Making the Most of Your Meditation
Several months ago, my son and his wife, who were expecting their second child, brought over a short video of an ultrasound that was done to determine the baby’s gender. From the ultrasound, we learned that our new grandchild would be another girl. We also learned that her nose is shaped like her big sister’s nose, and that she prefers to keep her ankles crossed no matter how much she is jostled. Her hands were fully formed—when she held up her right hand and stretched it out, I was able to see each tiny bone in her fingers. I marveled to myself, “I am seeing God’s creation in progress.”
A few days later as I was praying, I said, “Lord, I praise You for Your wisdom.” Psalm 92:5 came to mind, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” Just then our granddaughter’s ultrasound came to mind. I continued to praise God, but this time there was even more meaning behind my words. I praised God for His great work—the miracle of birth, His deep thoughts in creating our intricate design, and His wisdom in forming the traits of my new granddaughter.
Did you know that a simple experience like this is an example of meditating on the things of God? For years my supposition was that the way to meditate was to read a passage of Scripture and then close my eyes and think about it for a few minutes. I didn’t feel this was beneficial enough, though, so one day I prayed and asked God to teach me to meditate more effectively.
Lesson One: Take Your Time
The first thought that came to my mind when I asked God how to meditate was, “You don’t need to read something different every day.” The next morning I put this idea into practice by rereading Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” The verse was short and easy to understand—Christians could expect protection from the Lord—and I had just read it the day before, so there was still time to dig deeper. I used the time to look up the meaning of some of the words in the verse, and learned that to “fear” the Lord meant to respect, revere, or honor Him.
As I reflected on these definitions, God showed me that this verse didn’t just apply to Christians; it was for anyone who revered or honored Him. For a period of time I had been struggling with faith to pray for someone who had requested prayer for a healing, but was not saved. Now I saw that by requesting prayer, that person had demonstrated reverence for God and thus could expect Him to hear their prayer.
The next day I noticed in the superscription of Psalm 34 that it was written by David in reference to an incident that took place in his life. I found the account in 1 Samuel 21:10-15 and read that David had fled from King Saul to the refuge of King Achish only to find that King Achish was against him also. The rest of the day, my mind kept wandering back to this story. I thought about how scared David must have been when he first realized his mistake in running to King Achish, and how relieved he must have felt when God delivered him.
On day three, I learned that Psalm 34 was David’s testimony praising God for delivering him from King Achish. On the fourth day, I read David’s testimony and then I thought about it. When verse 6 came to my mind, I felt David’s relief and gratitude when he said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Suddenly, I realized the importance of the Psalms. While books like 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles give the historical accounts of events, the Psalms let us know what a person was thinking, feeling, or praying during those events.
From this experience, I learned that studying the same verse all week caused my mind to naturally think on it, and gave God more time to talk to me through it.
Lesson Two: Meditate Interactively
My understanding of the word meditate was that it meant “to contemplate.” To confirm this, I looked up the meaning of two words translated from the Hebrew language as meditate in the Old Testament. I found that the first word, siyach, does mean “to ponder, consider, and muse,” but it also means “to speak, sing, or commune.” Likewise, the second word, hagah, means “to muse” while also meaning “to mutter, speak, moan, or groan.” This led me to the conclusion that meditating is more than just thinking about something; it is thinking about something while communicating with God through prayer or song.
David was someone who meditated often and effectively. Through his writings in the Psalms we have access to sound instruction and many good examples pertaining to meditation. He knew that meditation is interactive. In Psalm 63:5-6, he said, “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”
My first attempt at meditating during prayer took place after my sister asked, “Why was building the tower of Babel wrong?” I didn’t know the answer, so one day I prayed with the Bible open in front of me. I alternated between reading a few verses and stating my understanding of them while listening for God to correct me. Two more Bible stories kept coming to my mind—Lucifer being cast out of Heaven, and Eve talking with the serpent in the Garden of Eden—so I began to rehearse to God what I knew about them as well. Then I noticed a pattern. In Genesis 3:5, the serpent told Eve, “In the day ye eat thereof . . . ye shall be as gods,” and in Isaiah 14:13, God told Lucifer, “For thou hast said in thine heart . . . I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” In Genesis 11:4, the people who built Babel said, “Let us make us a name.” They all wanted to be like God. I had thought the people who built the tower of Babel were trying to reach God, but by going over the account with God during prayer, I learned that they were trying to be equal with God.
Lesson Three: Increase Your Benefits
God showed me there would be more benefit in broadening my view of what to meditate on. I was familiar with Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night,” so I knew to meditate on God’s Word. Then, while reading the Psalms, the Lord opened my eyes to notice that David benefited by meditating on all the things of God including His law, His creation, His goodness toward man, and God Himself.
In Psalm 19, David appeared to gain insight into God’s faithfulness by reflecting on God’s law and creation while praying, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight” (verse 14). He was able to name several ways in which the law and creation each provide man with a unique and undeniable witness of God. I realized that I, too, could gain spiritual insight by prayerfully reflecting on God’s Word or creation.
In Psalm 77:11, David gained encouragement during a time of trouble when he decided, “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old,” and then began to recount how God delivered the Israelites from bondage. I saw that I could also gain encouragement by recounting during prayer the ways in which God had been good to me.
In Psalm 104, David meditated on God Himself beginning with, “Thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty” and continuing by listing the characteristics of God. He concluded with, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (verse 34). I saw that if I would list the names of God (such as Creator), or His attributes (eternal), or character (faithful) while reflecting on them during prayer, I could gain a greater appreciation for Him, more knowledge of Him, as well as a closer walk with Him.
Meditating used to seem like such a daunting task. Now I realize it is as simple as reading or studying something from God’s Word, reflecting on what I’ve read while praying and listening for God, and receiving the benefits.
Has meditation been an effective part of your communion with God? It can be—and you will benefit from it!