When the bible talks about meditation, the practice is very different to Eastern meditation.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Focus on one thing
When we think of meditation we usually think of a practice where the mind is emptied.
However, in Judeo-Christian meditation,
instead of emptying our minds, we fill them with one thought.
It is biblical, and so there is no need to be suspicious of this type of meditation.
The Psalms mention meditating on the Law, the Book of the Law, God’s unfailing love, his wonderful works, his precepts and decrees, his wonders and his promises.
That is quite a list. We can't look at it all, so I have chosen to read one of the most popular psalms, which was written by David: Psalm 23.
The Lord is my Shepherd
We could have a thematic study on shepherds.
David was a shepherd as a boy, but when he was young and under-valued, he was anointed as King of Israel by Samuel. Later, when he eventually became the king he was called the shepherd of the nation.
Jesus was his descendent, and one of his titles is son of David. He said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ Thus stating that he was the son of David and reminding good Jews who heard him of this psalm. To them it was a messianic claim.
Pastor itself means shepherd.
However, this is not biblical meditation. This is bible study and it can inform our meditation, and also our minds. Sadly, sometimes that is all it does. The Word stays in our heads, but never reaches our hearts.
We could look at sheep and how they behave. We could consider shepherds in the Middle East and how the sheep follow the shepherd, rather than the shepherd and sheepdogs herding the animals.
This can add colour, but it is not biblical meditation.
Bible study informs the mind.
Biblical meditation touches the heart, the soul and the spirit.
Our heavenly Father speaks a living word into our spirits, bringing peace, life and love.
If we come with our questioning, burdened down by life's worries, as the Truth sinks deep into our hearts, we glimpse something of the universe from heaven's perspective.
'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55 v 8 -9
When we decide to agree with our Lord, our striving ceases, and once again, with fresh eyes, we see the depth of the love of Jesus. Then our response is worship in joyful, vibrant song or in silent, loving contemplation.
If we haven't yet reached that point of acceptance of the will of God, then we know our Lord is patient and will wait for us.
Sometimes our Lord will have a question for us. At these times our response will be different, and prayer and petition is more appropriate. However God speaks to us through our time of meditation, we will want to respond.
Meditation on Scripture is the foundation of any authentic Christian prayer life. God speaks to us and awakens a response in us through meditation. Here is how a dialogue in prayer begins.
The Practice of Meditation
If you have never tried this before, there is really only one way to learn how to do it, and that is - to do it. It's not difficult. We just need to discipline our thoughts to focus on one thing, otherwise we will become distracted. It is just how our minds work. Biblical meditation takes practice.
Here is an example.
I meditated on the phrase ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ for three minutes.
I set an alarm on my phone, and I repeated the words and thought about what they meant to me. I recommend setting an alarm so that you won't get distracted by timing the exercise.
Pushing away other thoughts
No other scripture
Ignoring distractions and interruptions
Actively pondering, thinking
Mulling the words over.
Naturally, everything suddenly became noisier.
The neighbour’s cockerel started crowing; the gate creaked; the local school song started. I had to shut all of this out. I realised that as I had concentrated on this part of a verse for three minutes, it had become more personalised. It had become about just me and my shepherd.
Thoughts buzz around in our heads like a swarm of mosquitoes, in all directions, monotonously, without order and without particular result.
Theophane, the Recluse
Meditate on one of these phrases for 3 minutes.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside quiet waters
He refreshes my soul
Thank Almighty God for His word to you.
The Lord’s my Shepherd - Aled Jones and son
Psalm 23 has been set to music many times, and most of them have beautiful melodies. With so much choice, it was difficult to pick one. However the touching interaction between Aled Jones and his son, coupled with voices that sound like angels, made me settle on this version. You may recognise this as the theme tune to Vicar of Dibley.