It is easy for us who are bombarded with information not to meditate or process all the input to which we are exposed. We are inundated with news from our car radios, emails at work, texts and tweets from friends, web-site surfing, and podcasts and TV in the evenings. And don’t forget all the cell phones calls each day.
Donald S. Whitney in his Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life contrasts our 21st century media saturated lifestyle to the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards. “I’m told that due to the information explosion, which doubles the total sum of human knowledge every few years, we’ve now reached a point where the average weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards would have encountered in his entire eighteenth-century lifetime” (page 46). This prolific writer did not have the distractions with which we battle. Granted the fact he was a disciplined genius did not hurt.
How can we overcome the endless competitors for our time and attention and grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s Word? Meditation!
Whitney defines meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer” (page 44).
Whitney gives an analogy of a cup of tea. In the analogy you are the hot cup of water and the Word of God is the tea bag. “Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. In this analogy, reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are represented by additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more effect it has. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown” (page 44).
Even Edwards had to discipline himself to use his time wisely in order to meditate on God’s Word. Whitney related the following example: When he was younger, Edwards had pondered how to make use of the time he had to spend on journeys (on horse back). After the move to Northampton he worked out a plan for pinning a small piece of paper to a given spot on his coat, assigning the paper a number and charging his mind to associate a subject with that piece of paper. After a ride as long as the three-day return from Boston he would be bristling with papers. Back in his study, he would take off the papers methodically, and write down the train of thought each slip recalled to him (page 48).
It is not enough to memorize God’s Word. Atheists and parrots memorize the Bible. Meditation equips us to apply God’s Word.
Just as meditating should take place after hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word, prayer should be the practical application of meditation. Thomas Manton wrote of this process: “The word feeds meditation and meditation feeds prayer” (The Works of Thomas Manton, pages 272-273).
Daniel was meditating on Jeremiah 25 as Daniel 9:1-2 records. When he understood the significance of the passage he set his face “unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fastings, and sackcloth and ashes.” Meditation fed one of the most remarkable prayers in God’s Word.
David also benefited from his meditation which led to this outburst of praise: “O how love I your law! It is my meditation all the day. You through your commandments have made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep you precepts” (Psalm 119:97-100).
As a result of his recorded meditations, Edwards being dead yet speaks and impacts our lives. If we would commit ourselves to this lost art of concentration we also could be used of God to be agents of change.