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Bible Meditation for Beginners

In Christ, God made our hearts to burn for him. Though our affections rise and fall, and our zeal boils hotter on some days than others, coldness is not the Christian’s heritage. We are those who walk on the Emmaus road, our souls catching fire as Christ opens, again and again, the Scriptures that speak of him (Luke 24:32). We belong to the fellowship of burning hearts.

Yet we also know what it feels like for the fire to burn low, for a coldness to settle over a heart once aflame. Some of us feel that way most mornings. Our hearts, like campfires untended, cool overnight. We wake up ashen, needy for the Spirit to breathe on us again.

What do we do when our hearts grow cold? Many Christians of old, themselves burning and shining lamps, would advise us not only to read God’s word, and not only to pray God’s word, but also to slow down, take a deep breath, and meditate on God’s word.

What Is Meditation?
In common forms of meditation today, people sit or kneel for a set time, paying attention to inhaling and exhaling breath. The mind is engaged, but not particularly active. Biblical meditation, however, calls for thought and feeling more than posture and breathing. And most importantly, biblical meditation focuses not on our breath but on God’s: we give ourselves, with rigorous reflection, to his breathed-out word, until our hearts begin to warm.

Tim Keller, summarizing John Owen, offers a concise and helpful description of meditation:

Meditation is thinking a truth out and then thinking a truth in until its ideas become “big” and “sweet,” moving and affecting, and until the reality of God is sensed upon the heart. (Prayer, 162)

Keller’s description finds classic expression in Psalm 1, Scripture’s preeminent passage on meditation. Here, the psalmist thinks the truth out, filling his mind with “the law of the Lord” rather than “the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1–2). He thinks and thinks, at specific times and also “day and night” (Psalm 1:2), bending his energies toward understanding God’s revealed truth.

He also thinks the truth in, pressing it into his soul until Scripture becomes the sap running through every limb (Psalm 1:3). He not only understands God’s word, but relishes it: “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2). The truth has become big and sweet to him, crowding out the alternative delights flanking him on every side (Psalm 1:1).

Finally, having worked the truth out in his mind and into his heart, the truth works itself out in his life, setting him on a path of spiritual prospering that is the prelude to a happy judgment day (Psalm 1:4–6). No wonder he is “blessed” (Psalm 1:1), supremely happy in the God who speaks such wonderful words.