Meditation is dwelling on a subject in thought, revolving the subject over and over in the mind. We shall here speak of meditation as used in the contemplation of God and the truths of the Christian religion. Meditating on God and his law is of great importance; it is really the foundation of the whole prayer life.
The devout Psalmist understood something of the importance and benefits of right meditation when he prayed, “Let the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.” Speaking of the bodily man, he says, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.” This is the ground and secret of godliness and godly living. With respect to his own meditation he said: “O, how love I your law! It is my meditation all the day.” “Your testimonies are my meditation.” “I meditate on all your works; I muse on the works of your hands.” “While I was musing, the fire burned.” “Musing” on the things of God, is a private devotion that usually results in the love of God being enkindled in our hearts.
Again, he says, “My meditation of him shall be sweet.” “I meditate on you in the night watches.” “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night-that I may meditate on your promises.”
Meditation is prayer. It is sometimes called mental prayer, to distinguish it from the prayer of petition. Meditating prayer is not asking God for anything — but it almost always ends in such a prayer.
Suppose you open your Bible to Isaiah 6:3 and read, “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty: the whole earth is full of his glory.” You begin to meditate upon the holiness of God. You view his holy acts in creation and in redemption. You see his holiness as revealed in his law. The Spirit aids you, and you get a clearer conception of God and his holiness; you see its beauty more clearly, and you throw yourself lovingly, confidingly into his bosom and cry from an intense inward desire, “O God, let your holiness be upon me!” Thus the prayer of meditation — ends in the prayer of petition.
Meditation is not study. The study of God’s law is good, in that it produces intellectual results — but meditation on God’s law increases the love and devotion of our hearts. Nevertheless, meditation is carried on by the action of the mental faculties. You can see that the mind is more actively employed, while you are contemplating the character of God as revealed in his Word, and his works — than it is when you are merely asking him for what you need. Very little mental effort is required to ask the Lord for that which we may need. This is why meditative prayer is denominated mental prayer.
We should study the Bible, that we may from an intellectual standpoint, rightly divide the Word of truth — but we should have a higher aim than merely gaining anintellectual knowledge of divine things.
The different tissues of our bodies need food. The mouth and the stomach prepare the food and supply the different constituents of the body. Should the stomach retain all the nutrition of the foods, it would have a supply of foods — but their strength and life-giving force would never be felt in the other parts of the body.
Our souls need food. It is the mind that is to supply the soul with the food it needs. If the mind retains all the nutrition of truth, we may have much intellectual knowledge of divine truth — but the soul is not built up. In the spiritual being, there is a process whereby the truth prepared by the mind can be conveyed to the soul, imparting life-giving force and increasing the soul’s warmth and strength of devotion.
Meditation is an aid to the will, and all our progress in spiritual life is made through the choice and the power of the will.
It is the love of God, which is the constraining power in the Christian’s life. A person may do a great many things to be seen by men, have much enthusiasm in service, study hard that he may excel in intellectual strength — but if he has not the fullness of the love of God, he will not be able to live in heart-to-heart communion with God. It is through meditation, that love is increased, and the ardor of love serves as a tonic to man’s will and enables him to pray.
Many would love to pray more, and often resolve to do so — but they are hindered. They cannot overcome indifferent feelings and a disposition to neglect and postpone. They are always going to do — but never doing. They need their hearts touched by the constraining power of love. It is by meditating on the goodness of God, on his love to us, on his dying to save us — which warms our hearts with love. This will enable us to suffer for his sake. It gives power to the will, so that man can pray in secret. Love energizes the will and enables man to do and to endure for God.
The Christian has many conflicts. Sometimes he finds it a conflict to pray; he feels dull and indifferent. He then thinks of the love and goodness of God. As he meditates — his heart warms with love, his will is revived as with a tonic, and he hastens with delight to the secret closet for prayer.
Meditation is needful — but meditation alone will not suffice. It should end in prayer. Beholding the love of God in silent thought — should move us to pray for that love in our own hearts. The Holy Scriptures furnish subjects for meditation on every page.
Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26
On reading this, you will think of God’s being your Father, a real Father, one who is living and ever present with you. You will see the care he has for all his redeemed children. You will see his sympathy, his love, and his pity. It is your Father who never forgets nor neglects the “birds of the air.” If he will do so much for them — will he not be mindful of his child? What if some have ceased to love you? What if friends have forsaken you? What if loved ones have misrepresented you? Your Father loves and cares for you! You see him very near to you, attending to your slightest need. Now you cannot be troubled about anything tomorrow, because you see the care that your kind heavenly Father has for you. A depressing feeling may be over you, a cloud may be eclipsing the sun — but this cannot disturb you, for you realize your Father’s care. When you see him thus in his Fatherly love and care for you — then have childlike boldness to come to him and ask him for all you need.
Never leave the place of meditation without firmly resolving to practice what you have learned. Decide never to take any anxious thought for the morrow. Ask God to help you to live just such a free and happy life, and then believe that he will do it.
Such meditation will loosen any and every dependence you may have had upon any earthly thing. It will cause the affections to let go of every earthly thing — and become centered upon God. Oh, how your heart will burn within you — as you think of your Father’s kind care. In your meditation, you will catch glimpses of his holiness in his care for all his children, and you will feel constrained to walk softly before Him. Take time for meditation and prayer in some quiet place.