Meditation: Western Culture 10
Some of my strongest childhood memories come from the times I spent on my uncle’s dairy farm. The heat of summer, the cooling of the milk refrigeration room, the sound and smell of the cows. I would seeing them constantly chewing and later learnt they had 4 stomachs and were often “chewing the cud”. In my early days as a Christian this was used as an illustration of meditation.
Information gathering can be a position we take when approaching the Scriptures and so our Bible studies and time alone with God can be in danger of just being about understanding. It has been said that Bible study is informational while meditation is formational. It involves a mulling over a passage of Scripture locating yourself in passage, owning the emotions. Meditation, when it precedes prayer, transforms your prayer.
George Muller, like many others, found a different approach to Scripture did indeed alter his prayer:
The difference then between my former practice and my present one is this.
Formerly, when I arose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all
my time till breakfast in prayer. …What was the result? I often spent… even an
hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort,
encouragement, or humbling of the soul. Often, after having suffered much from
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way… I began… to meditate on the New
Testament from the beginning, early in the morning… searching, as it were, into
every verse to get a blessing out of it…. not for the sake of preaching [to others], but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. …After a very few minutes my soul had been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication. …When thus I have been for a while… I go on to the next words or verse, turning all as I go into prayer, …as the Word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. …It often astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.
From The George Muller Treasury
I too have found that a meditative approach to Scripture to be rewarding. I follow a practice of reading a short passage of Scripture until something stands out. I reflect on this, believing what God is saying and personally embracing it, and then I determine some actions I can take for the rest of the day related to that reflection. At the end of the day I seek to review my actions and discern anything else God was saying to me about that reflection. Building on the thoughtful reflection with an action is true wisdom according to Jesus is saying (Matt. 7:24-27).
As we disciple others our practice can be to include a time of meditation in a short passage of Scripture.
Consider the following passage:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
In reflecting on this passage, we would typically find ourselves personally focused on how we are safe and secure in the shadow of the wings of God. But it is more helpful to start meditating on the nature and glory of God. Dwell on the fact that God is a refuge and He is strong. He is so strong that despite surrounding devastation, He carves out a secure place in which there is safety. He is ever-present and so He is present in the mess. We must choose to trust that this is indeed our God and from this we can reflect on our situation and locate ourselves in the text emotionally. What does it feel like to find a place of refuge, for example when you shelter from a storm? That is the feeling that He can provide. He is so strong that despite surrounding devastation, He carves out a secure place in which I can dwell. In it we can experience His protection, warmth, safety and security. How will I find this place of refuge in Christ today? Do I have any anxieties about the day ahead or any other issues? How will I be aware of this anxiety? What will I meditate on to counter this anxiety? When will you review at the end of the day? What will trigger this review? In this end of day reflection, ask where you experienced refuge in God. Did I take the opportunity to Ps 46:10 “be still and know that I am God”? Also consider the opportunities that occurred during the day where you did not take the opportunity to locate yourself in this refuge.
Meditation, ruminating on the Scriptures, is one of the spiritual disciplines that many have found important to their transformation. It is something that our culture is increasingly making it difficult for us to practice. For it to be effective we will need to eliminate distractions and approach the text with our hearts and our heads.