Meditation Techniques

Meditation: To think deeply, to reflect upon.

Here are four meditation techniques. Some of these work better for some scriptures than others. Three of them do not require any materials and can be done anywhere (although it’s probably best to concentrate on driving and not scripture when you are in your car).

When thinking about God and scripture remember :

  • Ask God’s Spirit to guide you and ‘bring you into all truth’
  • Ask God to help you obey what you have learned
  • Practise what you have learned
  • And always thank God for answers (and everything else)

Word Emphasis Meditation

Going through a passage several times,

  • putting emphasis on each word separately
  • thinking about why that word is there
  • and what it means in this passage

Then think about what some common meanings for the word are.

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Picture Visualisation

Some pictures lend themselves to funny or memorable pictures and thoughts. They can help you understand the meaning or help you remember more clearly.

Here are some examples

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Word Study

A word study can be part of  Bible study (using specialised books and resources) BUT by using basic resources (like a dictionary or thesaurus)  you can quickly meditate on scriptures.

This will help you gain a deeper understanding, as well as improve your Bible memorisation.

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Inspired Imagination Meditation

Sometimes we miss the small details of  a story because we skip over familiar details.

Some times we let our culture and way of doing things get in the way of understanding.

One way to get more out of the Bible passages is let your Holy Spirit lead imagination fill in the gaps.

This isn’t a license for pure fantasy, but with some questions, some thought and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit you can get more out of stories and parables

READ MORE

 


Further Study

Bible meditation is helpful to deepen your thinking about, and memorisation of passages. However it is a much better tool when linked with further knowledge. We would recommend looking at some of our Bible Study articles.

In particular the Visualisation and Imagination articles- looking at using the 5W questions to further study the Bible, is a good place to start.

A look at the tools section will also give you some great resources to improve your meditations. Maps, pictures, concordances showing the original language, as well as Bible dictionaries and encyclopaedias are all fuel for the fire of your thoughts and learnings. Don’t forget to also look at the big picture  so you can fit your learning into the over all frame work of God’s message.

 

Supernova - Let there be light

Inspired Imagination Meditation

What is inspired imagination?

Sometimes we miss the small details of a story because we skip over familiar details. Some times we let our culture and way of doing things get in the way of understanding. One way to get more out of the Bible passages is let your Holy Spirit lead imagination fill in the gaps.

This isn’t a license for pure fantasy, but with some questions, some thought and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit you can get more out of stories and parables. Before we continue – let’s answer the question,

“Is This Biblical?”

Yes. In Deut 11:18 we read, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul…”. Biblically the heart and soul were the place of emotion, passion and attachment – not the place of thinking. Both the Hebrew and Greek languages are full of imagery.

Today we tend to teach facts and figures. We start at A and make a logical argument to get to Z. Jesus didn’t teach that way. When Jesus was on earth he wanted to make sure his followers remembered, and understood,  his teachings so he used pictures and scenes which drew on the emotions and imaginations of people.

Parables stimulate the imagination. They require you to picture scenes and draw you into a shared ‘fantasy’ or story – then use that imagined reality to drive an idea or teaching home. There was a reason many people got so angry at Jesus – his stories hit home at gut level, where as intellectual theories might be annoying but rarely inflame passions like Jesus did.

If we don’t use our imaginations we miss a lot of the richness contained in God’s word. Gods message must be accessible by even a child, and intellectual theories (while good) aren’t accessible, but imaginative stories, pictures, metaphors and parables are.

Warning

Just because Jesus used imaginative pictures and the Bible is full of words designed to stimulate your thoughts, that is not a license for wholesale fantasy. We must allow the Holy Spirit to direct our imaginations and lead us into all truth.Some people are scared that using imaginations might be some new age visualisation practise or self centred fantasy. As you allow God to guide you, as you check your thoughts against scripture, as you apply some basic methods  – then imagination can help inform and richen your devotional life. Biblical imagination is not an escape into fantasy.

Imagination does not build theology. Imagination opens our hearts to explore the reality of God more richly, allowing the richness of scripture and language to inform our hearts, minds and souls.

How to use inspired imagination

As you read the passage, stop from time to time and try to visualise what you have just read

Ask:

  • Who is involved (talking, listening, acting, watching)
  • What is the climate like (weather, temperature, time of year)
  • Where is this happening? (Geography like hills, plains, rivers, night, day)
  • What situation is the story in (Country, culture, time in history, political and religious and social influences)
  • What would your other senses pick up (sights, smells, sounds, tasts)
  • How would it feel emotionally if you were there?
  • How would you feel if you were in their shoes?
  • How would you have acted. What would you have changed? Why?
  • What would happen if this occurred in today’s society?

Application:

Scripture isn’t there for our entertainment. It is meant to lead us closer to God and change us.

Using Biblical imagination you can practice and examine situations before they arise. You can apply ‘what-if’ scenarios then see if it lines up with scripture.

The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) movement is a good example of Biblical imagination.  Asking what would Jesus do if he was here is a great way to examine your ideas and responses in a situation and compare it against scripture.

The 5W work sheet and article might be helpful to further grow and guide your imagination.

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Looking at a book with a magifying glass

Word Study Meditation

Overview

A word study can be part of  Bible study (using specialised books and resources) BUT by using basic resources (like a dictionary or thesaurus)  you can meditate on scriptures.

This will help you gain a deeper understanding, as well as improve your Bible memorisation.

In the Word Emphasis Meditation technique, individual words were looked at and thought about. Synonyms to words were explored. This takes that one step further.

  • Using a dictionary and/or thesaurus lookup meanings for the word you are thinking about or that appear in the scripture you are looking at.
  • Do they extend your understanding of the word or passage?
  • What would happen of a word meaning the opposite (an antonym) was put into part of the scripture?

Example:

I am the good shepherd.

  • What is a shepherd?
  • What does a good shepherd do?
  • What would a bad shepherd do?
  • Why doesn’t God act like a bad shepherd?

Jesus used negative pictures to contrast positive examples of God. In the example below the positive is in green and the negative in blue:  John 10:11-13  Feel free to print out bits of scripture and high light them – it really helps meditation.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

 

He also used multiple pictures to compare and contrast

1“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. a They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

Using a dictionary and the images given we can summarise:

JesusOthers
Good shepherd
The Gate
Owner
Thief
Robber
Hired Hand
Stranger
Sheep listen
Sheep know him
They hear his voice
Sheep follow
Sheep are fed
Sheep run away
Sheep are abandoned
Sheep are destroyed
Killed and robbed
Gives not takes
Protects not runs
Lays down his life, not a coward
Known, not a stranger
Cares, not indifferent like a hired hand
Goes ahead to prepare the way, doesn't leave them alone to be scattered
Values own life above the sheep lives
Cowardly, runs and lets wolves destroy instead of defending with his life
Steals - is not known
Sneaks in rather than comes boldly through the gate, Illegitimate not the proper owner
Kills, robs and destroys rather than giving life

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Psalm 139 Where can I hide? Even the night is as day to you O Lord

Picture Visualisation

Creative Imagery

Some scriptures lend themselves to funny or memorable pictures and thoughts. By emphasising part of the scripture it can help you remember or understand it more clearly. Some people are more visual. This is is simlar to Word Emphasis meditation – but for those who are more visual.

Use your imagination to pick out a picture from the scripture then emphasise part of the scripture.

The first example below – God knitting a baby together, helps emphasise the intimacy of the hands that knit – close to us – it’s not the actions of a God standing far away yelling Shazam, but a hands on intimately involved God.

 

Psalm 139:13 - You knit me together in my mother's womb
Psalm 139:13 – You knit me together in my mother’s womb

Here are some more:

Bible Memorisation

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you

Romans 6:23 - Wages of sin are death but the gift of God is eternal life
Romans 6:23 – Wages of sin are death but the gift of God is eternal life

Back to Bible Meditation Overview

Highlighted words - For God So Loved the world

Word Emphasis Meditation

How to use word emphasis meditation

Go through a passage several times, putting emphasis on each word separately, and thinking about why that word is there and what it means in this passage. Think about what some common meanings for the word are.

I find this works best when saying the complete passage out loud and stopping to think about each word in turn.  Here is an example: John 3:16

  1. For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only son … (GOD, creator, all powerful, big, father, mighty being…)
  2. For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only son … ( LOVED, really cared for, liked, putting others needs first, an action to benefit others, a feeling)
  3. For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only son … ( WORLD, whole world, people no just place, everyone, me too…)
  4. For God so loved the world He GAVE His only son … ( GAVE, no cost, free, present, not sold, a gift, mine not to be taken back)

Example

Summarising each word on paper then re-writing the passage when the meditation ends can help make it more meaningful For Example:

God,

the all mighty creator,

all powerful Father and carer,

So Loved

and cared for me,

showing he likes and values us

by putting others needs first,

The World

Our planet, the Earth

and all the people in it

everyone,

male / female,

rich / poor,

black / white / yellow / brown / red

the good and the bad

famous and forgotten

He Gave,

with no cost

and no take backs,

freely without conditions,

His only,

unique and special son,

knowing He has no others

an irreplaceable and priceless being

Son

Suggestions

Some other great passages to try this on are:

  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Jude 24-25
  • Revelation 21:1-4
  • Psalm 119:105
  • Psalm 139

Back to meditation techniques page

Ponder, picture, practise, personalise

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 – Old Testament References

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 practising 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.