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Christian meditation

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

(Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)

One main difference between eastern mystical forms of meditation and biblical meditation is that eastern methods practice an emptying of the mind, whereas the biblical form has an object: God and his word.

Our culture is so taken up with a rapid and superficial understanding of things -- often Christians carry this over into their approach to the Scripture. We read God's Word and then rush off to something else and promptly forget what we have read.

Tim Keller gives this definition of biblical meditation: “[Meditation is] to bring the truth of God into contact with the center of one's being until the Triune God and all his Word becomes real to you so that you seek him. [It is] thinking a truth in, and thinking a truth out, until the ideas become 'big' and 'sweet', moving and affecting, and until the reality of God is sensed upon the heart. Meditation is strictly speaking neither the Bible nor prayer but rather is the Bible turning to prayer.”

He gives this very helpful -- and I have found usable -- plan from "Preaching the Gospel in a Post-Modern World", RTS D.Min course, 2002...

Rather than simply studying our Bibles and praying in a merely cognitive way, our 4-fold outline included the discipline of a 'middle' practice ("meditation") between Bible reading and prayer as well as the expectation of a final practice ("contemplation") that is the fruit of all we do. The method:

Reading (Listening) – Slow, gentle reading of Scripture repeatedly, looking for things not seen, appreciated, or enjoyed before. Listening for God's voice and stopping to taste the truth as it goes by. Write down main things learned.

Meditation (Reflecting) - Take each and think out: "How can this lead me 1) to adore God? 2) to confess sin? 3) to petition for grace? And 4) how is Jesus the ultimate a) revelation of this attribute? b) solution for this sin? c) source of this grace?

Prayer (Speaking) - After meditation (or as soon as you become engaged) pray meditations: 1) adore God. 2) repent for sin. 3) thanks for Christ. 4) ask for aid. Then 5) move on to 'kingdom prayer' for individual, church, and world needs.

Contemplation (Sensing) - Not as much a fourth 'stage' as the fruit of the rest. It is a spiritual sense upon the heart of the reality of God. It can mingle with the other practices or come in strong and displace them. Essence: an adoring gaze at Him. It is at bottom a gift.

What I seek to practice at this point is to read a Scripture passage gently (not in a rush, not with a teaching-others agenda in mind, but seeking to be taught myself by the Holy Spirit). I then note some individual verses or phrases that are illumined to me, or stand out in some way. These I note in my journal. I may write a verse on a card for review or memorization, and repeat the verse several times, each time emphasizing a different word or phrase within it. Then I turn it into a prayer and talk to God about it.

I have begun using more of the method that Keller gives above (
which actually comes from a long tradition within the church), and especially the four questions he gives under Meditation (reflection).

Finally, here are a couple of other definitions of Christian meditation...

"To [meditate] is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord ever-present, all-seeing within you." (Theophan the Recluse)

“By solemn or stated meditation I intend the thoughts of some subject, spiritual and divine, with the fixing, forcing, and ordering of our thoughts about it, with a design to affect our own hearts and souls with the matter the things contained in it. By this design it is distinguished from the study of the word wherein our principle aim is to learn the truth, or to declare it unto others; and so also from prayer, whereof God himself is the immediate object. But it meditation it is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and humiliation." (Richard Baxter)


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