“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows.…meditation is a lost art today.” J.I. Packer, Knowing God.
I would agree.
Meditating on truth, Scripture, the ways and purpose and promises of God takes a special focus. It is a valuation of quality instead of quantity. Let me explain. I have been blessed to read the Bible from start to finish a few times. Mostly I ploughed through the Word of God with the help of a Bible reading plan. My goal was to finish, and the daily “assignments” led to my goal of completion. Depending on what was going on in my life, I read my daily readings with more or less attention. Of course some books of the Bible were easier to read than others. Did I value every day’s reading? I have to be truthful. Sometimes I did not. Did I complete my reading of the Bible?
Meditating on the Word of God is a very different approach than pushing through a book of the Bible or reading the whole Bible in a certain length of time. Packer is advocating meditating on God’s Word. In fact he is lamenting the fact that most people do not even understand meditation of anything at all, much less meditation on the Word of God.
To meditate is to be present in the reading of God’s word and to meditate is not to be obsessed with covering “x” number of verses in a day’s time. It is calling one’s mind into the process; thinking about the Scripture, dwelling on the Scripture and applying the Scripture to your life. The focus is on our efforts to deeply understand God’s Word.
At the risk of alienating some readers who may misunderstand meditation, our minds usually work on the stories of our lives. Stop and think about that. My day is filled with thoughts about what I have to do in the future. What is the next job I have to do? What are the steps I have to complete in the process of doing that job? Or sometimes we ruminate on the past. This happened to me yesterday or I may go backward in time for weeks, months or even years. I struggle to concentrate on the now. Let me be honest. There are special, treasured, sacred moments in my life, moments I have dreamed about doing. Sometimes I work on the stories of my life so much that I miss those special moments. I need to stop thinking about the stories of my life and attend to what is right in front of me…especially if what is in front of me is the Word of God.
I am not a yoga expert, master of whatever. I just practice yoga. I have noticed that since I have become more serious about my practice, that concentrating on the present is an important part of yoga. It is simple; you begin by attending to your breath, not letting the stories of your life invade your thinking. Inhale as much as you can and exhale as much as you can. Then try to make the inhale and exhale the same length. Try to focus on breathing and stop thinking other thoughts. The idea is to go from breathing to concentrating on the movement of the body as you assume poses that aid with flexibility. Thinking about the future and past will only get in the way as you should try to “go to the edge” of what you can do now. Will you move better in the future? Maybe, if you continue. Are you better now than you used to be? What does that matter? You are doing your practice to the best of your ability right now.
Let’s stop for a moment and address this issue. Is my mind being influenced by sinister Hindu spirits? Some fear yoga because of it Eastern origins. No, I am a Christian who is learning to meditate and learning to move with more flexibility, a positive thing for my sixty-seven year-old body.
Along the way I am learning to be present for myself, fully present on what is new and delightful in my life right now. I attend to my thoughts and emotions. When I really become present-centered, I let my heart lead me in life; my heart helps me to ascertain the best choices [to Christians some would call this being led by the Holy Spirit]. I want to learn to be fully present for each step of my spiritual growth, each step of my spiritual journey.
Packer writes that Holy meditation is “an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God….to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision…and to let His truth makes its full and proper impact of one’s mind and heart…the goal is a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.”
As we begin to understand what Packer advocates in his book Knowing God, he would rather we recognize the value of quality over quantity. What is the aim of knowing God, “ a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in it infinity.”*
Recognize that He is here.
He is here…now.
*From C. H. Spurgeon