Meditation has become a mainstream activity in popular culture. Medical doctors, counselors and therapists, self-help teachers, and celebrity influencers, champion meditation for various reasons. Jesus Christ is one of the most well-known spiritual teachers in history, so naturally many people want to know if he meditated.
The Bible never mentions that Jesus meditated. According to the Old Testament, there is a proper way to meditate biblically. Yet, the New Testament doesn’t say that Jesus did. It’s possible that Jesus meditated according to the methods described in Scripture, but there’s no way to know for sure.
Why doesn’t the New Testament say that Jesus meditated? Does anyone meditate in the New Testament? What does the Old Testament say about meditation? What is the difference between biblical meditation and the kind that is popular in secular society? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Why doesn’t the New Testament say Jesus meditated?
It’s possible that Jesus meditated in alignment with the Old Testament’s teaching about the practice because there was nothing inherently sinful with it. Jesus could have meditated on the Father and Scripture and not sinned in doing so; however, the New Testament doesn’t say that he did.
Did Jesus pray? The Gospels record that Jesus prayed. He petitioned the Father on different occasions with different requests. Sometimes the Gospels mention that Jesus prayed without adding more detail (e.g. Luke 6:12). Other times he asked for something specific (e.g. Matt. 26:29). However, while prayer and meditation and complementary disciplines, they aren’t the same thing (more below).
Does anyone meditate in the New Testament? The New Testament never mentions leaders in the early church meditating, like Peter, James, and John, who were Apostles. The New Testament also never mentions a layperson meditating either.
There are some verses in the New Testament in which the word “meditate” appears in certain English translations, but they are instructions, not descriptions of individual people.
In the English Standard Version (ESV), Luke 21:14-15 reads, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”
The King James Version (KJV) also uses the word “meditate” in Luke 21:14-15. Other translations use the word “worry,” i.e. “make up your mind not to worry beforehand” (New International Version).
Does the New Testament mention meditation in general? While the New Testament doesn’t describe Jesus or any other specific person meditating, some verses generally describe the practice.
For example, Philippians 4:8 reads, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).
The New King James Version (NKJV) is the only major translation that uses the word meditate in the verse: “…meditate on these things.”
What is biblical meditation?
The English word “meditation” comes from the Latin word meditatio, meaning, “to think over.” Non-Christian uses of the word refer to a variety of spiritual or mental exercises or disciplines that are done for different purposes, according to the worldview or philosophy of the practitioner.
The object of proper meditation according to the Bible is God and Scripture. As opposed to thinking in a manner that is loose and uncontrolled, biblical meditation is focused on biblical truth. Biblical meditation refers to thinking deeply about the goodness and nature of God and what he has revealed in Scripture.
What’s the difference between prayer and meditation in the Bible? Prayer is direct communication with God, enabled by Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. Prayer may involve praise, petition, repentance, or something else. Meditation, on the other hand, isn’t communication expressed to God, but focused thinking, pondering, and consideration of truth about God based on the teachings of the Bible.
Do Christians practice meditation and prayer together? For Christians people who undertake the practice, the biblical truths they meditate on turn into prayers of praise, thanks, confession, or worship. Meditation and prayer don’t describe the same practice, but they are companions.
Bible verses on meditation
Three examples of verses that describe meditating on God
- Psalm 63:5, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips”
- Psalm 104:34, “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.”
- Psalm 139:13, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
Three examples of verses that describe meditating on Scripture
- Psalm 1:2. “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
- Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
- Psalm 49:3, “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.”
- Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
- Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”
- Psalm 119:23, “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.”
Two examples of meditating on the works of God
- Psalm 77:10-11, “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.'”
- Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.”
God told Joshua to meditate on Scripture
- Joshua 1:8, “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. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
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