Christian Meditation From a Biblical Viewpoint

Christian Connecting with God in Meditation

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Christian meditation is altogether different from the increasingly popular practices of mindfulness and self-enlightenment, as well as transcendental meditation. The Scriptures encourage spiritual reflection, both in the Old and New Testament, but with a different motivation, application, and result from other forms of meditation.

Christian Meditation

  • Christian meditation is a biblical practice encouraged in both the Old and New Testament.
  • Christian mediation helps reinforce the truth of God's Word in believers' hearts so that they remember it and live by it.
  • The purpose of Christian meditation is to bring a believer into closer fellowship with God through a greater understanding of his Word and a deeper commitment to his will and his ways.

Christian meditation involves relaxing or stilling the body and focusing the mind for a period of time while thinking carefully about the words of Scripture, the character and nature of God, or contemplating spiritual purposes. The emphasis is on developing a closer relationship with God through a fuller understanding of his Word, and a deeper commitment to following his will and his ways. Inner transformation, as well as an enhanced biblical perspective, clarity, and balance, are the desired outcomes of Christian meditation. 

Examples of Christian Meditation in the Bible

Many Christians avoid meditation because of the non-biblical implications emphasized in other kinds of meditation. However, Scripture explicitly promotes meditating on God's Word day and night (Psalm 119:97; Psalm 119:148).

When Joshua assumed the role of leadership over Israel after the death of Moses, God gave him this instruction:

"Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do" (Joshua 1:8, NLT).

Meditation on the Word of God, according to this passage, is key to the believer's individual happiness before the Lord, as well as his success in life. 

The Psalms repeatedly tell us to "delight in the law of the Lord," and to "meditate on it day and night" (Psalm 1:2). Believers are urged to ponder all the works of God and meditate on his mighty deeds (Psalm 77:11). Psalm 119:15 says, "I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways" (NLT). And in Psalm 119:148, the psalmist stays awake "through the night, thinking about your promise" (NLT).

The Bible establishes Christian mediation as a part of our worship: "O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple." (Psalm 48:9, NLT) Thus, "delighting in" and celebrating the words of God are part of Christian mediation.

King David, who wrote many of the Psalms, reported that in times of trouble and distress, he would lie awake through the night thinking about God, and meditating on him (Psalm 63:6; 77:12; 143:5).

The New Testament puts equal emphasis on meditation for spiritual growth and personal contentment:

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8–9, NLT).

Meditation is also a means of purifying our minds and hearts (James 4:8).

Christian Meditation vs. Mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation

Some suggest that mindfulness is a useful form of meditation that helps those who practice it to relax and manage stress. Typically, mindfulness techniques are geared toward focusing one's attention on the present and clearing away distractions. The practice has its roots in Zen Buddhist meditation, a discipline that seeks a state of enlightenment, peace, and happiness.

Transcendental Meditation is a more commercialized form of meditation that uses a mantra, or a continuously repeated sound, to induce deep relaxation and specialized awareness. The mantra is believed to fit the vibrations of the person's personality. This method involves sitting silently in a comfortable position, closing the eyes, relaxing the body, and concentrating one's thoughts only on breathing and the mantra.

Practitioners are said to report feelings of peace, well-being, and a deep sense of relaxation. Some describe their experience as "a loss of sense of self and a union with things around them." This sense of oneness is the ultimate goal of the meditation experience.

For Christians, whose goal is to center on God and grow closer to him, mindfulness and other secular meditation methods promote an unhealthy degree of self-focus. Christian meditation involves stilling the body while actively concentrating one's thoughts on the Lord, his Word, his will, and his ways. The motivation is never to achieve self-enlightenment, self-awareness, or even loss of self and union with things around them (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The book of James presents an excellent illustration of the practice and purpose of Christian meditation:

"For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it" (James 1:23–25, NLT).

Christian mediation helps reinforce the truth of God's Word in our hearts by carefully reflecting on its meaning so that we remember it and live by it. Believers aren't to glance at God's Word and then look away quickly, like glimpsing a face in the mirror. We are to listen attentively and ponder it carefully so that the Word of God will transform our lives and set us free. We are encouraged not to forget what we read and hear, but to absorb it into our consciousness and do what it says, and then we will be blessed, prosperous, and happy.

Many secular forms of meditation involve emptying the mind, but Christian mediation involves taking "every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The Bible teaches believers not to be "conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2, CSB).

Meditation and Prayer

In Christianity, meditation and prayer go hand in hand. Practically speaking, part of prayer is taking biblical and spiritual truth and applying it to our daily lives. Paul told believers in the early church to "never stop praying" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Christian meditation is an excellent way for believers to look to Jesus Christ for help and spend time in God's presence. Prayerful meditation is more powerful and effective than secular mindfulness techniques because prayer puts us in communication with the God of all peace: 

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6–7, NLT, see also Matthew 6:25-34).

More Bible Verses About Meditation

Genesis 24:63 (NLT)
One evening as he was walking and meditating in the fields, he looked up and saw the camels coming.

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Psalm 119:148 (NLT)
I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise.

Proverbs 4:20–22 (NLT)
My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Matthew 6:6 (NLT)
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Sources

  • Meditation. Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling (2nd ed., p. 735).
  • Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words (p. 123).
  • What Does the Bible Say about Meditation? https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-does-the-bible-say-about-meditation.html
  • Mindfulness: A Christian Approach. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/mindfulness-a-christian-approach/