Much confusion exists regarding “meditation” in Christianity today, even in Adventist circles. There is no uniform understanding of its definition and its practice.
Scripture is not silent on this subject and speaks with clarity beginning with Joshua 1:8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (KJV).
Scriptural guidance begins with a description of our need to meditate upon the law of God, which reflects the character of God. So when we meditate upon the law we find ourselves learning about God.
Psalm 1:2 says: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (KJV). This statement regarding the life of a faithful man defines the process as lengthy and determinate. The pilgrim does not dabble with meditation or engage lightly in its beauty, but holds the value of the activity in such high regard that he repeatedly returns to it throughout the day and night.
We Christians in the twenty-first century are deceived into thinking that meditation is either totally unnecessary or of minimal importance. We leave no place for it in our daily schedule; we allow other media to saturate our minds and our attention. We give it a low priority while claiming to place upon it a high value. We are hypocritical regarding its importance.
A Unique Method of Listening
More recent counsel informs us that “the mind should be elevated to dwell upon eternal scenes, heaven, its treasures, its glories, and should take sweet and holy satisfaction in the truths of the Bible” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 164).
We are also told: “By study, contemplation, and prayer, God’s people will be elevated above common, earthly thoughts and feelings, and will be brought into harmony with Christ and His great work of cleansing the sanctuary above from the sins of the people” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 575).
Contemplation and meditation can thus be understood to be synonymous, a process of dwelling in thought upon God and spiritual matters, a process of bringing us closer to God in a unique way. Meditation not only involves thinking but it incorporates study. It underscores the importance of truth. So it’s not a simple process of repeating a mantra or some other short recitational prayer. “The words of Christ must be meditated upon and cherished and enshrined in the heart. They should not be repeated, parrot-like, finding no place in the memory and having no influence over the heart and life” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 355).
Meditation is a deliberate effort to connect to God without talking to Him. It’s not prayer but a unique method of listening. It is something that we should include in our daily routine, something we should not overlook.
“But what should I do when I’m not feeling well?” you ask. Once again we have words of comfort: “Often your mind may be clouded because of pain. Then do not try to think. You know that Jesus loves you. He understands your weakness. You may do his will by just resting in his arms” (Review and Herald, June 2, 1910).
There is no need for meditation to become stressful. No, it should be a pleasant and edifying experience—one that is thoroughly enjoyable. That’s why we are also told: “Disciplining the mind by religious exercises to love devotion and heavenly things, will bring the greatest amount of happiness” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 507).
The apostle Paul joins this conversation in his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8, KJV, emphasis supplied). He confirms the process as one involving thought, evaluation, and continual study.
Paul’s letter to the church is not limited to any age group, but is meant for believers of all ages. Ellen White informs the church of today that the “future abode of the righteous and their everlasting reward are high and ennobling themes for the young to contemplate” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 504).
What then should we contemplate? Upon what shall we meditate? Is our meditation limited to the law of God and the writings of the Old Testament, as stated above in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2?
Again we have counsel: “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it point by point and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene, especially the closing ones of His earthly life. By thus contemplating His teachings and sufferings, and the infinite sacrifice made by Him for the redemption of the race, we may strengthen our faith, quicken our love, and become more deeply imbued with the spirit which sustained our Savior. If we would be saved at last we must all learn the lesson of penitence and faith at the foot of the cross. . . . Everything noble and generous in man will respond to the contemplation of Christ upon the cross” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 374).
Missing Out on the Power
Each of us is probably familiar with the above-mentioned quote. We know its content, and we know its intent, yet we fail to parse the statement and fully grasp its meaning.
We fail to live its power. “The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Savior’s love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 213).
Perhaps we have never learned of this power to assist us in partaking of the divine nature and elevating our affections. Meditation is an unused tool in our spiritual toolbox. It lies idle and unworn.
We wonder why the church is stagnant. We wonder why the Holy Spirit is manifested so little. And yet we fail to qualify for receiving Him. With so little preparation He cannot come to us; we are not ready.
The power of meditation will also affect our minds: “The mind will strengthen by dwelling upon elevating subjects” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 408). As we spend time in meditation, our minds and our faith will strengthen. Our desires will become His desires, our thoughts will become His thoughts, and finally our actions will become His actions, and we will be living the life that God means for us to live.
“Contemplating things of eternal interest will give true perception of the things of God. The respect and reverence due to God will be exhibited in the daily life and character. The soul will be brought into harmony with heaven. The entire character will be elevated and transformed. The believer will be made Christ-like, and finally obtain an entrance into the city of God” (Review and Herald, January 1, 1880).
Lest we think a minor investment of our personal time is adequate, let me reiterate with this comment: “The work of becoming perfect through the merits of Christ requires much meditation and earnest prayer” (Review and Herald, August 8, 1878, emphasis supplied).
Yes, the church is largely uneducated regarding meditation. The subject needs to be presented before the people with clarity and enthusiasm that we may “comprehend and enjoy God” (Review and Herald, May 30, 1882).