On the Meditation of Scripture

David declares, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, NASB)

As Christians, we should love God’s law. Peter says we desire it like new born babies desire milk (1 Peter 2:2). It should be our constant meditation. Unfortunately, many of us do not know how to meditate. Our impression of meditation is sitting with our legs crossed while humming.

Meditation is not that. The word used for meditation can also mean reflection, prayer, musing, and devotion. In other words, it is something you think about. Of course, there are a variety of ways to think about something. This word, however, gives the impression of eagerness and delight. For example, when I come home from work, my children run out shrieking with excitement. It is seriously one of my favorite parts of my day. I think about it throughout the day with increasing excitement. I imagine their smiling, fruit snack-covered faces giving me kisses. I muse on it. Or, to put it in a biblical way, I meditate on it.

That is the idea here. The question, then, is how do we do this?

As with many things in the Christian life, there are a variety of ways to meditate on Scripture. Depending upon your personality and way of learning, you may meditate differently. For some, meditation takes place with pen and paper (I am thinking of Jonathan Edwards here). For others, it may take the form of writing songs (perhaps an Isaac Watts?). The list could go on, but one thing I have found helpful is to briefly jot down some main thoughts.

In order to provide some structure for this, I created a little document I call “Personal Notes on Scripture Reading.” You are free to download it here: Personal Notes on Scripture Reading

I organized it in a way that suits my study habits and personal quirks. Let me breakdown what I have, and perhaps it will help you meditate on God’s Word.

PASSAGE READ

This would be the Scripture you read. It may be several chapters, a chapter, or a section of verses. It simply depends upon your time and ability to consume Scripture. Don’t worry about the amount you read, focus on the content of what you read.

MAIN THOUGHTS

What are the main thoughts of the passage? Is is a story? Is it a letter? The literary genres in Scripture are vast. The different people and points are also expansive. The idea here is to capture the main points (or thoughts) of the passage. This will help you remember what you read throughout the day. (For a little more treatment on this, check out this post.) Besides help in remembering what you read, this also helps in writing the thoughts in your own words. In other words, it helps with retention.

THOUGHTS FOR FURTHER INQUIRY

The third section is for questions that come up during your reading. In my example, my question for Psalm 119:71 is, “Why does affliction bring about greater learning of God’s

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Word?”

When reading Scripture, we need to be asking questions. Will this create more work? Yes, it will. However, it will yield fruit lasting for years. Imagine if you took a few more minutes each day to read Scripture in this way. The gems mined from your daily readings would invigorate your love for God’s Word. It would provide a feast for you for years to come. It would help you understand God, His ways, and our purpose, with ever-increasing clarity. 

 

PRAYER POINTS

The last section of my “Personal Notes on Scripture Reading” is called prayer points. What I am looking for here is how can this shape my prayer life. Using Psalm 119:71 as an example, I wrote, “Rather than praying for the removal from affliction, I should pray for learning during affliction.” This is a personal application. I can easily turn that to a prayer for my family, friends, my students, their families, our church, etc.

Every verse or passage may not lend itself to easy application. It may take more work to fill in this chart for a narrative than for an epistle. But you know what? As I continue to learn and apply God’s Word, I find myself, more and more, crying out “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

 

How do you meditate on God’s Word? I would love to hear about it!

 

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Lectio Divina: A Wonderful Experience

“Situated between life as we know it and life in its hoped-for fullness, spiritual practices are imbued with a sense of our relatedness to God, others, and the earth.” [Griffth and Groome, 2012]

That is how the editors Colleen Griffith and Thomas Groome begin their section on ‘The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Practices’. In my recent reading of the book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus author Mark Yaconelli writes about “two basic, traditional forms of contemplative prayer to parents and people who minister with young people: lectio divina and centering prayer.” [Yaconelli, 2006] The practice known as lectio divina is of great spiritual value to those who can mine its wealth. Certainly there is wisdom in approaching this carefully, weighing each thought and prayer in balance with the Scriptures. Having that as an understanding, let us move into the practical benefits of lectio divina and the methods.

Yaconelli defines lectio divina as “holy reading”. [Yaconelli, 2006] There is a brief mention of this practice in Scripture (see Acts 8.26-39), and Schneiders describes it as “a rich practice of biblical spirituality of transformative engagement with the Word.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012]

Schneiders continues, “Lectio divina is a four-step process that begins with the slow, leisurely, attentive reading (lectio) and rereading of a biblical text. Often the text is committed to memory in the process. By internalizing the text in its verbal form, one passes on to a rumination or meditation on scripture bear witness to both the spiritual depth and the imaginative breadth to which the process could lead.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012] Schneiders description is brief, and unfortunately does not provide much practical advice.

This is where Yaconelli comes in handy. He provides a five-step method which I shall reproduce for you.

  • Preparation- find a passage of Scripture that can be meditated, contemplated, mined for its wealth. Set the ambiance, light a candle, place a cross or crucifix before you. Use bread and wine. breadwine-63ed983aThese are all symbols (and there are much more) that can bring to mind a thousand thoughts and accounts from Scripture.
  • Silence- Yaconelli recommends finding a quiet place in which you can communicate with God without noise or distraction. The Psalmist recommends being still (Psalm 46.10 uses a word that denotes a complete cessation of activity), so this is the first step.peaceful-place-park
  • Reading- This one seems to stand without saying, but lectio divina requires reading. This reading is different than our normal reading. Sometimes we read for information, other times for leisure. But for this we are “seeking to be with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006] So a short Psalm, a few verses in an epistle work perfectly.
  • Meditation- This step allows the truth of the Scripture to speak through the Holy Spirit about your life, your thoughts, your successes, your failures, you.
  • Oration- This is where you begin to speak to God, you thank Him, beg Him for help. “Honestly express your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires in a dialogue with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006]
  • Contemplation- I love how Yaconelli describes this last step. “Finally, allow yourself to simply rest in God, like a child resting in her mother’s lap.” [Yaconelli, 2006]

There is a mystical beauty in this practice. Sometimes it may be hard, especially for our western, fact-based thinking. But I close with the story he offers as a magnificent description of lectio divina.

“My wife and I dated in college before the days of e-mail. During the summers, when we were apart, we would write letters to each other. I still remember the excitement of running to the mailbox after each workday, hoping to see a letter with my name written in Jill’s handwriting. Each time I received a letter from my beloved, I would run down to my room, close the door, and then slowly pore over her words. When I read a letter from Jill, it was very different from other forms of reading. I wasn’t seeking to catch up on the news as much as I was seeking to experience Jill. I was seeking to meet her in her letters, to receive her love, to feel her presence and be with her in some way.” [Yaconelli, 2006]