How to Meditate on the Bible
I read an article a few years ago about a pastor who went to a retreat center for a week of spiritual renewal. His spiritual director gave him a passage to meditate on for his first day, instructing him to use the lectio divina method. This pastor recounted how he spent the day doing excellent exegesis work on the passage, developing an outline, determining the main point, etc. However, when he met with his spiritual director at the end of the day, he was given the same passage again for the next day and told to listen for God’s voice to him through it.
Again he went back and did more study, more meditation, more work on the passage, and felt he had exhausted the hermeneutical potential of this text. But that night he was told to meditate on the same passage the following day, but really letting God speak to him through it. On the third day this pastor finally had a personal breakthrough with the passage and God ministered to him at a deep, deep level regarding personal issues in his life.
I have often remembered this story over the past few years when I think of Biblical meditation. In a recent class assignment where I had to meditate on various scripture passages over several weeks, however, I discovered that knowing what to do does not necessarily mean I was doing it. For the first several weeks of meditation, I had all sorts of insights into the texts themselves. Of course I was always seeking ways to personally apply the texts in the same ways I would give applications in a sermon.
The day we discussed the fruits of the Spirit in class, the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head that meditating on the fruit of the spirit means looking for ways to live it out. It was the same scripture I had just spent weeks meditating on. I left class that night dumbfounded that it had never occurred to me to examine my life for these fruits, much less pray for them. Wow, I thought. Okay, I get it. Or at least I’m starting to get it.