What Is Biblical Meditation?
“I felt that this art of biblical meditation is something not only that has been neglected, but Christians were afraid of because they identify meditation now with eastern religions. Meditation is not having your mind emptied. It’s not having mantras or focusing simply on your breathing. It’s filling our mind with scripture until we are not only thinking about scripture but thinking scripture. When we go further and find that our mind is actually thinking scripture, we’ve made some progress with biblical meditation. For me, it begins when I open my Bible. As I read it, I begin thinking about what I am reading and making notes. I’m trying to feed my soul, and in its most basic sense, meditation is nothing more than that.”
The Value Of Using A Physical Bible To Study
We’re in a fast-paced culture, and reading scripture on technology can inhibit our ability to meditate and rest in the Word. So I’ll start reading the scripture. I don’t get very far because something gets my attention, and I need to pause, meditate, or be encouraged. Neuroscience demonstrates a more tactile response with a pen and paper or a pencil and a book. We retain more information and interact with the text more than being on a tablet.
“David Jeremiah’s habit is to write down every word of the text for his devotions that day. He says there is something about writing it that helps him engage in the meaning of it more than if he just reads it with his eyes.”
I’m struck by the king who was supposed to make a copy of the first five books of the Bible with his scribes’ assistance. It’s hard to imagine the richness of that experience. There is truly something different about making notes in your Bible or journaling.
How Robert Journals
“I have a loose leaf, five-and-a-half by eight-and-a-half notebook. I will put the date where I am, and then I’ll say, I’m so glad to get home and get back to work. I may not say a lot. But it helps me keep track of my life. Then I will come to where I’m reading right now, which is in Deuteronomy and just pick up my Bible, starting with that passage. The puritans tended to say that we don’t need to read through the Bible quickly; we need to read through it slowly and carefully.
I may spend a week in Deuteronomy 1. I’ll make notes in the margin of my Bible. If it lends itself to a good outline or if there’s a verse that speaks to me or something I want to remember, I’ll write it down in the journal. Occasionally I will go back to that journal. If I’m preaching from Deuteronomy six months from now, I want to go back and make sure that if I saw some outline or insight, I haven’t forgotten it. There’s something extraordinary about using the margins on your Bible.
One of the people who taught me this was Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth. She had a wide-margin Bible, and she would go out and buy cigarette paper because she found that she would run out of space in the margins. Her bibles are in the vaults now. She was very particular about her pen. Whenever you talked to her, scripture and wisdom from scripture flowed out of her. That came from meditation and thinking about the passages you’re reading.”
Defining Prayer And Meditation
“If prayer is an active conversation between you and the Lord, then when you meditate on His word, you are meditating on His voice. You are listening to His voice, so you communicate with Him, and that’s a form of prayer. If we think of prayer simply as speaking to God, then meditation is taking what we are meditating on and turning it into a prayer and talking to God in the first person.
For example, ‘Dear Lord, I want to ask you to help me not to be afraid, not to be discouraged, to remember that You are with me wherever I go.’ If we’re using Joshua 1:9, meditating on that, and turning it back into conversation with God, then it’s a prayer from us to Him. If we are just thinking through what He has said to us and making an application, then it’s Him speaking to us through His word. So it depends on whether you define prayer as one-way or two-way communication.”
What Passage In Scripture Have You Been Meditating On That Has Ministered To You?
“About four or five months ago, I was trying to determine what to do about my role at my church, which I had been in for 43 years. I was growing increasingly discontent. On a Saturday morning, I was reading through Isaiah, and I came to Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ I said, ‘Lord, are you telling me that you want me to shift gears into a new endeavor in life to let go of what I’ve been doing for 43 years, so I can devote myself full-time to what you have for me at this time?’
We were just coming up on August 28th, which would have been my 46th wedding anniversary and my 45th year as a pastor. I kept looking at that verse, and as I thought about that, it persuaded me that this was the perfect time to shift gears and move into the next phase of whatever the Lord may have for me. Also, it says, ‘Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.’ So I’ve been thinking about that verse a good deal recently.
It helps you just to let go of petty grievances and bitterness or feelings that you were marginalized. Meditating on those two verses has not only been spiritually therapeutic, but it was instrumental in making a life decision.
How Do We Guard Against Taking A Passage Out Of Context And Applying It To Our Situation?
“I remember when I was a young man, a church in Dothan, Alabama, asked me to come to teach, and it was the first church that ever asked me. I looked in the Bible, and it said something like, Joseph went down to Dothan. I thought of it as the Lord telling me something. We must be good enough Bible students that as we study the Bible, we come to understand we must compare scripture with scripture. We have to look at things in their setting.
We have to be careful about who is being addressed in that promise. So while we have to take everything in context, as those who rightly divide the word, there are explanatory reasons for taking passages that are intended for other people and applying them to ourselves if we do it in a way that doesn’t violate biblical integrity and, and is Spirit-led.
For example, when the Lord said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ That was spoken to Joshua. That was God’s word for Joshua as he was getting ready to succeed Moses and to go into the promised land. So what right do I have to take that and apply it to me? I have every right because Hebrews 13 says, ‘Have you not read? As it said, I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So, according to Hebrews, God’s promise to Joshua applies to all of us Christians who walk with Christ. If I didn’t have the book of Hebrews, I think that I could still look at that passage and decide I’m going to claim it for myself.”
How Does Biblical Meditation Help Our Anxiety?
I read a CNN article that talked about the fact that a lot of people are feeling anxious. We get nervous, we get fearful, and we get worried. How does meditation help me?
“When you meditate on scripture, what you are doing is displacing one thought with another. It helps if you will find some verses and memorize them. Everybody can memorize scripture generally. If we move, we’ll memorize our new address. If we have a new grandchild, we’ll learn that name quickly.
So we need these passages that we memorize. Then, when we wake up in the middle of the night and worry about any number of things, we dwell on them and lose sleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I start quoting my scriptures.
Very often, I go to the Psalms. I like to begin with Psalm 1, which is about meditation. ‘Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sin, or sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in that law, he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water.’
I may go to Psalm 23, Psalm 21, or Psalm 50. I let those verses filter and flow through my mind like oil through an engine or water through a fountain. Then, I can relax and go back to sleep because I’m doing what Paul said in Colossians 3, setting my mind on things above.
You do the same thing with great hymns of the faith. When I’m on an airplane, and I’m tired, and I can’t read or watch anything, I’ll close my eyes and let scripture or the great hymns of the faith cycle through my mind. It’s almost the same because a magnificent hymn is simply an individual bible study that is diversified and set to music.”
Holding Scripture In Our Heart For A Lifetime
“The contemporary Christian music that we are singing today is not lasting. Even songs like Shout to the Lord, which had a pretty good shelf life, no one sings that much anymore. They come and go so quickly, and because of that, people are not memorizing the lyrics.” We took the hymn books out and started projecting lyrics on the screen. So now those who could read music can’t read music any longer. It goes back to neuroplasticity; there is something about holding a hymn book that seems to have some more reinforcement than viewing everything on a screen.
“When my wife Katrina was near death and not thinking clearly, I was lifting her into bed, and she started saying, ’My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the glory of thy name.’ It’s because she had sung that hymn for decades.”
The process is straightforward. You get a bible and a pen, read, and start with Philippians. You just look at it, think about it, circle, underline, make notes, and engage mentally. Then maybe you find a wonderful verse like Philippians 1:6 and memorize that. You learn to think about them as you drive down the road or as you’re going to bed at night, or when you’re in your shower, wherever you are, you just think about it. Well, something about thinking about scripture begins to remold and heal your thoughts. That brings calm to you, as we see in Romans 12.”
Meditation On Scripture: The Missing Link
We get so distracted by the news or tv, whatever we read, watch, and ingest. Yet we have the Bible in every iteration and language and don’t spend time in it.
“Well, I feel sorry for people who don’t. I couldn’t live without it. I would be depressed and lost and confused and angry and bitter. I was trained when I was 19 to have my devotions. That’s been the most important habit that I’ve ever had. Then I learned to get a wide-margin Bible, and I learned to make notes along the way.
Not only does meditation help us mentally, personally, and spiritually and equip us to minister to other people, but it’s also the missing link in sermon preparation. First, we sit down with whatever passage it is, study it very carefully, make sure we understand the broader and more immediate context, and understand as best we can. Then you put all that aside, go for a long walk, and think about it. How do I explain this to people? What does this mean to me? How do I apply this to my life? In my experience, that’s where the word comes to life.”
Robert’s Final Thought About Meditation And How We Think About Prayer
The most effective prayer is when we pray the words of scripture because that’s the only time we don’t have to pray, ‘If Your will be done.’ We don’t know the future. We don’t know what’s best. So we always have to say if it is Your will because we don’t know for sure.
When we pray scripture, we say, ‘Dear Lord, not my will, but Thy will be done. Dear Lord, Give us this day our daily bread. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as is in heaven. Lord, You’ve said that if anyone asks for wisdom, you will provide it.’ So when we take the words of scripture that we have been thinking about and meditating on, we pray for God’s will for the things He wants us to have in our lives. So the more our prayers reflect the words and thoughts of scripture, the more powerful they are because they are more aligned with what God wants for us.
About Robert Morgan
Robert J. Morgan wass the teaching pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served for over 40 years. He is a best-selling, gold-Illuminations, and gold-medallion-winning writer with more than 35 books in print and approximately 5 million copies in circulation in multiple languages. Rob has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. He speaks widely at churches, conferences, schools, and corporate events.
Rob was also a homemaker and a caregiver for his late wife of 43 years, Katrina, who battled multiple sclerosis and passed away in November of 2019. He and Katrina have three daughters and sixteen grandchildren. They are co-owners of Roan Mountain Bed and Breakfast in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. In 2014, Rob was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from his alma mater, Columbia International University.