Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
- Psalm 1:1-3
“The period of meditation is useful for personal consideration of Scripture, personal prayer, and personal intercession. It serves no other purpose. Spiritual experiments have no place here. But there must be time for these three things, because it is precisely God who requires them of us. Even if for a long time meditation were to mean nothing but that we are performing a service we owe to God, this would be reason enough to do it.
“This time for meditation does not allow us to sink into the void and bottomless pit of aloneness [Alleinsein], rather it allows us to be alone [allein] with the Word. In so doing it gives us solid ground on which to stand and clear guidance for the steps we have to take. …
“In our meditation we read the text given to us on the strength of the promise that it has something quite personal to say to us for this day and for our standing as Christians—it is not only God’s Word for the community of faith, but also God’s Word for me personally. We expose ourselves to the particular sentence and word until we personally are affected by it. When we do that, we are doing nothing but what the simplest, most unlearned Christian does every day. We are reading the Word of God as God’s Word for us. Therefore, we do not ask what this text has to say to other people. For those of us who are preachers that means we will not ask how we would preach or teach on this text, but what it has to say to us personally. It is true that to do this we must first have understood the content of the text. But in this situation we are neither doing an exegesis of the text, nor preparing a sermon or conducting a Bible study of any kind; we are rather waiting for God’s Word to us. We are not waiting in vain; on the contrary, we are waiting on the basis of a clear promise. Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns that it may take a long time before God’s Word has cleared all that away and gets through to us. But it will surely come, just as surely as none other than God has come to human beings and wants to come again. For that very reason we will begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send the Holy Spirit to us through the Word, and reveal God’s Word to us, and enlighten our minds.
“It is not necessary for us to get through the entire text in one period of meditation. Often we will have to stick to a single sentence or even to one Word because we have been gripped and challenged by it and can no longer evade it. Are not the words “father,” “love,” “mercy,” “cross,” “sanctification,” or “resurrection” often enough to fill amply the brief time set aside for our meditation?”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Bonhoeffer nearly describes a Lectio Divina style of meditation. Read a short passage of Scripture a few times; focus on one word or phrase; and make that phrase your mantra for the day. He comes close, but it varies a little.
I like how he talks about not reading so much and even then, not feeling that you must read it all. I love the concept of the year of the Bible, but I have not done that in about 10-15 years. You may not feel this way, but I focus so much on staying on schedule that I sometimes get very little out of the reading. A slower approach of finishing the Bible in 2-3 years, maybe with a couple of translations at the same time, can be very edifying.
In yet another confession, my meditation is not wavering, but the systematic Bible reading is of late. My devotional reading last year suffered. I had one devotional for the morning and another for the evening and both seemed to miss the mark in inspiring me to write. This year I have not quoted from one of my current devotional books, but I feel that both books could become a “close your eyes and point” kind of experience that I have had with previous devotionals, just not in 2021. My present devotionals are authored by Tony Dungy and Hank Hanegraaff (I think answers from the “Bible Answer Man” from his radio talk-show).
But Bonhoeffer mentions three things: Bible study, personal prayer, and intercessory prayer. The two types of prayer seem to be spur of the moment with me throughout the day. There is the church prayer list, but I can see that people from a particular country are viewing a post, and I will pray for the Christians in that country and that the Gospel will spread there. Of course, looking at the map and seeing a country that had never viewed one of my posts can elicit the same type of prayer, but for different reasons. But then, when you read other people’s posts, it seems to me to be a constant growth in things to pray for, good and bad, as other people share their lives online.
And I always try to keep the communication lines open with God. Often, I will get that strong feeling before I have finished my praying, but other times it comes in the middle of writing something. I have stopped on occasion in mid-sentence while writing, and I have had to delete the partial sentence, not knowing where I was going when a moment of prayer caused me to shift my focus. Maybe on those circumstances, God was simply preventing me from saying something that He did not wish for me to say.
If you set aside the time to be with God, you never know what might happen, but it will be interesting and usually edifying as well.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.