Meditation

Meditation is a word that makes people think about Bhuddist monks sitting chanting or Asian mystics sitting in weird poses for days. Currently the most common meaning for meditation invokes an image of emptying your mind or focusing on a sound or single point, losing yourself in mindlessness, thinking about nothing, emptying yourself.

So what is Christian meditation? Is it Biblical? How can you do it? Does God want us to empty our minds and become one with the universe or does it mean something else?

Let’s start with what the Bible says about meditation.

In the Old Testament the word meditate is found over 18 times in the NIV version of the Bible. The word meditate is translated from a Hebrew word that is also translated as  ; to murmur (in pleasure or anger); by implication, to ponder:—imagine, meditate, mourn, mutter, roar, sore, speak, study, talk, utter. The verses it is found in are shown here: Meditate

In the New Testament the word meditate is not found as often.

In 1 Tim 4:15 we are told to consider / meditate on God’s word so our progress will be evident to all. Timothy is also encourage by
Paul to  continue practicing the things he has learned – to continuously continue in his study of God’s word.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul also wrote, to think about things that are honourable, praiseworthy and virtuous.

So how does Christian meditation and Eastern Meditation compare to each other.

Eastern Christian
Empty your mind FILL your mind with good things
Focus on one word of phrase (mantra) Focus on God / Scripture / Virtuous things
Sitting Still No posture or position required
Lose yourself / deny yourself Grow, mature, strengthen
Special times / places Any time / all the time
Cultivate detachment from the world Become attached to God
Become nothing Become all God created you to be
Inward focus Outward focus

To sum up.

Christian meditation is the practice of thinking about, talking about, studying God’s word and God himself. It involves reading the Bible, thinking about God, God’s people and even the world God has created in order to build a better relationship with God and grow as a Christian to be a better human being.

Christian meditation can be silent but we are encouraged to mutter, speak, sing, think, write and talk as part of our meditations.

Christian meditation can be done anywhere, at any time but we are also encouraged to set aside special time to meditate, as well as casual meditation during the day.

So how do we do Christian meditation?

I’ve listed some techniques here – try a few and see how they go.

 

Meditate – Old Testament References

Definition:

hâgâh, daw-gaw’; a primitive root (compare H1901); to murmur (in pleasure or anger); by implication, to ponder:—imagine, meditate, mourn, mutter, roar, × sore, speak, study, talk, utter.

Translated as:

  1. to moan, growl, utter, muse, mutter, meditate, devise, plot, speak
    1.  (Qal)
      1. to roar, growl, groan
      2. to utter, speak
      3. to meditate, devise, muse, imagine
    2. (Poal) to utter
    3. (Hiphil) to mutter

Uses of meditate in the OT.

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Psalm 1:2

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 39:3

my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

Psalm 48:9

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Psalm 77:3

I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

Psalm 77:6

I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

Psalm 77:12

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 119:15

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.

Psalm 119:23

Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.

Psalm 119:27

Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 119:48

I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.

Psalm 119:78

May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.

Psalm 119:97

[ מ Mem ] Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

Psalm 119:99

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:148

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

Psalm 143:5

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

Psalm 145:5

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

Visualisation And Imagination

Visualisation is the process of using your mind to flesh out details in a story using facts and knowledge you already have.

Visualisation involves you in thinking about what you have read and figuring out the who, what, why, when and where (5Ws) of a situation.

As you focus on a story and think about the 5Ws then you will gain new insight and understanding. Instead of just reading words, spending time to stop and visualise the story brings life and depth to what you are reading.

Imagination takes visualisation a step further. Where visualisation allows you to see factual information, imaginiation takes those facts and allows you to explore them, bringing your own experiences and knowledge to play. It also allows you to ask ‘what if?’ type questions, explore different out comes, put yourself in the place of people involved in the story.

God gave us imagination. Using it to study His word, to think about what you are reading gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to lead us into all truth, bringing things alive that God wants us to see and hear.  However it is important to be aware that imagination is just that. It offers insight but is not a Biblical truth. It allows God to talk to you but shouldn’t be used to build a theology on.

Summary:

Visualisation allows you understand the reading, by applying the 5Ws, and so building a better understanding of what happened historically. Visualisation is fact based.

Imagination allows you to explore the reading, it lets God bring insight and understanding specific to you. It deals with the emotions, possibilities and motivations of a story.

How to use the 5W’s

An example of using imagination

A guided visualisation and imagination

How to use the 5W’s

The 5Ws

Who, What, Where, When, Why. Sometimes how is added to this list.

Who:

What:

  • What occurs in the story. The actions taken be people, events that happen.
  • Identifying What happens – and also who did it or caused it – A worksheet

Where:

Where involves the physical location of the story. While this may seem straight forward it can be important to really understand the location and it’s significance (historically, physically, spiritually, politically and culturally) .

For example,  hearing Jesus is in Galilee lets us know he is near his home town, but knowing he is currently in the middle of the lake, on a fishing boat, in the middle of the storm brings a different understanding to the narrative than knowing he is in a friends house having a meal on a sunny day.

Where is the location of the story – A worksheet

What is the location of the story. What country are they in, what part of the country are they in? What are the physical characteristics of the part of the country they are in. what is around them, both in close proximity but also further away that may affect this story.

 

Where Is The Location Of The Story – A Worksheet

Where is the location of the story – A worksheet

Suggested Resources:

  • A Biblical Atlas
  • A Map
  • A Bible with Maps in it
  • Google Earth
  • Photos from the Internet
  • Bible Dictionary
  • Cross Refence Bibles
  • Commentaries

Where involves the physical location of the story. While this may seem straight forward it can be important to really understand the location and it’s significance, historically, physically, spiritually, politically and culturally .

For example,  hearing Jesus is in Galilee lets us know he is near his home town, but knowing he is currently in the middle of the lake, on a fishing boat, in the middle of the storm brings a different understanding to the narrative than knowing he is in a friends house having a meal on a sunny day.

The location of the story isn’t just a matter of the geographic physical location but also its location historically, spiritually, politically and culturally.

Some initial questions to ask:

Physical Location

What is the geographic location of the story?

What country are they in?

What part of the country are they in?

What are the physical characteristics of the part of the country they are in.

Physical terrain such as hills, mountains, rivers, seas, forests etc gut also the state of the terrain. For example, the Israelites crossed the Jordan when it was in full flood, bank to bank rushing water, not in the middle of summer when it was a trickle – changing the size of the miracle God performed

Weather (hot, cold, fine, stormy, rain, windy). Examples – Jesus disciples in the boat were in fear for their lives, which means the storm they were in must have been pretty bad as they were seasoned fishermen. The crowd listening to Jesus braved the sun and exhaustion to see him, prompting the disciples to express concern that Jesus needed to dismiss them otherwise they would struggle to make it home safely.

Flora (plants) – Plants, or the absence of plants can play a large part in a story. Jonah sat in a shadeless desert with no plants waiting for Ninevah to be destroyed, Noah’s access to wood would have affected the story.

Fauna (animals) – For example, Daniel in the lions den wouldn’t be much of a story without the lions, the Garden of Eden without a snake or Noah’s ark without 2 of every animal.

What is around them, both in close proximity but also further away that may affect this story. Examples – Once the Israelites crossed the Jordan and it closed behind them, they were trapped with an impassible river behind them and an entire land full of hostile cities and armies ahead of them. They were trapped with no where to go. If there was a way back it would have made their decision much easier to make.

Are they in  building, a vehicle, outdoors, up a mountain, near a lake?

What is the climate like?

Historically

Often a location has historical significance that brings meaning to the current story, or sometime in the future the area the story is told in will bring significance to this story.

One example – It is suggested that the location where Abraham went to sacrifice his son, was the location Jesus was crucified. If this is true then Abrahams faith in sacrificing his only son was mirrored when God sacrificed His only son. Further more when God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac he provided a ram (sheep) instead – again mirrored by the ‘Lamb of God’ taking our place and dying for us.

Spiritually

The Bible is a spiritual book and many of the storys have a spiritual significance. This is especially true of the Old Testament where the religious significance of many actions had a major effect on the participants in the story. A classic example is the 10 Plagues of Egypt where God systematically challenged every major Egyptian deity and showed He was God alone.

Politically

The politics of who rules whom and the relationships this implies between different states and people effects many Biblical stories.  As an example, Jonah, wouldn’t have run away if the people he was sent to where friends or political allies. He ran away because God had sent him to his nations worst enemies. He would rather disobey God than help them as he knew God was a forgiving God and wanted nothing to do with helping his enemies.

The crucifixion is also a very subtle piece of politics with Jesus being sent from person to person, because the right to crucify / sentence to death belonged to Pilot but the issue was a religious one and Jesus was a subject of Herod.

Culturally.

One of the most difficult thing to do in a Bible study is to determine the significance of events and people to the participants of the story. Often the cultural significance of an action or event is crucial to understanding the story. When Jesus healed a cripple on the Sabbath he offended the Pharisees but he was furious that they would let a man help his donkey on the Sabbath but were offended when Jesus helped a cripple. A woman bleeding was considered highly unclean and shouldn’t have been out in public but one woman dared risk punishment to get healing from Jesus. Without understanding the cultural implications of an action or event, the true or deeper meaning is often lost on us.

 

WHO – How To Identify People In A Story

Read the story straight through

Read it again underlining or making notes on Names and Groups who are mentioned in the story.

Consider who may be affected by this story but aren’t specifically mentioned

For each person or group mentioned consider

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Position in society
  • Job
  • Family  / Cultural ties
  • Beliefs
  • Language
  • Physical Location and how it affects them
  • Physical / mental / emotional state
  • Their relationship with God
  • Their relationship with others in the story
  • Their relationship with those outside of the story
  • Actions they take, or fail to take