Last week we had “Sacred Space” in chapel. This is where there is no chapel speaker, no worship team, just a time of quiet reflection and prayer. The only guidance was two different chapters of scripture being read and some prompts for prayer on the projector. I let this time of reflection kick off my week of practicing the discipline of meditation.
The first chapter we were supposed to focus on was Psalm 51. It instantly caught my attention and I focused my meditation for the week on its words.
First, I familiarized myself with the chapter. I read and re-read it. I copied the whole chapter into my journal. Next, I picked out the sections that that stood out to me by underlining words and phrases and writing out specific verses. I discovered I focus on scripture best when I can process it through more than just my thoughts. I need to write it out.
Apart from my daily devotions in the word, I attempted to ponder some of the verses or words during my day. This was definitely the hardest part for me. Part of meditation is disciplining the imagination to be caught captive by the wonders of God. Meditating trains the heart to dwell on God all the time so that the idle thoughts, the typical daydream, the usual flow of ideas all go to Christ. Being aware of where my imagination took my on a daily basis revealed that I need a discipline like meditation to intentionally realign my thoughts each day.
This awareness of my failure to mediate on God’s law and works throughout my day soon made me discouraged. I wanted Psalm 51 to dictate my imagination, but it didn’t. But I saw something else emerging through my failure. Whenever I realized my thoughts were wandering and were not caught captive by God, I called to him to bring them back. I repented for my lack of discipline, I expressed a desire to know him better and find joy in who he is, and I asked him to take my thoughts. It was a humbling experience to recognize that it is not that I need better control of my thoughts, but I need God to have control of my thoughts.
This is when the words of Psalm 51 really started to have an impact:
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight…
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit…
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise…
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
– Excerpts from Psalm 51
Through practicing this discipline I discovered the impact the Word of God can have over time. My initial reading of Psalm 51 was interesting, but the words did not start to transform my thoughts or actions until I had dwelt on them for a week. Meditating on scripture allows you to take it with you to live with it. Just as we do not truly know someone after one conversation with them but by living life with him or her in the daily grind and mountain-top moments, we do not know the Bible from just one reading but by coming back to it day after day gaining new insights and letting the Holy Spirit work it into our hearts and lives.
After my week of practicing meditation, I decided I want to integrate it into my life on a regular basis. Partly for what I gleaned in this week of practicing the discipline, and partly because I realize I need a lot more practice in order to reap the full benefits of what the discipline has to offer and one week is only scratching the surface.