The main reason we struggle to remember what we read in Scripture is not a faulty memory, but a faulty Bible-intake method, says professor Donald Whitney.
Whitney’s solution is meditating on Scripture, and in chapter three of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, he provides two helpful illustrations to prove his point.
Why is meditation necessary?
1. A Cup of Tea
“A simple analogy would be a cup of tea. In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more permeating its effect. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown. Meditation on Scripture is letting the Bible brew in the brain.” (Pages 45-46)
2. Lingering by a fire.
“Meditation can also be compared to lingering by a fire. Imagine that you’ve been outside on an icy day and then come inside where there’s a hot, crackling fire in the fireplace. As you walk toward it, you are very cold. You stretch out your hands to the fire and rub them together briskly during the two seconds it takes to walk past the glow and the warmth. When you reach the other side of the room, you realize, I’m still cold. Is there something wrong with you? … No, the problem isn’t you; it’s your method. You didn’t stay by the fire. If you want to get warm, you have to linger by the fire until it warms you…The failure to linger is the reason why many fail to remember or find their hearts warmed by the fire of God’s Word…” (Page 49)
How to Meditate on Scripture
Whitney then goes on to provide 17 suggested ways to meditate on Scripture (see this pdf). This list has great suggestions, and I will toss in two of my own.
Follow the A-C-T-S prayer structure.
- Adoration: How can I worship God for who He is and what He has done based on this passage?
- Confession: What do I need to confess that relates to this passage’s truth?
- Thanksgiving: What can I thank God for related to this text?
- Supplication: What do I need to ask for God’s help in obeying and believing fully?
I also suggest following this biblical-theological pattern:
- Creation: How does this passage point to the goodness and wisdom of God’s creation?
- Fall: What does this passage say about my sinfulness and sinful humanity?
- Redemption: How does this passage relate to the person and work of Christ?
- Consummation: How should this passage stir a longing for Christ’s perfect and consummated kingdom?
Using any of these methods will help you chew the truth of Scripture down to digestible and applicable morsels that not only nourish your soul but lock the truth of Scripture firmly in your memory.
A final plea for disciplined meditation on Scripture:
Whitney: “Read less (if necessary) in order to meditate more. Although many Christians need to find the time to increase their Bible reading, there may be some who are spending all the time they can reading the Bible. If you could not possibly add more time to your devotional schedule for meditating on your Scripture reading, read less in order to have some unhurried time for meditation.”
I agree. Meditation is a neglected key to spiritual transformation. Christian, discipline yourself to meditate on God’s Word and you will fill gain incredible spiritual treasure, heavenly joy, and spiritual blessing (Psalm 1; Psalm 19:10).
- 10 Questions for Applying Scripture to Your Life
- 9 Factors that Make Reading the Bible Difficult
- 3 Prayers to Deepen Your Understanding of the Gospel
Read this article in Spanish: La Importancia de Meditar en Las Escrituras y Cómo Hacerlo