By Dr. Allen P. Ross
The Bible has many references to the spiritual discipline of meditation, most of which come from the Book of Psalms. The psalmist can say, “On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night” (63:6).
Meditation in the Bible differs dramatically from other forms of meditation. In some of the popular methods today, people meditate, not on the word, but on “a word,” or “nothing at all.” And while I suppose there is value to the process of calming one’s mind and spirit through this process, it really does not bring the spiritual benefits that meditating on the Word of the LORD does. When we meditate on the Word, we not only find rest for our souls, but strength and encouragement and guidance for the way.
What is involved in the process of meditation? The psalmist used the word “remember,” and that is a good starting point. The Hebrew word “to remember” can also be translated “keep in the memory, remind, ponder” and “meditate.” It is a deliberate mental activity that leads to a definite course of action. But that goes hand in hand with the meaning of the word “remember” (zakar) as well, for the word “remember” often carries with it the idea of the action that results from the process of remembering—our prayers for the Lord to remember us are clearly prayers for more than remembrance.
There are four steps in spiritual meditation in Holy Scripture. First, we should study the passage of Scripture in great detail so that we understand it fully. This may take time, for the Bible is full and complex. We can begin carefully and prayerfully with the portions that are the most meaningful and beneficial to us, using any tools that may help, such as commentaries, concordances, and other reference materials.
Second, if we have not already done this in the process, we should memorize the passage. That way we can call it to mind, or remember it, while driving, walking, or reclining in a bed. And what we remember will be properly understood.
Third, we need to turn the passage into a matter of prayer—talk to God about what He has said in His Word.
And fourth, we must exhort ourselves to act on the basis of what was pondered.
This is what we see in many passages. Psalms 42 and 43 (originally united) have a meditative refrain: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (42:5).
Too often we spend our time reading books about the Bible, or attending seminars and conferences where others tell us the meanings and prescribe the actions. We all need to get to the point where we can handle the Word of God ourselves.