The Bible exhorts men to meditate. So does Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Kabbalah, the new age religions, yoga, business leadership seminars and life improvement coaches. Meditation is popularly presented as a means of getting in touch with self, controlling emotions, conquering disease, becoming one with the divine or reaching one’s true potential.
Did the Psalmist practice meditation similar to that of Buddha? Did Paul have something like transcendental meditation in mind when he commanded, “Meditate on these things”? Does the Bible present meditation as means of calming the soul?
Meditation comes in many different varieties, some very different from others. Some groups teach meditation as an emptying of all thought and losing oneself in the peacefulness of harmony with the universe. Others teach meditation as a careful attention to one’s breathings and sensations that gives full attention to what is happening at that moment.
Much of the meditation practiced in America today is influenced by Buddhist and Hindu teachings but is stripped of its associated teachings. Despite the lack of overt eastern religious training getting in touch with oneself, paying careful attention to the moment, not reacting to external stimuli and feeling a connectedness to others are all ideas pulled straight out of the Eastern religions.
Meditation in all the eastern religions is a means of achieving the highest spiritual state, usually associated with ending the supposed cycle of reincarnation. For example, the Buddhist is at peace with the world because he is not deeply affected by anything that goes on. He has distanced himself from his passions and longings. Only by disconnecting himself from everything can the Buddhist reach Nirvana. Meditation is the means by which the Buddhist trains himself to remain aloof from deep desire and deep attachment.
Meditation in the Bible is very different from the meditation practiced by mystical, new age and eastern religions. The Biblical practice of meditation is centered on the truth of God. When David says in Psalm 119, “Oh how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day” he is describing a careful attention to the Word of God. When Paul says, “Meditate on these things” he is instructing Timothy to think deeply about the truths Paul has taught him. Meditation always refers to careful attention to information. Biblical meditation focuses on what God has revealed in His Word so the Christian may better understand and obey it.
Biblical meditation is not a way to disconnect, focus, heal or reach the Divine. Biblical meditation is one part of the study of the Bible. The one meditating remembers truth, considers truth, seeks the best understanding of truth, and works through how truth applies to his life. Biblical meditation does not require a particular pose or measured breathing. Biblical meditation does not require an emptied mind released of conscious thought. It requires an attentive mind directed to and by Scripture. Biblical meditation focuses on God and His Word so the Christian may better live in a way that is pleasing to Him.