Three principles and five ways on how to meditate biblically (and safely) as a Christian while avoiding the spiritual dangers of Eastern meditation.
Christian meditation has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in recent decades. It has grown alongside Eastern meditation in the US and Western world – hence the reason people want to know how to meditate.
However, there are definitely some dangers to so-called “Christian Meditation”. Just as Jesus said “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21), so also not every ministry that practices “Christian meditation” is doing it in line with Scripture.
Each meditation ministry may teach a mixture of Christian, Catholic, Orthodox, and Eastern (non-Christian) religious practices. There’s even an app that promises to “Transform your life with guided Christian meditation” (see Abide). But with all the information out there and the inherent dangers in Eastern meditation, how are you supposed to meditate safely?
In this post, I aim to provide three principles and five ways on how to meditate safely and biblically as a Christian.
Step #1: Include Verbal & Mental Aspects
In the Bible, the Hebrew word for “meditate” is ‘hagah’ (הָגָה). “Hagah” is used around 25 times in the Old Testament and it is translated as “meditate” 6 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Although it’s not a prominent concept in the Bible, neither is it obscure.
According to Strong’s, “hagah” means to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse. So in Hebrew, there’s a verbal and a mental aspect to meditation. It’s about pondering and thinking but it’s also about saying and groaning.
Biblical meditation involves more than silent prayer.
Perhaps you’re more used to praying alone and in your head. That may be fine in prayer, but that’s not meditation. The ancient Jews were not so concerned about quietness in meditation. As you’re considering how to mediate, keep in mind meditation includes both contemplative and verbal aspects.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Step #2: Focus on Scripture
The Puritans worshiped in the Church of England during the 16th and 17th centuries.While the Church was recovering the gospel, some Puritans were recovering the lost practice of biblical meditation. Challies cites Puritan scholar Joel Beeke on how the Puritans practiced meditation…
“Puritan meditation engages the mind with God’s revealed truth in order to inflame the heart with affections towards God and transform the life unto obedience. Thomas Hooker defined it like this: ‘Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it effectually upon the heart.’
The direction of our minds reveals the truest love of our hearts, and so, Hooker said, he who loves God’s Word meditates on it regularly (Ps. 119:97). Therefore, Puritan meditation is not repeating a sound, emptying the mind, or imagining physical sights and sensations, but a focused exercise of thought and faith upon the Word of God.”
To the Puritans, meditation was an important aspect of personal devotion. But that meditation was not a listless muttering that you may find in Eastern meditation practices. Instead, it was an activity grounded in the Word of God. This concept is a more sure foundation for our meditation and one way to keep it grounded in truth.
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:97-99)
Step #3: Replace Lies with Biblical Truth Through Meditation
Part of the reason we struggle is we believe lies the enemy tells us. Satan may tell us something about our value, something about our security, or something about our future that simply isn’t true. And we internalize it and worry about about a falsehood. As Christians, we are not immune to the enemy’s attacks.
But we do have a resource to fight back.
One helpful way to fight back is to replace the lies of the enemy with God’s truth is by meditating on a relevant passage. For instance, if you are struggling with worry, you can meditate on a passage that speaks directly to your situation like Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
God knows you. He knows your situation and has a storehouse of truth available to the seeking Christian in the Bible. Whatever you’re struggling with – anxiety, marriage issues, singleness, lust, dishonesty, or something else – God’s word addresses it.
Here’s a helpful site to help you find relevant passages to meditate on. Simply type in the area you want Scripture for (ex. worry), then a list of verses will pop-up that address that topic:
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” (Psalm 143:5)
Now that we’ve covered a few principles for meditating like a Christian, here are some helpful steps in your meditation.
Step 4: Find a quiet place.
Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted for 15-20 minutes or so. Light music, without words is optional. (Matthew 6:6)
Step 5: Pick a short passage of Scripture.
Open the Psalms or use the OpenBible.info tool to find a relevant Scripture that addresses a situation you’re dealing with right now. Use a passage that is no longer than 3-5 verses to start.
Step 6: Begin with this prayer:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
Step 7: Read the passage slowly and out loud several times.
Pay attention to the pace – do not rush things. Let God’s truth slowly infiltrate every part of your being. Repeat sections of the passage that are particularly meaningful. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Step 8: Pray about whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind.
After you meditate on the passage, address whatever the Lord highlights at that point may be bringing truths to mind as you are considering his word (John 14:26).
“When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:6)
Conclusion: Meditation Confession & Concern
I do not practice Christian meditation consistently, but I have enjoyed some of the benefits to that come from light meditation. My life is more peaceful the more I pray and meditate.
Consider the spiritual danger of much that is called ‘Christian’ meditation. Eastern meditation practices have infiltrated several ministries that teach meditation. Do your own research, seek the Lord, and always depend on Scripture for all decisions. Use the above principles and steps to meditate as a Christian – as they are rooted in the Bible – and discover the benefit the ancients have learned.
- Use this site to find Scriptures to meditate on related to your personal area of struggle: OpenBible.info/Topics
- Video: One example of Healing Scriptures set to soft music.
- Brandon Clay: Four Spiritual Dangers in Eastern Meditation