Psalm 1 tells us the blessed person will meditate on God’s instructions, not simply hear or read them: “Blessed is the man … who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). “Meditate” means to think deeply and carefully about something. But sometimes we don’t know how to do that. Here are six simple and fun ways to meditate on God’s words.
How to Meditate on God’s Words
Here are the general steps I use to meditate on God’s words. These aren’t hard-and-fast steps so much as habits I’ve found useful over the years. If you’re new to any of these, try one or two ways for a few weeks until you’re comfortable with them, then add another.
1. Pray for Guidance
I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me and show me anything God wants to particularly speak to me about. Prayer reminds me reading God’s words is a conversation, and that sets the tone for meditation.
2. Meditate While Reading the Passage
I read through the passage looking for what God is saying. I think about how the passage relates to me and others today. If there are instructions, I ask myself if I’m following them and how I could implement them. I ask God about anything I don’t understand.
3. Meditate While Reading Notes
If you have a Bible with study notes, you can read the notes next. I highly recommend Bibles with study notes—they explain ancient customs and help you understand context, which enhances meditation on God’s words.
Currently, I’m reading through the NIV Zondervan Study Bible so after I read a passage, I read the notes on it and look up some of the cross-references.
For the Psalms, I put a flower next to the psalm’s header to let me know I’ve read the study notes. I add a second flower to let me know I read my favorite Psalms commentary on it, too. When I’ve finished all the notes in a book of the Bible, I put a flower next to the book’s name in the table of contents.
4. Record what You Learned from Meditating in Your Bible
Draw and write the results of your meditation right into your Bible. My Bible’s pages are very thin, so I use the Pigma Micron Bible Study Kit, which is six colored pens that don’t bleed through Bible pages.
I draw symbols next to the text to represent main ideas (for example, a green cross to represent Old Testament passages that relate to Jesus–see Figure 1). Some of the scribbles make sense to only me, but that’s okay: I’m not doing it for other people, just God and me. I know what they mean and they remind me of themes quickly. I created a legend at the back of my Bible to keep track of the symbols. In previous Bibles, I’ve used fewer symbols. This Bible’s notes trace major biblical themes so I’m using more symbols to track these. It’s a good idea to start simple and build, using just symbols meaningful to you.
I look for repeated ideas and either underline them in the same color or put a small symbol next to every instance so I see the connections (see Figure 2).
I might squeeze in a few notes anywhere I can find space, such as the top margin or next to a heading (the prose sections of this Bible—such as the historical books and the letters—have tiny margins). The books of poetry (such as Psalms and Proverbs) have a little more margin so I might illustrate key concepts in more detail (see Figure 1).
5. Meditate Prayerfully
I often finish up with meditative prayer about what I’ve read. The passage is God’s words to me, so I respond by talking to him about what he said. The book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms (that I co-authored with Pam Farrel and Karla Dornacher) teaches how to do this. Here are the basic steps:
- Praise God for something I see of his character in the passage
- Confess anything that convicts me in the passage
- Ask for help to do something the passage calls me to do
- Thank God for something in the passage
6. Meditate Creatively
After I meditate using my Bible, I decide if I want to do anything further to work the verses into my life. Here are some things I might do to continue meditating on a passage after I’ve closed my Bible.
- Plan to do something the passage says to do
- Write a particularly encouraging verse in a journal, usually with thoughts and illustrations
- Write out a passage so I can memorize it
- Dictate the passage into my smart phone so I can memorize it
- Write a psalm or poem based on the passage (see Figure 4)
- Creatively interact with the passage in other ways
Creatively exploring a passage is another form of meditation. It helps us remember a passage better. Many creative expressions are also ways to proclaim a message, either on social media or in our homes where they might spark conversation. Our book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms, has lots of creative ideas, including Karla Dornacher illustrations which can be colored (see Figure 5).
I also like putting verses into cross stitch and embroidery—these are fun ways to memorize Scripture and I end up with something pretty that keeps the verse before me for years while also becoming a conversation piece. Recently, I purchased a Crossway Journaling ESV Bible to hold more detailed illustrations, and I’ve started sketching ideas for that. This will be a way to meditate in a different Bible.
Here are Amazon affiliate links to products and ideas I referred to or used:
- Pens that won’t bleed through thin Bible pages: Pigma Micron Bible Study Kit
- Blog post 5 Reasons to Write a Wisdom Psalm (and How to do It)
- Colored pencils (I used 24-color set) Prismacolor Premier pencils
- Colorless blender pencil for bark; kneaded eraser and colorless blender marker for grass and water Prismacolor accessory kit
And of course, the new book I co-authored with Pam Farrel and Karla Dornacher: