A Christian how-to for daily meditation
Many Christians have never been taught how to meditate on the text of the Bible. We have all heard many encouragements to read the Bible every day, but sometimes that feels like a chore rather than a joy.
Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism teach meditation techniques designed to empty your mind, and ultimately are looking for a god inside a person. But Christians seek to fill their minds rather than empty them. Christians seek to have the God of the universe come and live in their hearts and minds in the person of Jesus Christ.
For me, a key to enjoyable meditation was the change from fast reading to slow reading. Today we most often read for information—scanning newspaper articles or webpages, looking for the few interesting facts. That type of reading is well-served by fast reading. But meditation is not for information, it is for contemplation. So it is much better to read as slowly as you can, and to read out loud.
Here is a simple method of meditation used by Christians around the world for 500 years. Try it out for a few days. Remember that practice makes perfect.
The Ignatian Method simplified:
A method of meditation that can be used by both the intellectual and the affective types is the following. Further, it can be used in church to meditate on the Gospel for the day or at home on any part of the contents of the four Gospels. As a method, it is relatively easy to remember since each of the titles for its five parts begins with “P.”
- Prepare. Find a quiet place, make yourself comfortable, become aware of the presence of God around you, with you and in you. Breathe deeply and slowly. Open your Bible to the passage in the Gospels which you are going to read and meditate upon.
- Picture. Read the short passage concerning Jesus (e.g., Mark 1:16-20) and form a picture of the scene in your mind’s eye. Ask for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Then place yourself in the scene so that you can see and hear Jesus and feel the power of his presence. Remember similar occasions from the Gospels where Jesus did or said similar things.
- Ponder. Carefully consider what you hear Jesus say and what you see him do. What message does this have for you? What is he actually saying to you? What can you discern for your own good from the reactions of those around and with Jesus?
- Pray. Convert your reflections and considerations into prayers to God the Father of desire, love, joy, commitment, awe and reverence (as appropriate), and also offer petitions for God’s help, guidance and blessing.
- Practice. Make one or two specific (not general) resolutions to take into your daily life, from this moment, from that which you have learned and seen in the meditation.
In this approach, those whose imagination is vivid will find the picturing of the scene easy whilst those who enjoy discursive reason will pay special attention to the pondering. Further, those who feel their way into situations will be quickly moved by being in the presence of Jesus as they picture the scene and place themselves there. What is important is that the whole soul is exercised by all who meditate and that the memory, the intellect, the imagination, the will and the emotions and affections are exercised in a godly manner so that the fruit of meditation is holiness.
Peter Toon, “Meditating: Using a Simple Method,” Mandate 28, no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2005): 11.