How do we answer the question, is Christian meditation a real thing? You have to go back some 3,000 years, to an unnamed songwriter who penned an inspired song to the Lord, contrasting the ways of the wicked with the ways of the righteous. Those who worship God, this songwriter said, do “not walk in step with the wicked” nor “stand in the way that sinners take.” The righteous also don’t “sit in the company of mockers.” Rather, the people of God find their “delight … in the law of the Lord.”
The songwriter then added this: The man or woman who is after God’s heart “meditates on his law day and night.”
We know this song as Psalm 1, verses 1 and 2. It’s the beginning of one of the most famous psalms in the Bible. So we can definitively say that yes, Christian meditation is a real thing.
What Does it Mean to Meditate on God’s Word?
But what does it mean to “meditate” on God’s Word? After all, we may protest, isn’t meditation bad?
Christian meditation is not related to the meditation of Eastern mysticism in which the goal is to empty one’s mind. In Christian meditation, the focus is on what is filling one’s mind. This point becomes obvious when we examine what the rest of the Bible says about meditation.
In Psalm 119:15, the Psalmist writes, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” That same chapter includes seven additional references to mediation: “your servant will meditate on your decrees” (119:23); “I … meditate on your wonderful deeds” (119:27); “I … meditate on your decrees” (119:48); “I will meditate on your precepts” (119:78); “I meditate on it all day long” — a reference to God’s law (119:97); “I meditate on your statutes” (119:99); and “I … meditate on your promises” (119:148).
Listen to a sample of this Abide meditation based on Psalm 119:97 about the spiritual discipline of meditation.
In Psalm 63:6, David writes, “I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.”
In Joshua 1:8, God commands Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”
Is Meditation in the New Testament?
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul urges the church at Philippi, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV).
In these examples, the original Hebrew or Greek words for “meditate” means to ponder and study (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2, Psalm 63:6; Psalm 119), as well as to think about and practice (1 Timothy 4:15).
So, what is Christian meditation? It is a spiritual practice, created by God, whereupon the Christian continually thinks about, prays over, and ponders God’s Word. It is to ask God what he wants you to learn. It is to recognize that God speaks through his Word. It is to treat the Bible not as a mere book that we read one minute and forget the next, but instead as the very words of our Savior—words that are to be treasured and contemplated throughout the day and night (Psalm 1:2).
Christian meditation is a recognition that Scripture is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Who Invented Christian Meditation?
Who created or “invented” Christian meditation? God did—for his pleasure and for our good.
Prior to Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century, it was common for Christians to walk throughout the day quoting and meditating on God’s Word. After all, they did not have a physical copy of the entire Bible in their home as we do. Memorization and meditation were the lifeblood of a God-honoring life.
So, back to the questions: Can Christians meditate? Should Christians meditate? Who invented Christian meditation? And, that nagging question, Is Christian Meditation a real thing?
Perhaps it’s time we learned from our spiritual ancestors.
C.H. Spurgeon, the 19th-century London pastor, compared Christian meditation to an ox chewing its cud.
“Reading reaps the wheat, meditation threshes it, grinds it and makes it into bread,” Spurgeon said. “Reading is like the ox feeding —meditation is it digesting when chewing the cud. It is not only reading that does us good, but the soul inwardly feeding on it and digesting it.”
A Christian who fails to practice the discipline of biblical meditation, Spurgeon said, is in danger of filling his or her mind instead with the things of this world.
“Man must have some delight, some supreme pleasure. His heart was never meant to be a vacuum,” Spurgeon said. “If not filled with the best things, it will be filled with the unworthy and disappointing.”
John Chrysostom, the fourth-century archbishop of Constantinople, urged Christians during his day to meditate on God’s Word, calling it “medicine” for the soul.
“Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them,” Chrysostom wrote. “Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well.”
Why Should I Practice Biblical Meditation?
To practice biblical meditation is to acknowledge that God is the only source of true joy and delight. It is to continually focus your mind and your emotions on the things of heaven, not on the things of this world. It is to recognize, through our actions, that God’s Word contains every answer to life’s questions.
When we practice biblical meditation, we grow in our faith and grow closer to God. When we meditate on God’s Word, we acknowledge that we need him more than just one hour of the day and more than one day out of the week. We need him all the time. When we meditate on God’s Word, we walk continually in his peace, love and joy.
Much like an athlete in-training who continually replenishes the body with water, God’s people are called to continually replenish their soul with his Word, the living water. Without it, we can’t survive.
Ready to start your own journey of biblical meditation? Download the Abide app and receive 25% off our premium subscription with this link. A premium subscription will gain you access to our entire library of more than 1500 full-length guided meditations, 350+ Bible-based sleep stories, daily devotionals, and more.
Stephanie Reeves is a writer and the senior editor of Abide.