To Meditate or Not to Meditate …

Recent reports of studies from the world of psychology have heaped doubts upon the efficacy of meditation as a therapy and have undermined the widespread idea that Eastern-style meditation can be good for whatever ails you. One news article reports:

For scientists have revealed the trendy Buddhist practice does not make you more compassionate, less aggressive or prejudiced. Meditation, incorporating a range of spiritual and religious beliefs, has been touted for decades as being able to make the world a better place. However, researchers from the U.K., New Zealand and The Netherlands have found meditation doesn’t change how adults behave toward others.[1]

A popular meditation therapy that is being questioned is mindfulness therapy. According to the website of Psychology Today:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.[2]

Now, this blog is neither sufficient to review the evidence nor to come to any conclusion regarding the science behind meditation therapy, but we shall attempt to make helpful comments from Scripture about it all. People of the West are not meditating people. We are in a big hurry most of the time, and we are more interested in searching for practical solutions on the internet than in searching our souls or in “just sittin’ there thinkin’.” But the hurry of life has left many cold, and no small few of those have turned to the East for help.[3]

From the East has come meditation, a way to slow down and to focus. It sounds good. It looks peaceful. But now scientists tell us, perhaps, not so much.

It is strange that we in the West do not meditate, since our culture in no small degree springs from a meditating religion. The Old Testament often speaks of meditation and reveals it to be a normal part of life among God’s people. Yet we, within whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells, have little time for what seems to be “doing nothing.”

But biblical meditation is not “doing nothing.” Yes, “nothing” is the end result of mindfulness meditation, as we see it explained above. You become merely an observer, focused upon yourself. You live “in the moment,” observing “your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad” and ignoring both the past and the future. And if all I can see is me, then really all I can see is nothing.

Biblical meditation is far different from what is proposed in Eastern meditation, especially as it is portrayed in mindfulness. Listen to the Word of God:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. (Joshua 1:8a)

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

  • First, the key Hebrew words for “meditate” are hagah, a low groan or mutter, and siach, to be concerned with. Biblical meditation is not observing myself, but rather it is engaging deeply, making judgments, thinking and repeating.
  • Second, this repeating is about remembering. We understand that the Lord is with us now by remembering where we have been with Him before.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7, NKJV)

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. (Psalm 63:6)

  • Third, the primary object of biblical meditation is the Law of God, the standard and guide of our daily living.
  • Fourth, biblical meditation is to be done while we are living life, day and night. Meditation is not reserved for times of aloneness and aloofness and introspection. Meditation must invade every part of our lives. This is part of what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Fifth, biblical meditation has a purpose—“that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” It leads us to holiness.
  • Sixth, biblical meditation has an external standard of success. Our meditation succeeds when it pleases our Lord.

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)

  • Seventh, biblical meditation ultimately is focused upon our Lord God Himself.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

When God Himself, His Word, and His commands become our every moment, a continuous deep groan within, and our never-ceasing concern, that is biblical meditation. And such meditation is strong medicine, good for whatever ails you … and so much more.