In What Manner Should Christians Meditate?
Posted by Job on February 18, 2009
The word “meditate” appears in the Bible (King James Version) 14 times. (Words that could be translated as “meditate” appear much more often.) The count includes mentions of prominent Bible characters engaging in the practice, as well as explicit commands for all who worship God to do the same. The latter includes at least one in the New Testament: 1 Timothy 4:16′s Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Add to that commandment this blessing of Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
So, from this, we can conclude that Christians are supposed to meditate. But precisely what does Christian meditation entail? The Bible does tell us how to pray, providing examples for virtually every situation. The Bible tells us how to worship and praise, to the point of supplying doxologies which can be used for hymns, and telling us how to perform the Lord’s Supper, and also instructing us on the manner that we should preach and teach. The Bible even tells us how to fast.
But does the Bible tell us how to meditate? I have not seen it. Yet, it is clear that we are to do so. So the question is: how is the meditation of the Christian separate from the meditation of the heathen?
I will say that the Bible does contain a warning of how NOT to meditate. Jesus Christ specifically forbad the process of “centering”, which includes the practice of not a few Christians that use “centering prayers”, in Matthew 6:7′s prohibition against “vain repetitions as the heathens do.” As a matter of fact, peruse the varying translations of this verse, and you will see this more explicit, and the New International Version is even more direct when it states “do not keep on babbling like pagans.” So that is something to avoid. Which, of course, means that importing meditative practices from other religions (i.e. “Yahweh yoga”) is forbidden from Christians by Jesus Christ and His Bible. The fact that the Bible commands us to meditate is no excuse to mess around with syncretism. Also, recall 1 Thessalonians 5:22‘s Abstain from all appearance of evil. Also, recall what Romans 14:21 says about not making your brother stumble. So, any Christian meditation program would have to be subservient to and governed by those and all other commands of scripture.
So, does anyone have any suggestions on Christian meditation practices that are scriptural and expedient to be practiced? This is not out of mere curiosity, or simply an intellectual exercise, but rather motivated by the fact that the Bible does command us to meditate, and it is a command that I personally intend to keep.
I wonder what Messianic Judaism would have to contribute on this issue … if there is anything valid recorded in their tradition that dates back to the Bible times that would be helpful. And yes, I will say that the Catholic tradition of meditation (both Roman and Orthodox) is something that I wish to avoid because of my real doubts that their meditative practices have anything to do with the sort of meditation that was practiced by the Jewish culture that produced the Bible. Example: their practice of incorporating icons, angels, saints and such into their meditative and contemplative practice … well try to square that against the Biblical commandments not to pray to graven images, the host of heaven, etc. So, I am seeking advice on CHRISTIAN meditation, so certainly anything that breaks direct Biblical commands in such an obvious manner does not qualify. I don’t care if these people have been contemplating and meditating on icons, angels and Mary since 230 AD or whenever … the Bible prohibits idolatry, so it isn’t Christian.