Spiritual Disciplines: Meditation and Memorization

We are currently in a series on the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. In the last article, we considered the importance of hearing and reading God’s Word. Today, we’ll look at two more ways we take in the Word: meditation and memorization.

Meditation

Typically one doesn’t think of meditation as Bible intake. Instead, when we think of meditation, we think of some sort of ‘New Age’ meditation that involves ’emptying our mind’ and ‘finding ourselves.’ However, Christian meditation is not emptying our mind, instead, we are filling it with God’s Word in order to find Christ.

As Joshua becomes the leader of God’s people, the Lord commands him: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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” (Joshua 1:8). God promises to bless those who meditate on His word. In Psalm 1, He says that those who meditate on His law “day and night” will be like a tree planted by the water and “whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

Meditation is “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purpose of understanding, application, and prayer” (48). This is more than just reading God’s word; it’s taking time to reflect on it and apply it. Dr. Whitney uses the analogy of making a cup of tea. Hearing God’s Word is dipping the tea bag in the water one time. “Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown” (48). As we meditate on Scripture, we are steeping our mind in God’s Word.

If you’re like me, there are times you read God’s word, but never think about what you’ve read the rest of the day. A practical way to incorporate meditation is to think about the passage you read all throughout the day. Use natural transitions in the day as reminders to think about the Scripture. For example, if you are a teacher, whenever the bell rings or classes change, use that as a reminder to dwell on that day’s passage. Others might have a short drive to a lunch destination everyday or a natural break between meetings. Most of us find ourselves in waiting rooms for doctor visits or dentist appointments. Take advantage of these moments to remind yourself of the passage you read that day, what it says about God, and how to apply it. This can be a simple way to allow God’s word to sink in our minds.

As you read Scripture, don’t just read it as fast as you can…find a passage to meditate on. Read it repeatedly. Ask yourself what the passage teaches about God, then determine how that understanding of God applies to you. Think about it throughout your day. Marinate in the truths of God’s Word.

Memorization

God’s word is powerful, and storing it in our mind equips and prepares us for occasions we might need it. It also helps shape our mind and our worldview to a biblical worldview. The value of storing God’s Word in our hearts and mind is immeasurable. As David says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he fought against the temptation by quoting Scripture. Having Scripture stored in our mind gives us weapons in the moments of temptation. God’s word is referred to as the “Sword of the Spirit,” and we never know when a battle might arise. It might also provide us with the truth we need to encourage a friend at the right time.

Proverbs 22:17-19 encourages believers to “apply your mind to knowledge” that it may be “ready on your lips.” The result of having this knowledge ready is so that our “trust may be in the Lord.” Memorizing Scripture helps deepen our trust and walk with the Lord.

Excuses

While we likely agree that memorizing Scripture is beneficial, some might say it’s impossible for them to do. It is true that memorizing Scripture can be very difficult and the older we get, the harder it can be! With that said, let me encourage you it can be done!

Do you know your phone number? Do you have your address memorized? What about your birthday? If we can memorize those, we can memorize Scripture. While it might take work, our brains are certainly capable of memorizing.

Perhaps our problem is with motivation. If we were offered $500 for every verse we memorized this month, we would likely put the work in and memorize several verses. This shows that we are able to memorize if we are motivated. While $500 would be a nice incentive, the spiritual benefit we get from memorizing Scripture is far more valuable. May the value of having God’s Word memorized motivate us to do the hard work of memorizing.

Application Questions

  1. How can you incorporate meditation into your Bible reading?
  2. What are natural transitions in your day that can remind you to dwell on Scripture?
  3. What is your plan to memorize Scripture this year? What verse/passage will you begin memorizing?

Next week we’ll look at the next spiritual discipline: prayer.

Sources: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.

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