‘Meditating on Jesus’ instinctively sounds like one of those over-spiritualised Christianese phrases that intense Christians use. It’s the sort of answer that you want to roll your eyes at when you ask someone at church, “what have you been up to?” and they respond with, “just meditating on Christ, bro”. Too deep.
However, meditation can often be too easily dismissed by Christians for one of two reasons. It is either considered too close to the practices of other religions (or various secular activities) and therefore potentially dangerous or demonic. Or it is assumed to be something only available to those really deep in their spiritual walk with Jesus. Not, therefore, for the average Christian.
I want to acknowledge both of those assumptions (and their origins) but suggest that there’s more to it. I even want to propose that meditating on Jesus is one of the best things that you can do as a Christian. It is founded in Scripture, modelled by Christ Himself and has been practised within orthodoxy as part of the Christian spiritual journey for centuries. Meditation has a fundamentally Christian heritage and, what’s more, anyone can do it. Including you! The deeper you go into Scripture, the harder it becomes to deny a place for meditation within the Christian faith.
Here’s four questions that might help you to better engage with Christian meditation.
1. Did Jesus meditate?
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night…” Joshua 1:8
There is plenty of scriptural evidence to suggest that Jesus practised meditation and modelled it to His followers. It is fair to argue that the specifics of Jesus’ style and technique of prayer are not always clearly defined. However, the lifestyle that Jesus led and the way that He taught are consistent with someone who understood the power of holy meditation.
Old Testament teaching
Scriptures from the Old Testament, such as the Joshua passage above, demonstrate that there was deep cultural heritage and precedent for meditation amongst the Jewish people. Jesus was intimately aware of the Old Testament writings – something illustrated by the frequency with which He quoted them. As a result, He would have been familiar with meditation as a tool through which God’s people had long-engaged with their Creator.
The teaching of Jesus
Jesus’ own teachings substantiate this thought. Consider Jesus’ instructions on prayer in Matthew 6. Jesus advocates a quiet space, alone time and the use of few words rather than many. It is the articulation of a simple and meditative style of prayer, rather than a complex and wordy one. It’s also an indication that these principles are those that Jesus Himself practised as He spent intimate time with His Father.
The life of Jesus
When Jesus’ teachings are coupled with events recorded in Jesus’ life by the Gospel writers – such as His 40 days in the desert (Luke 4) or His habit of praying on mountains early in the morning (Matthew 14:23) – it further figures that Jesus regularly engaged with meditative practices as He engaged with His Father. Deep prayer, listening, silence and solitude were fundamental components of Jesus’ earthly rhythms. If it was good enough for Jesus, then finding time for spiritual contemplation can be useful for us all!
2. Should you meditate?
“Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
There are other compelling reasons why we should meditate as Christians. It is perhaps fair to say that we cannot grow in our faith without it.
As Christians, our relationship with Jesus is central to our entire faith journey. Consequently, meditating on Jesus becomes one of the most valuable ways we can spend our time. Christian meditation calls us to fill our mind with God and His truth. It carves out mind and soul space to engage deeply with the realities of our Saviour, the worldview that we have put our faith in and who we are in Christ.
At its root, meditation is a form of worship. It leads us to delight in God’s nature, His ways and His love for humanity. As we read in Psalm 1, we are blessed when we meditate on God’s law. It draws us close to the very one who gives us light and life.
Meditation is the perfect antidote to the distracting and deceptive culture of the world. It brings us back to what is right, pure, holy and true.
3. What should you meditate on?
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about [dwell on, consider] such things.” Philippians 4:8
If meditation is simply a tool to lead us closer to Jesus, then there are many ways that can be achieved. Don’t panic if you don’t know where to start.
As Paul teaches in Philippians, dwelling on things which are true, noble and pure will always lead us in the direction of Christ. Why? Because Jesus is the truth. He is purity, nobility and righteousness. Give your mind space to the good stuff, to truth, and Jesus can reveal Himself through that.
Ultimately, the easiest way to meditate on Jesus is to meditate on Scripture. The reasoning is simple. As Jesus Himself says explicitly, all Scripture is about Him (John 5:39-40, Luke 24:25-27). Consequently, spending time pondering and reflecting over Bible verses will naturally guide you deeper into a relationship with Him.
Not only is the Word of God living and active, but the Holy Spirit will be at work in you as you meditate. He will open your eyes to the reality of what you are reading. It is, quite literally, a transformative experience.
If you sometimes want a break from reading, I also enjoy meditating on the glory of God as revealed in natural creation. Get outside! Go and watch a sunset or get out into the park early when no one is about. It’s amazing how you can hear God’s voice when surrounded by beauty. It’s how we have been designed to experience the world.
4. How do you start meditating on Jesus?
Engaging with a new practice or habit is not always easy; it’s like trying to go to the gym for the first time.
Study it for yourself
Although it may seem ironic to encourage this while you are actually reading a blog post, don’t take the word of a blog as your reason to meditate on Jesus. Rather, invest some study time into exploring biblical meditation for yourself. Know for yourself why meditation is both biblical and important and then meditate out of your own conviction to do so. It’s a stronger starting place and one that will yield deeper spiritual fruit.
No-one is expecting you to go from a meditation newbie to someone who can spend 12 hours in deep scriptural contemplation. Meditation, like many things in the faith, is simply a tool to help you spend time with Jesus. So you can use it in a way that works for you. Just start somewhere. Find a verse that jumps out and, rather than moving straight on, commit a few minutes to pondering it. Maybe write something down in a journal. You can build over time and try different ways of meditating as you go.
Find somewhere peaceful
While you can technically meditate anywhere, a peaceful spot is a useful aid to finding some mind space to engage with the practice. I find it helpful to walk as I meditate. I have friends who have a favourite space – either a chair in their house or a bench that overlooks a beautiful view. A quiet environment is a good one. Where could work for you?
Build in regularity
Habits are built through repetition. Plan some time to give over to more meditative prayer and reflection and then stick to those times where possible. Remember, it doesn’t have to be long, just whatever feels manageable. The key though, is finding a spot in your schedule where it can become a regular thing.
Hopefully our questions have given you food for thought. My encouragement is this: don’t give up on meditating on Jesus. There is so much to unlock. Meditation is a powerful method to develop joy and intimacy with Jesus.
As we explore the world of meditation together through the Glorify App, let us echo the simple prayer of Psalm 19: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”