Stone Soup for Five: What is biblical meditation?

What is biblical meditation?

Thank you so much for responding to my survey over biblical meditation!  It was so helpful!
One of the questions I asked was "What is your biggest challenge with biblical meditation?" and quite a few of you called me out on the fact that I failed to define the term. So true!  My mistake! 

So let's start this series out with a definition of what biblical meditation is.  I am currently working through the book of Joshua with the I Will Meditate journals, and the term actually came up right in chapter one.

Meditation in the Bible:
"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..." -Joshua 1:8
The Old Testament Hebrew word for meditate is hagah, which means to speak, imagine, study, mutter, devise, muse, ponder.  To speak with oneself.  In the New Testament we see a similar term in the Greek in 1 Timothy 4:15:
"Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all" -NASB
"Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all." -KJV
The word for "take pains" and "meditate" is the Greek word meletaƍ which means, to care for, attend to, practice, to meditate, devise, ponder.

The idea and practice of meditation is a very biblical idea that has been practiced since the early days of Genesis.  In Genesis 24 we see that Isaac went out in the field to meditate.  In this verse it is a different Hebrew word that is used that means to commune, to muse, to speak, to complain.  A simple word search in the Bible will turn up dozens of passages about meditating.  It is a thoroughly biblical term that is exactly the opposite of the New Age definition today.

What it is not:

A lot of you voiced very real concerns that biblical meditation sounds a lot like eastern meditation or mysticism.  I admit that was a very real fear for me too when I first started looking into biblical meditation.  The New Age movement and other religions have used this term for decades and it makes it confusing.  Biblical meditation is not emptying your mind and humming to become "one" with God.  It's not about candles, yoga positions, or breathing deeply, or humming. 

It is also not Bible study, though it can have some of the same aspects such as word studies and cross references.  Bible study tends to be more in the head (though not always, some good Bible studies make great use of meditation) or more toward gaining knowledge of the Bible.  Meditation is reasoning together with God, talking with Him through His word, how He is directing your life, and how to apply His truth to life.

Biblical meditation is also not prayer, though it leads to deep, honest prayer like nothing else.  

What it is: 

To meditate on the Bible is to fill your mind with the Word of God and think carefully on what it says, what it teaches you about God, how He acts, and how to apply it to your life in a very personal way.

Maybe it helps to think of Scripture as a toasty fire inside a snow covered cabin. You enter into the cabin all icy cold. You see the fire, know that it produces heat and light and can change things from one state to another (raw to cooked, cold to hot, dark to light) but you never sit down to feel it. You can study it from a distance, see it from across the room, but never feel the warmth and experience the light.  Sometimes this is how Bible study can be. A lot of head knowledge, but no real heart change.

Or maybe you rejoice that fire keeps you and your family warm, and you love how it looks and sounds, and you deeply appreciate it.  You enjoy the fire so much you talk all about it to others and to God, but you don't actually make the time sit by it to let it thaw you out... and wonder why you're not warmer.  Sometimes prayer without meditation can be like this.

And, according to your survey responses, a lot of us actually make it to the fire,  but get distracted with young children, lack of time, to-do lists that magically pop up in your head (WHY do we remember ALL. THE. THINGS. when we want to think deeply about something?!), or your phone vibrates or bings just as you sit down, and you're up and away from the fire for the rest of the day.  You end the day cold and tired, wishing the fire somehow burned brighter or hotter or that you could carry it around with you to thaw you out better, but you never paused or leaned in long enough to pick out a coal.

Some of us don’t ever get to the fire, or even open the door to the cabin, and wonder why we're not warmer, or why God doesn't make the fire work for us.

Meditation, my friends, is pulling up a comfy chair and sitting by the fire, leaning in, warming your hands, nose, and feet and lingering there, soaking in the warmth and feeling it seep deep into your heart.

What we'll do:

In this series, I'm going to walk you through real, practical, simple ways to train yourself how to meditate on God's word.  We're learning how to build that fire and pull up a chair.  You will have to promise me that as you're learning you'll be kind to yourself.  For some of us, this is going to be an entirely new way to think and make connections and it is going to take some time to learn.  Be patient.  Give yourself freedom to play, experiment, and learn.  The good new is that there are no meditation police, and no grades given out, so you are free to learn and grow and keep trying!  

There are many ways to do biblical meditation and we're going to practice some that are simple (but may not be easy at first) that you can use right away.  If you have elementary or older children, encourage them to get in on it too.  

Try this:

Up first, let's experiment with a method I've talked about before on the blog.  I call it a Super Simple Summary.  Two or three times this week, read your Bible (with whatever reading plan you are working through.  If you aren't working on any plan, maybe try this method with the book of Titus which is three chapters or 2 Timothy which is four chapters) and after you read one page, stop and ask yourself, what did I just read?  Then write a super simple summary at the top of that page.  Just try to get the main idea or topic on the top of the page, don't freeze up looking for the perfect summary, and don't try to summarize everything.  Keep it super simple. This is a great way to open the door to that cabin and start to kindle the fire.  

BONUS CHALLENGE:  If you have a little more time, ask yourself "so what?" or "why does this matter?"  and write a brief thought answering that at the bottom of the page.  Only if you have time.  And that's it!

Learn together:

Here on the blog I have a tab at the top labeled COMMUNITY.  I encourage you to go to that tab and share with us how it went, what you learned, or what you thought of this method.  Look for the topic of Biblical Meditation then click on it and find "Super Simple Summary."  Here we can encourage and learn from each other!

Next up:

Next week I'll have another method of easy Biblical Meditation (that children and teens can do too!) and we'll talk about handling distractions.  I can't wait to see what you learn from your time meditating in God's word!


  1. kari,i have been trying to meditate for years.I HAD THE CHRISTIAN MEDITATOR'S BOOKS CD AND JOURnals with no success.i am frustrated and discouraged.i don't know what to do.

    1. Well, I hope you'll join in here and try this simple challenge this week. Each week the challenge will be different and help you grow in your ability to meditate on scripture. If you follow along you'll be ready for it!

  2. Is this where I comment about the passage I read. I read Genesis 23. Sarah was 127 when she died. Abraham buried her in a tomb that he purchased.

  3. Kari, your comparing Biblical meditation to getting close to the fire and enjoying it is so GOOD! Thank you! I never got to fill out the survey, 'cause life got crazy. I want to learn to do this better, and teach my 2 boys that's there are times when you just gotta go at life yourself 'cause mom is busy for 10 minutes. I'm so looking forward to this series and plan to share this post with a few friends who I know struggle with this also. You are such a wonderful light in the midst of a busy, crazy life trying to keep my marriage strong and get these 2 boys through childhood alive.

    1. Oh, I so hear you about keeping boys alive LOLLLL I hope you stick around, I think it'll be real practical and super valuable for you!

  4. I love this! I'll be joining in, for sure. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Cara! I pray you get some great times with the Lord through it!

  5. I like this challenge and I will try this... we know I have several bibles, but I just can't get motivated. I might try online with YouVersion and write to paper. I'll have to see how it goes. I just cannot get motivated or disciplined. This challenge is good and something I really need.


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