The first Psalm describes the man who meditates on Scripture as blessed, nourished, fruitful, prosperous, and enduring. Everyone wants those results. Truly attaining them is another thing. We must be people who meditate deeply on Scripture, drinking in deeply of its glorious truths and connecting them to our hearts so that our lives reflect the impact of the Author of Scripture.
In Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Pastor Tim Keller shares instruction from Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray on one method for meditation that Luther commended:
After advising meditation, Luther describes how to do it. He uses the metaphor of a garland. “I divide each [biblical] command into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is I think of each commandment as first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.” This turns every biblical text into a “school text, a song book, a penitential book, and a prayer book.” (90)
After unpacking each of those four points, Keller shares an example from Luther on the first commandment (Exodus 20:3):
“I am the Lord your God, etc. You shall have no other gods before me,” etc. Here I earnestly consider that…my heart must not build upon anything else or trust in any other thing, be it wealth, prestige, wisdom, might, piety, or anything else. Second, I give thanks for his infinite compassion by which he has come to me in such a fatherly way and, unasked, unbidden, and unmerited, has offered to be my God, to care for me, and to be my comfort, guardian, help, and strength in every time of need…Third, I confess… for having fearfully provoked his wrath by countless acts of idolatry. I repent of these and ask for his grace. Fourth, I pray…preserve my heart so that I shall never again become forgetful and ungrateful, that I may never seek after other gods or other consolation on earth or in any creature, but cling truly and solely to thee, my only God.” (92-93)
Notice how Luther works out the truth of the text as it affects his relationship to God, to himself, and to the world. The meditations he records are blends of discursive thinking and personal address. They are not exactly Bible study, yet not exactly prayer. They are thinking in the presence of God–meditation. They are ways of inclining and preparing the heart for prayer by fully using the mind and taking the Scripture with utmost seriousness–all at the same time.
Meditation is thinking in the presence of God, thinking God’s thoughts to Him and applying them to our lives, allowing our hearts and minds to be flooded with truth from the Word that the Spirit massages deep into our souls. We need to keep God’s perspective that we won’t always see growth quickly or receive the blessings man looks for. A tree doesn’t spring up over night even if it is planted by streams of water.
I have been greatly challenged in my prayer life through Keller’s book and am encouraged to make sure the place I’m sinking my deep roots into is by Scripture’s streams of living water that will nourish, prosper, help me to endure and be blessed.
I hope you’re challenged and encouraged as well.
A version of this post was published in November 2014.