Theology Thursday: A Christian Perspective on Meditation

By Michele Pasley and Todd Forrest, Faculty, College of Theology

Pastor meditating on God's word at church

One of the most popular, and yet most misunderstood, self-care practices is the practice of meditation. However, the practice of meditation is not just about self-care. Meditation is a classical spiritual discipline that is rooted deeply in the Bible and in ancient Christian practice.

Goals of Christian Meditation vs. Other Forms of Meditation

While most forms of meditation help a person become calmer and more focused, there are significant differences in both the intention and the practice of secular, eastern and Christian forms of meditation. The purpose of secular mindfulness is self-care; the goal is to become more grounded and less reactionary. The purpose of eastern meditation is to empty the mind and merge with the universe; it is about losing a sense of self through emptying and detaching from the self, from others and from suffering.

Christian Meditation Is Unique

On the other hand, Christian meditation is about filling the mind with thoughts of God and with Scripture and being transformed into the character of Christ. It has the opposite goal of eastern meditation. Christian meditation is about attachment instead of detachment. It is about attaching to God and being focused on his word. It is about becoming more loving toward God and others. While the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and transforms them to be more like Jesus, there is always a distinction between the person and God.

Expectations and Benefits of Meditation

As individuals meditate on God and on Scripture, their character changes. They become filled with the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). As a result, they are more patient and content. They are less anxious and more peaceful. They are more able to love, serve and give joyfully. The practice of Christian meditation grows the believer deeper in his or her relationship with God, which in turn, results in more loving outward action toward others. Christian meditation is not only about self-care. It is about “others-care” because a deeper relationship with God will always result in loving action outward toward others.

Meditation in the Old Testament

The Old Testament calls people to meditate on God’s attributes and actions and to meditate on Scripture. Psalm 145 is a poem that describes God’s character and his works, and the writer declares that he will meditate on these, musing about them and then telling others about them. This is an example for all Christians. Meditating on who God is, what he has done and what he continues to do will shape someone’s thoughts, character and actions.

Both Psalm 1 and Psalm 119 call people to meditate on Scripture. Psalm 1 explains that when believers meditate on God’s Word, they will be blessed with flourishing just like a tree flourishes if it is planted by continuously running water and nourished by a constant source of life. Regularly meditating on the Bible will nourish the soul. Psalm 119 explains that when people meditate on Scripture, they will be able to resist sin and live wisely, another indicator of human flourishing.

Meditation in the New Testament

The New Testament also includes a variety of passages that call the follower of Christ to focus the mind (i.e., meditate) on God. Some of these passages are Philippians 4:4-9, Colossians 3:1-3, Romans 8:5-7, Hebrews 3:1 and Hebrews 12:2. These passages tell the Christian to think about things that will turn their minds to God and his plans for them. As they do this, they will become people whose thoughts, emotions, and will align with God’s purposes.

These passages encourage the believer to fix their eyes on Jesus so they will be filled with hope and be able to emulate him. Again and again, the writers of these New Testament passages show that a person’s thoughts determine who they will become. Thus, thinking about God, his word, and his ways through meditation is a critical spiritual discipline for followers of Jesus.

Getting Started with Christian Meditation

There is no secret formula or posture to make God like you more. Meditation is not about gaining favor with God or following a specific formula. Christian meditation is merely spending time with our Creator and acknowledging his presence in our existence, surrendering our perspectives, time and priorities to him. If you don’t know where to begin, Scripture is an excellent place to start. Here are a few verses that can be read and repeated. Read them over, ponder each phrase and allow them to begin to saturate your soul. You may find that after repeating it six or seven times, unforeseen enlightenment begins to spark in your heart.

My commitment to God (Psalm 19:14) My assurance of God (Psalm 46:10)
My position before God (Psalm 63:1) My practice serving God (Psalm 34)
My vulnerability to God (Psalm 139:23, 24) My priorities before God (Colossians 3:12-14)
My surrender to God (Galatians 2:20) My rescue through God (Matthew 11:28, 29)
My hope in God (John 16:33)  


Practical Encouragement for Meditating on God's Word

You do not have to sit on a mountain peak. You do not have to wear a monk’s frock. You do not have to conjure up something that is uncomfortable or become weird. Just be you and rest in the presence of God. The greatest initial challenge is to slow down; don’t be in a hurry.

Sometimes it takes a few minutes (or hours) to clean an accumulation of the world’s distraction from our souls. As you open your heart more deeply than you ever have before, you may find that the erosion of your soul is much greater than you anticipated. Find a place, be intentional. It can be as practical as driving in traffic, waiting in line, a quiet spot in your house, or yes, even on a mountain top.

As Christians, place is not as big of a priority as practice. You may have some profound meditative experiences while lost in a crowd; just be with Jesus. Start small and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the verses being read and how best to invest this time. Take a few deep breaths. When your mind wanders (as it will), do not beat yourself up; just gently return to the Scripture and continue meditating on the passage. This is a time of focus. Within this time, you may find that as you meditate you sense a need to send an email of encouragement or make a phone call to apologize for your behavior. Do these things so your meditation will be open, honest, meaningful and a sweet offering of ourselves resting in our Lord.

Meditate on the value of this spiritual discipline and give it a try!

“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” - Psalm 104:34

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.