Meditating on Scripture

There are many reasons to talk about Scripture. Personally, I need regular reminders of the importance and benefit of engaging with Scripture. Like most healthy things in life, inertia kicks in over time and my practice starts to wear out. There is so much to do, things to read, good things to listen to and watch, and the primary easily becomes the secondary. This current sermon series, “The Word Still Speaks,” is in part a personal reminder to make the main things the main things. If Psalm 1 were to say that the blessed one meditates on Christian literature, or the most recent binge-watchable TV series phenomenon, then we would have more reason to get out there and engage with those things. But the path of blessedness is not in those things. So, here again is a short plan and plea to join in meditating on the Scriptures and to excel still more.

Meditating on Scripture 101: four steps

Here is a four step approach to Scripture meditation. These steps are easy and this is an easy place to start with meditating on Scripture. Although easy, the practice is deep and will grow with you and be able to sustain you into maturity. When Jesus compares the word of God to bread (quoting from Deut. 8.3), he gives an important image. Just as you never grow up to a point in life where eating becomes irrelevant, so too you never reach a point where chewing on the Scriptures is irrelevant. This practice of meditation, simple as it may seem, can (and should) become as central to your daily life and health as eating. While meditation is not a race, this practice can be done in 5 minutes.

What I am laying out here is my own version of what I was taught in seminary by Dr. Donald Whitney. He discusses meditating on Scripture, and many other valuable practices for spiritual health, in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I recommend it.

Step 1: Read

Start with reading something in Scripture. We all probably should read more of God’s word than we currently do. That is a truism. But start somewhere. If a chapter a day seems too daunting, then start with a paragraph a day. If that is still too daunting, then start with 1 verse a day. You will not grow very strong on a diet of one verse a day, but the choice for one a day will be at least 365 days of spending time steeping in God’s word in the next year, which I wager is more than many of us have done this past year.

Start with something you can do rather than something grandiose. You will almost assuredly fail at a  grandiose goal and then the sense of failure will hamstring your efforts and you will stop doing anything at all. So, start reading a manageable chunk of Scripture. Surely you can find space—make space—in the day to read one paragraph from the Scriptures. If that is more than you have been doing, then start there.

Step 2: Choose

Second, as you read through—whether it be one verse, one paragraph, or several chapters—pay attention to what strikes you. Now, I’m not suggesting that whatever sticks out to you in one reading of a passage is going to be the key to some profound and subtle understanding of a given passage of Scripture. That is not the point of starting out meditating on Scripture. We are working on chewing on the Scriptures as daily bread. Learning to engage with a 7-course meal is a different thing.

As you read, there is bound to be something in the passage that strikes you. Something in the text which presents a startling or comforting or challenging thought. Of course, you could use more elaborate methods of choosing a passage to focus on, and there is merit in that once established in meditation. But start where you are.

Step 3: Steep

Third, mull on the passage which stuck to you. The goal here is to go back to it and spend some time letting it steep in your mind and heart. What should you do? Here are a few suggestions:

  • reread it several times (try putting emphasis on different parts of the verse)
  • ask questions of the verse (you don’t need to answer them; the goal here is to spend time with the passage, not figure everything out)
  • consider how it could impact your life today

Step 4: Pray

Lastly, spend a moment in prayer shaped by the truths you just focused on. Meditation should open up a conversation with God. After all, since the words come from God it only makes sense to speak with God about them

“Meditation must always involve two people—the Christian and the Holy Spirit. Praying over a text is the invitation for the Holy Spirit to hold His divine light over the words of Scripture to show you what you cannot see without Him.”

Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 55.

Step 5 of 4

The fifth step: repeat tomorrow.

Final encouragements

While meditation on Scripture is simple, it is not always easy. That’s ok. Keep at it.

Meditation is not a race! It is a time to find spiritual food for the day.

Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas on Unsplash