23 to myself, it’s still my favorite chapter to use for this time of meditation. Even just verse 1 alone can keep my mind occupied for a long time! Thanks for sharing about this important and valuable spiritual discipline, Michele.

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    1. I’m grateful for the encourgement you’ve been to me with scripture memorization. Just recently, I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 12, one of the chapters we learned together.

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  2. Jim Berg, author of Changed Into His Image, has said that if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate: turning things over and over in your mind from every angle. How we need to do that with Scripture rather than giving it the fly-by treatment.

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  3. I especially like the suggestion of putting our own name in place of “O Israel” in the Shema. That should really get our attention so we can “Hear” God’s truth and apply it!

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  4. LOVE how you mulled over each part of this short verse and created so many heart-searching questions. Recently I undertook a word study of gentleness and ended up writing two college-rule pages of thoughts, observations, and research. I could have continued! Praise God we never come to the end of what we can learn from His Word–His encouragement and inspiration as well!

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    1. It was such a great gift to have that time in close contact with that verse. It sounds as if you, too, are taking advantage of the gift of God’s Word. An endless well of wisdom!

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  5. I’m a big fan of inserting my name into scripture. It makes it become so very much more personal. I had not go around to doing it with the Shema, though. Love your phrase-by-phrase break-down!

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    1. I do need that reminder to HEAR, so maybe that’s why the verse is so relevant for me. I agree with you that inserting our names is helpful and can actually be startling.

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  6. Michelle, I loved how you broke this single verse down into bite-size meditation steps. Thank you for showing your process. It will help me as I choose my verse to meditate upon this week.

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  7. It’s good to take a fresh look at Bible verses and meditate on them like this. We’ve been doing something similar during our weekly Bible exploration group at church and it’s been interesting to what discussion has come up from looking at some quite familiar verses in this way. #MischiefandMemories

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  8. One of my practices has been to read and insert either my name or who I am praying for. I want to steep in God’s word, not step over them like that sock on the floor (and, as you know, with all those boys, there are socks on the floor). I want the word to come alive – not just be a blur of words. Thank you, Michele, for guiding us deeper!

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    1. That “blur of words” is what has driven me to the practice of considering shorter passages of scripture with more depth. I just need the slow pace and the repetition for things to stick.
      Thanks so much for reading, fellow boy-mum!

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  9. An important spiritual discipline, and I appreciated your illustration of it with Deuteronomy 6:4. Thank you for that and the mention of Penobscot Bay. Can you tell I’m homesick? And yet when I am homesick, it reminds me that my real home is in heaven!

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  10. Michele, I love meditating on scripture. As I memorize large portions, I always have a passage “ready” anytime or anywhere. It is such a good way to keep God’s Word before us, within us and on our lips!

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  11. Even reading the comments I learn something new- I love that analogy that meditating is like worrying (only a positive side of it) as I am really good at worrying! Thanks for sharing with us. Pinned.

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  12. I have recently read Tim Keller’s Prayer which talks about meditation. And found that it as already doing it! Thank you for sharing this mediation with me. I so enjoy joining in your meditative reflection on the word. Thanks!

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  13. I think meditation is a form of self-reflection and therefore an important part of one’s faith. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  14. I am a big fan of meditation in any form. We often used meditation at school when on catholic retreats and I took the skill with me into my adult life. It is a useful way to centre oneself. You took me back to my school days with this one thinking about how the nuns would guide us through a meditation – it was always the best bit and we used to ask them all the time if we could finish RE with a meditation session

    #MischiefAndMemories

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    1. What a great memory and a rich practice to carry forward. In response to this post, I received an email from a woman who wanted to discuss the use of scripture meditation with a group of young women and teens she leads. Fantastic idea!

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  15. Michele, I love how you incorporate meditation into something like mowing the lawn … your body is already busy, so it’s a perfect way to occupy your mind. Thanks for the challenge to be specific in handing things over to God … “Take my life” is easy enough to say, but “I give you control over the way I use my free time” is much more relevant (and convicting).

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    1. I think it was Chalmers who said , “I learn more about a monk by the way he uses a broom than from anything he says.” It’s in the everyday, mundane duties that I so often meet with God.

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  16. This is a beautiful post about the benefits of meditation, Michele. But I am really curious…does meditation really get such a bad rap as being a dangerous or harmful practice? I was taught meditation techniques at a very young age and have used them to stay focused and grounded in so many ways throughout my entire life. I can’t imagine it ever being considered a bad thing to practice. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring thoughts and words!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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    1. Sadly, yes, Shelbee. In some circles, the use of any terminology with Eastern connotation sets off alarm bells. It’s Unfortunate, because meditation is a valuable spiritual discipline.

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