Newsletter / Issue 33, June 2017

Benefiting from the Psalms

The Art of Meditation

By Dick Jaques

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How does a man lay out his or her need before an Almighty God? How do the created even speak to the Creator? How do the hurting pour out their souls to a loving God?  The Psalms show us how.  As we begin our summer teaching series on the Psalms called "The Psalms: Jesus' Prayer Book", I want to give you some helps on how we can have heart transformation as we go through Psalms together.

One of the key ideas found in the Psalms is the word meditate or remember. They are found 35 times in the Psalms alone. If I were the devil and his minions, I would do my best to divide and fragment the thinking of the children of God. I would try to get God’s people confused as to who they are and why they are here. I would try to get them preoccupied with other things. I would try to get them to live independently, to think like the world thinks, to think like the natural man thinks in the futility of his mind (Ephesians 4:17-18). In other words, I would like to keep people away from serious involvement with the Word of God. I would want to keep their relationship to God’s Word superficial and secondary at best.

What is Meditation?

Eastern meditation is the practice of trying to empty your mind. Biblical meditation is the attempt to replace wrong thinking with what is right and true according to God’s word. It is “focusing one’s thoughts: to ponder, think on, muse.” Meditation consists of reflective thinking usually on a specific subject in order to discern its meaning or significance. For example the following verses:

  • Psalm 63:6 -- when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
  • Psalm 77:11 -- I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
  • Psalm 78:42 -- They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
  • Psalm 143:5 -- I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

Meditation in the Bible means to reflect on biblical truth so that God is able to speak to us through His word and through the thoughts that come to us as we reflect on the truth. The goal of meditation is to have the truth of God’s word transform how we think, our attitudes, and our actions. (Remember the phrase, “We do what we do because we think like we think,” from our Ephesians series?)

The Purpose of Meditation

  1. Worship: Meditation is designed to help us focus on the Lord (Ps. 27:4; 77:12.) It helps us put life into perspective so that we can more easily discern the temporal from the eternal. It helps us to see and understand the all of who God is and what He has done and what He is doing.
  2. Instruction: Meditation is designed to help us understand the word of God better and ways it applies to our lives (Ps. 49:3; 119:27).
  3. Encouragement or Motivation: Meditation is designed to motivate us or inspire us to action. To encourage (put courage into) us to move forwards and away from crippling fear for the good works God has called us to (Ps. 56:3-4; Eph. 2:10).
  4. Transformation: Meditation is designed to transform our minds and change our lives. (Ps. 4:4; 19:14; 119:15; Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:1-2).

Man is a complex, holistic being. His spiritual, psychological, and physical bodies are all intertwined. Dr. Paul Meier writes:

To prepare myself as a Christian psychiatrist, I undertook college studies, an M.S. degree in human physiology, an M.D. from medical school, psychiatric residency training in two different programs, and theological courses from two evangelical seminaries. During those years I was equipped with many techniques and shortcuts for bringing human beings relief from anxieties, depression, phobias, fears, insecurities, and other kinds of emotional and physical pain. Among the many tools I learned to use, by far the one that has been most valuable in helping people attain spiritual well-being is Scripture meditation. Paul Meier, Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World, edited by John D. Woodbridge, Moody Press, Chicago, 1985, p. 25.

Meditation affects a man’s whole being.

The 3 P’s of Meditation:

  1. Picture: Try to visualize what is going on. Try to put yourself in the picture. This is most easily done with narrative passages.  With non-narrative passages, how would you express it in a drawing or in writing?
  2. Ponder: Think about the meaning of the words or events. What effect did they have on the recipients? What effect do they have on you?
  3. Pray: Ask God to help you to bear fruit in that area of your life, or for you to make a difference in the life of another.  

Here's an example: "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!" (Psalm 119:36).

  1. Picture: I picture a table in my heart. It is slanted so that every time a ball is put on it the ball rolls one direction... towards the truths in God’s word and away from self-centeredness.
  2. Ponder: I’m reminded that God wants to set me free from the bondage and the emptiness of self-centeredness. I’m reminded that Christ died to set me free from my bent towards self-centered living and to find life in living for Him.
  3. Pray: Father, thank You that the power of self-centeredness is overcome with the power of the Gospel. Help my heart be transformed as I meditate on Your Word. Help me to see the ways I can die to self today to serve others and live to glorify You.

The call to meditate is expressed well in Samuel’s words to Saul in 1st Samuel 9:27, “stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”  In our busy world the art of meditation is becoming more and more rare.  However, we live in a time when meditation is increasingly vital to our lives.  I learned "Picture, Ponder, Pray" personally from Jerry Fine, who has written about it in his book One on One with God, and I've found it a rich and indesensable skill as I approach God's Word.  Let me challenge you to take the next step to meditate through the Psalms as we journey through them this summer.  I'd also challenge you to find a friend or two and do this together (the chances of success with accountability are much better!).  My hope is that you will make it a lifetime habit to meditate on the Scriptures.