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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scripture Meditation Methods

Last week, we looked at the differences between worldly transcendental meditation and Scripture meditation. Beyond the initial resistance to the word “meditation”, I’d like to address the other big barrier to Scripture meditation – the “I don’t know how” syndrome.

Some folks don’t meditate because they don’t want to. Others don’t meditate because they don’t know how. Both groups will use the phrase above to explain why they don’t meditate. For those who don’t want to meditate, may this post take away your excuse. For those who want to meditate, may this post remove your restraints.

Dr. Don Whitney, a professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, teaches on this subject at conferences and churches all over the country. Most of these methods I’ll share today are from his lectures.

The first step, of course, is to decide what verse you’d like to use. It could be from your devotional reading, from a sermon you’ve recently heard, from a passage that you have memorized, etc. It is a good idea to just take one verse at a time, so that you don’t rush through the job. Some of these methods will require you to be sitting down with a pen and paper. Others you will be able to do anywhere.

1. Write the verse in your own words.
This will require you to take the time to think about what each word means and how it is contributing to the overall meaning of the verse. You may find it beneficial to re-write it in your own words several different ways. You can then take the best of the best and make one final paraphrase. Remember, the objective is not to come up with our own translation, but rather to use this as a tool to help you think through the verse and what it means.

2. Look for applications of this text.
Come up with as many practical ways of living the verse as you can. Again, this forces you to think through exactly what the verse is saying in its context. And I'll say it here – just because you are only meditating on one verse doesn’t mean that you ignore the context. If you don’t know the context and how the verse fits into the material around it, you might as well not meditate on that verse at all because you will end up with wrong conclusions. That is why I prefer to meditate on verses from books I have studied or passages I have memorized.

3. Read or recite the verse with emphasis on a different word each time.
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:9).
Here also, the idea is to think through each word and find how that word is contributing to the meaning of the verse as a whole.

4. Discover a minimum number of insights in the text.
You simply set a number and make that many observations of the verse. Taking Eph 2:9 above as an example (with the context in mind), I could list the following insights:
- there is a right way and a wrong way to be saved
- works will not bring me to salvation
- God saves by grace so that I may not boast of myself in my salvation
- I can place no hope in my own works
- no one has a right to boast before God

5. Ask the “Joseph Hall” questions.
Click the link and you’ll find a pdf of these questions. They are thought provoking questions to ask of a text to generate insights.

6. Ask the Phil 4:8 questions.
Phil 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
With this method, you just take your verse and pose questions based on Phil 4:8. What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify? What is honorable about this? What is right about this? What is pure about this or how does it exemplify purity? etc.
This method is particularly useful with narrative portions of Scripture.

7. Finally, pray through the text.
Again, using Eph 2:9 as my text, I could pray, “Lord, I humbly recognize that my salvation is all of grace and has nothing to do with any works done by me. Please convict me of any boasting in my heart related to my salvation. Help me to despair of works, knowing that I am saved by grace alone, and yet help me to be conscious that works should result from your work in my life.”

Let me emphasize that you don’t need to do all of these each time you meditate. Just choose one or two. Try them all eventually and you will find the methods you like best. Remember, this isn’t for super Christians only. We are all to meditate on Scripture. If we don’t, we are ignoring what Scripture holds up as a primary means to obedience (Psa 1, Psa 119:11, Jos 1:8,

May the Lord bless you in this discipline.

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