As many of our readers may know, prior to my conversion to Christ at age 17, my parents and I had been followers of an Indian guru who called himself Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He had come to the United States in the late 1950's and to Britain in the early 1960's to promote his version of yoga meditation. He called it "transcendental meditation" (TM) and it became very popular, especially after the Beatles gave it their support. My parents were members of the Sacramento Friends Meeting, the theologically liberal branch of Friends, and they were introduced to it by a several others in their meeting. For two years we faithfully practiced the technique. My father and I spent a month at (then) Humboldt State College in Arcata, California, listening to daily lectures from Maharishi and studying to become teachers of TM.
While I was strolling through the campus after one of the lectures, I came across a couple of "Jesus Freaks" who were preaching to a bunch of mediators, telling them to repent and turn to Jesus. Maharishi had just been telling us that if we meditated long enough, we would eventually "shake hands with God", that is, have a personal encounter with God. These followers of Christ informed us that they had already met God and were having daily fellowship with Him. This astounded us and it made me start to wonder if I shouldn't consider the claims of Christ. After almost another year of investigating the Bible and the evidence for the truth of Christianity, I became convinced. After a bit of struggle and hesitation, I confessed my sins to God and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I found immediate peace and, awhile later, after beginning the practice of Biblical meditation and prayer, a wonderful sense of the presence of God began to permeate my consciousness. I gave up practicing TM, because the Lord told me to. Later, I found out that the "mantra" that I had been repeating was actually the name of a Hindu god.
What is Biblical meditation? The Bible speaks much about meditation. It tells us to "meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still." (Psalm 4:4) There are several Hebrew words that are translated, "meditate" or "meditation". The one in this passage literally means "to speak". Since it is "in your heart" it is obviously internal. Who do we speak to? It can include speaking to God (prayer), but the main audience for meditation is ourselves. We are to speak to ourselves. But what are we to say? In TM, I used to mentally repeat my "mantra" (a couple of Sanskrit words), for about 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. But in Biblical meditation we "speak" to ourselves the word and truth of God. God told Joshua, before he led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." (Joshua 1:8) Part of meditation is to read, repeat to ourselves, even memorize, passages and truths found in the Scriptures.
Another Hebrew word means, "to inquire" or "to seek". We find this in Psalm 27:4 - "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and tomeditate [inquire] in His temple." Here we see that meditation includes contemplation: thinking about God, His wonderful actions, words and attributes. At the same time, this raises questions in his mind and so he inquires or seeks after the answers. God wants us to think and think very deeply. It all begins by not taking anything for granted. Biblical words like, "faith", "love", "intercede" and "redeem" are often read but seldom really pondered. Biblical meditation includes cracking open Bible dictionaries, concordances, maps and commentaries to dig deeper into the meaning of Scripture. But above all, it means focusing the mind on God's truth and letting that truth permeate your consciousness and shape your conscience. Hindu and other forms of eastern meditation seek to transcend or empty the mind, but Biblical meditation seeks to fill the mind with God's truth, to turn it over and over until it is observed from every possible angle and applied to every practical issue. The Holy Spirit is delighted with this activity and will help it along, enhancing the awareness and deepening the appreciation of Biblical truth.
There is so much to think over and ponder in our hearts. In Psalm 119, the writer proposes five subjects upon which he will meditate: "I will meditation on Your precepts (verse 15)… I will meditate on Your wonders (verse 27)… I will meditate on Your statutes (verse 48)… I will meditate on Your word (verse 148). Another psalmist declares, "I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds(Psalm 77:12). He does this by remembering the great things God has done as recorded in Scripture. As He has helped others, so He will help us. What a great encouragement to us! So let us meditate on God, His words, His deeds, the truth He has revealed, and we, like Joshua, shall make our way prosperous and successfully overcome the enemies of our souls so that we may enjoy the riches of our inheritance in Christ.