“Reading and reflection is at the very heart of biblical meditation. We graze and ruminate on the text in a very leisurely and contemplative manner, having no real agenda other than to be in Christ’s presence and to enjoy being in Christ’s presence. . . .The wonderful thing about meditating on Scripture is that it is based on the truth that being in the presence of God who loves us can be the believer’s highest joy (“in Your presence is fullness of joy” [Psalms 16:11 NKJV]) and most pleasurable and fulfilling experience. Meditating on the Scriptures by faith, in the Spirit, in a slow and mindful way, is intrinsically (enjoying for its own sake) and not merely instrumentally (something done as a means to something else) worthwhile. I can honestly say, from my own personal experience, that sensing the presence of God through meditation on the Word, is often the high point of my day, in terms of enjoyment and satisfaction” (John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, 127; parenthetical text from an email message to the author, August 18, 2016).
Can We “Experience” God’s Word?
In his book, Meditation and Communion with God, Davis wrote a sub-section in chapter seven entitled, “Whole-Brain Meditation”. He notes that neuroscience and cognitive psychology have determined that the left hemisphere of the brain works with language and the right hemisphere focuses on spatial and visual information. He concludes, “The application of this research to our practice of biblical meditation is very straightforward: in our meditation on Scripture, we intentionally try to combine words and concepts with concrete images and narratives. A propositional text is paired with one or more pictorial or narrative texts that share a common theme” (144). “Like the parables of Jesus, this method connects a concept (like the kingdom of God) with concrete images (yeast, a lamp, a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great price), and as a result we are much more likely to remember the biblical teaching” (145). “Since we really are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, and since the Holy Spirit really does illuminate the biblical text, the text can come alive to us at the experiential level – as the text was meant to be” (145).
Seeing & Hearing God in the Experience
Sometimes words trigger images or experiences in our minds. Using God’s amazing gift of imagination or recall, we can read the phrase “dark valley” and then see it vividly and realistically in our minds. We can also see and experience God in the memory or the imagined experience and be loved by him through it. For instance, when David writes: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). We can either recall a similar experience or imagine a dark valley and then imagine the Lord walking beside us, taking our hand, looking into our eyes and saying (personalized), “When you walk through the darkest valley, through evil experiences, do not fear. I AM WITH YOU! And I am greater than any evil. I am the Light and I will illuminate your way!”
Dallas Willard wrote, “I learned something about how we do change and how we do not. In particular, I had learned that intensity (engaging in scripture for lengthy periods of undistracted time on a single occasion) is crucial for any progress in spiritual perception and understanding. To dribble a few verses or chapters of scripture on oneself through the week, in church or out, will not reorder one’s mind and spirit – just as one drop of water every five minutes will not get you a shower, no matter how long you keep it up. You need a lot of water at once and for a sufficiently long time. Similarly for the written Word.” (Divine Conspiracy, 356).
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Meditation is considered by all the masters as the normal foundation for the interior life. Whereas the study of scripture centers on exegesis (what the text means), the meditation of scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage. The written word becomes a living word addressed to you.” (p. 26).
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