I just recently read an article from the main RZIM website (Our Disappointments Matter to God by Danielle Durant). Whilst I read the Bible and try to gather understanding for it (via the Bible Projects “Read Scripture” App) it doesn’t really give that “personal” hum of appreciation for God that I felt when Ravi mentioned a commentary in Psalms 23 (where he broke down the meaning behind each verse)
So my question is: How DO you meditate on the Psalms like this? Is this a simple exercise, or does it require some time to study beforehand? If it’s simple, what steps would you provide as such. If it requires time, maybe you could recommend some book suggestions?
@AlphaOmega At its simplest meditation is thinking deeply - allowing an idea or truth to sink into your heart and soul.
meditate - think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time
The most classic passage on meditating on God’s law is in Deuteronomy - the Shema. The people were very simply to have God’s Word in front of them wherever they went - on their body, in their house, at their dinner table - always it was to be before them.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
We see the same attitude in Joshua:
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.
So the simplest way of meditating is to always have God’s Word around us - in our cars, having a Bible at work - doing everything to keep God’s Word in us and around us.
Another way of looking at it is through three words - study, store and savor. We study the Word to understand it. We store it in our hearts. And we savor it in praise and worship of God.
study the Word - accurately understand the meaning of the passage - historical context, original audience, possible applications for your life - as well as you are able
store it in your heart - read it aloud, commit it to memory, listen to it on audio Bible, pray it back to the Lord
savor it in your soul - let the truth you have learned move you to worship - songs of thanksgiving, acts of generosity, holy living, joy in Christ
I think each of us has unique ways of storing and savoring - painting, music, repeating it over and over, memorizing a few key verses - whatever works best. Regarding study, the following books may be useful - Keller’s book on Psalms 23 is great. I also think Moreland’s book helps us understand the role that reason play sin spiritual growth - that ‘hum’ we feel when something strikes our heart can and should be a consequence not of chance but of reason. When we truly comprehend the truth’s of God’s Word and meditate on them, they can transform us.
In addition, I think part of Church is that we are to meditate on God’s Word - the sermon is teaching, the worship is rejoicing in what God has done and the fellowship is an expression of the love God has given us for one another. Living out the Word is another way of meditating on it and we do that in community.
Always Remember that Jesus is Our Life
As we meditate on Scripture, it should always point us back to Jesus - He is our life! So the goal of meditating on God’s Word is to know God more and engage with God in the process of knowing Him more through His Word.
John 5:39-40 - You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
I find that meditating on scripture helps me to personalize it, or apply it in a personal way. It’s a way of getting that scripture rooted in not just my mind, but my soul. I need for that scripture, no matter which one it is, to thrive within my heart.
Visualization is a big part of how I meditate on scripture. For example, whenever I read a passage that references a person of faith being like a tree planted by a stream, I imagine that whole scenario. What does it mean for a tree to be planted by a stream? It means it’s constantly fed, so I see that tree being constantly nourished; I see the sun shining, and I hear the water trickling over smooth rocks worn by the current. That tree is vibrant with life, the grass around it is lush, the leaves are deep green, and there are little woodland creatures that turn to the tree for nourishment shelter and or play. This is how a believer who stays rooted in God’s word is, this is what I strive to be externally and what I visualize internally to get my mind and soul on board with what God wants of me to be. Doing this helps develop my ‘Christ conscience’ so that it’s easier for me to get back on track if I stray.
When I seek to more deeply understand a passage of scripture, I do research. I take what I’ve learned that has helped me more properly situate the passage in proper context and meaning and apply that to my meditations.
@AlphaOmega I had a difficult time with the aspect of meditation because I have always been a logical and analytical type of thinker. I wanted to know the content of Scripture, I wanted to know the facts, I wanted to know the day-to-day basic applications. Through that though I still found myself wanting, and I eventually realized I had no personal connection the Word and even a limited heart connectivity to God. I took some courses on spiritual development which changed my approach to Scripture greatly. While the exegetical understanding of Scripture is vital, just as important is the ability to connect on a heart level with it. A couple ways that I have been able to do that have been praying scripture, and utilizing Lectio Divina.
Praying scripture is what it sounds. You can take a passage (the Psalms are ideal for this) and you reframe the passage as a prayer to God: “Dear Lord, you are my Shepard, but I still find myself wanting. Help me to lie down and rest and lead my anxious heart to still waters. I am a sinner with a soul that needs restoration. Continue to guide me down a path of righteousness so that I might know you more” (Psalm 23). It takes a little work especially at first, and I’m still clunky at times when I do it, but it has vastly improved my prayer life, and my ability to deepen my connection with the Word.
Methods To Consider when praying Psalms:
Read a psalm and then personalize it. Take the feeling or ideas expressed and make them more specific to fit your life situation. Add appropriate persons’ names.
Read a Psalm and then personalize it for someone else you want to pray for. For example, you might pray Psalm 22 for a friend who has just been fired or laid off.
Along with praying the Psalms the Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) process is an ancient process of reading and meditating on scripture. Taking a short passage of scripture you begin the 4-part process:
Lectio (Read) – a slow, prayerful, deliberate reading and re-reading of a passage of Scripture. The passage used is generally a small section of Scripture, perhaps one verse or even part of a verse, although one can also choose to use entire stories. In this step, the key is to slow down and focus fully on the passage at hand.
Mediatio (meditate) - ponder the meaning of the passage. Focus on whatever part of the text you are drawn to, and the specific section that grabs your attention; it can be a line, a phrase, a word, a concept. Throughout the entire process, you strives to be open to how the Spirit leads you through the text.
Oratio (praying the text) - In this step of Lectio Divina, you have a “conversation with God” about the text. The goal of this part of Lectio Divina is to discover “what the text means to me.” Oratio is a back and forth with the Spirit of God. The process of lectio and meditatio prepares the soul to enter into this discussion, and oratio is deeper than merely thinking about a text. This step is conceptualized as a true relationship with God.
Contemplatio (contemplation) - Generally the last step of the Lectio Divina process where the person contemplates what God is putting on their heart. This may be an action, a heart change, or something to return to through the week in meditation and consideration.
I like to put a timer on this and set a certain time limit for each step so that I can be intentional about each step and also not feel overwhelmed by the process. Start with 3 minutes for each step and work your way up as you feel more and more comfortable. It’s a process and it’s about sharing the mind of God in your life through his Word.