From Donald S. Whitney’s excellent book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2014), 56-68.
Meditation is not folding your arms, leaning back in your chair, and staring at the ceiling. That’s daydreaming, not meditation. Daydreaming isn’t always a waste of time; it can be a much-needed, well-deserved respite for the mind as important as relaxation often is for the body. Our gracious Father is not always goading us to “produce,” and, as I’ve written elsewhere, it is possible to daydream, to “Do Nothing—and Do It to the Glory of God.”
As opposed to daydreaming wherein you let your mind wander, with meditation you focus your thoughts. You give your attention to the verse, phrase, word, or teaching of Scripture you have chosen. Instead of mental aimlessness, in meditation your mind is on a track—it’s going somewhere; it has direction. The direction your mind takes is determined by the method of meditation you choose.
Here are seventeen methods of meditating on Scripture. I use all of them some of the time and none of them all the time. Why do I present so many? Because you’ll likely resonate with some of these methods more than others, while the inclinations of someone else might be just the opposite of yours. And like me, you’ll probably want some variety.
Here are the methods he presents. See the book for an explanation of each.
- Emphasize Different Words in the Text
- Rewrite the Text in Your Own Words
- Formulate a Principle from the Text—What Does It Teach?
- Think of an Illustration of the Text—What Picture Explains It?
- Look for Applications of the Text
- Ask How the Text Points to the Law or the Gospel
- Ask How the Text Points to Something About Jesus
- Ask What Question Is Answered or What Problem Is Solved by the Text
- Pray Through the Text
- Memorize the Text
- Create an Artistic Expression of the Text
- Ask the Philippians 4:8 Questions of the Text
- What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?
- What is honorable about this?
- What is just or right about this?
- What is pure about this, or how does it exemplify purity?
- What is lovely about this?
- What is commendable about this?
- What is excellent about this (that is, excels others of this kind)?
- What is praiseworthy about this?
- Ask the Joseph Hall Questions of the Text
- What is it (define and/or describe what it is) you are meditating upon?
- What are its divisions or parts?
- What causes it?
- What does it cause; that is, what are its fruits and effects?
- What is its place, location, or use?
- What are its qualities and attachments?
- What is contrary, contradictory, or different to it?
- What compares to it?
- What are its titles or names?
- What are the testimonies or examples of Scripture about it?
- Set and Discover a Minimum Number of Insights from the Text
- Find a Link or Common Thread Between All the Paragraphs or Chapters You Read
- Ask How the Text Speaks to Your Current Issue or Question
- Use Meditation Mapping [i.e., mind-mapping]