Charles Stanley

B. Childress
Aug 13 2010 08:00 AM

Just the mention of the word
meditation conjures up various and sundry images, all somewhat foreign to the Western
mind.  Somehow or another, contemporary believers have removed the word from the biblical vocabulary.  Its usage now
has been confined primarily to the practice of Eastern religion and, thus for the Christian, cast into an almost obsolete
and forbidden sphere.  This abandonment is at our great peril, because meditation and its scriptural application are of
immense value if we are to listen accurately to God.

Perhaps no other man has pursued this godly endeavor more fervently and fruitfully than King David.  Many of the
psalms are the results of his quietly waiting and reflecting upon God.  As a "man after God's own heart," David first had
to know the mind and heart of God.  To a large extent, David accomplished this through the persistent practice of godly
meditation.  A vivid illustration can be found in II Samuel 7.  In this chapter we see that David has reached a place of rest
in his reign.  His war campaigns are no longer on the drawing board, and he is now contemplating building a temple for
the Lord.  The prophet Nathan gives an encouraging message of God's faithfulness to David and the Lord's plan for
constructing the temple.  David's response to Nathan's communique is found in II Samuel 7:18, "The King David went in
and sat before the LORD; and he said: 'Who am I, O Lord GOD?  And what is my house, that You have brought me this
far?'"  Notice the phrase, David "sat before the LORD."  Now he wasn't sitting in a chair as we would.  He was kneeling
and sitting back on his heels, listening, and talking to the Lord.  David was meditating.

In his book,
Knowing God, author J.I. Packer gives as good a working definition of meditation as I have seen:

    Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various
    things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.  It is an activity of holy
    thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of
    communion with God.  Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its
    full and proper impact on one's mind and heart.  It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is,
    indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear
    apprehension of God's power and grace.  Its effect is to ever humble us as we contemplate God's greatness and
    glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us - "comfort" us in the old, strong
    Bible sense of the word - as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus

Meditation was nothing new to David because he had long known what it meant to meditate.  We read in the Psalms how
often he listened and talked to the Father out in the fields.  Even when he was running from Saul and dodging javelins,
David took time to meditate upon God.  Since meditation is the one activity that should be the daily priority of believers, it
is the one discipline Satan will doggedly keep us from observing.  When we examine the rewards and the results of
meditation, however, we will soon realize it can't be secondary.  It has to be

Many believers think that meditation is only for ministers or other spiritual leaders.  They do not see its role in a secular
world where strife and competition reign.  It seems alien to persons who have to get up and hit the expressway at 7:30 A.
M., be in noisy offices during the day, and then battle the traffic home, where they then must deal with domestic
difficulties.  Yet it is in the midst of such constant turmoil that the believer stands in great need of the quieting effects of
meditation, so that he may distill God's voice from the roar of everyday living.  God gave the practice of meditation not
just to preachers, but to all His children so that we might better relate to Him.  Personal, private meditation begins when
we get alone with the Lord and get quiet before Him.  It may be for five minutes, it may be for thirty minutes, it may be for
an hour.  The important thing is that we get alone with the Lord to find His direction and purpose for our lives.

Personal and compelling guidance is only one of the benefits of meditation.  Psalm 119:97-100 lists some of the other
rewards of meditation, such as wisdom, discernment, keen insight, and heightened obedience.

Joshua 1:8 is a wonderful Scripture on the blessed benefits of concentrated thinking: "This Book of the Law shall not
depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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."  Meditation is God's
way of crowning our lives with His success and prosperity of soul, spirit, and body.  It is also a catalyst to obedient living.

I want to share four principles that will guide you into meaningful meditation.  These principles will be liberating truths
that will cause you to hear the voice of God in a fresh, invigorating manner.


Reviewing the past is an excellent way to begin our time of meditation, because as we do, we will see patterns that God
has woven into our lives.  One of the first steps that David took in II Samuel 7:18 was to recall God's blessings: "Who am
I, O Lord GOD?  And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?"  David remembered his fight with Goliath.  
He remembered the years spent running from Saul, the battles he had won.  Now that he had peace in his life, he had
the privilege of savoring God's wonderful works.

When we meditate, we should focus on how God has operated in our lives in the past.  We should look for His hand in all
our dealings.  As we do, we can see His hand of correction, comfort, and exhortation, and we can better distinguish His
moving in our lives at the present time.


Reviewing the past should be followed by reflecting upon God.  Listen to what else David said: "And yet this was a small
thing in Your sight, O Lord GOD...Now what more can David say to You?  For You, Lord GOD, know Your servant.  For
Your word's sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know
them" (II Samuel 7:19-21).

As we begin to reflect upon God, we should consider three facets:  His
greatness, His grace, and His goodness.  When
we meditate on the greatness of God and His names - Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Everlasting, Infinite in Power, Absolute
in Faithfulness - our gigantic mountains of trouble and heartache shrink in comparison.  In the light of the presence and
greatness of God, nothing is impossible in our lives.  Our burdens dissipate in His very presence.

Focusing on difficulties intensifies and enlarges the problem.  When we focus our attention on God, the problem is put
into its proper perspective, and it no longer overwhelms us.

Jeremiah Denton was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for seven horrendous years.  As one of the highest ranking
American captives, he was subjected to particularly grueling torture, spending almost his entire incarceration in solitary
confinement.  In such a barren, brutal situation, it would be hard not to focus on the pain and tedium.  Yet, Denton not
only survived but also came back and was elected a United States senator from Alabama.

How did he survive?  He stated on many occasions that an essential survival skill was quoting passages from the Bible.  
Internalized Scripture became the unseen sword that enabled him to fend off the cruelest weapons of the enemy.  By
inwardly focusing on the power of God to sustain and strengthen him, he was able to rise above the squalor of his lonely


As David continued to meditate on the Lord, he said: "And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true,
and You have promised this goodness to Your servant" (II Samuel 7:28).  David recalled God's promises in establishing
his name and family on an everlasting basis.  When we kneel or sit before God and meditate upon Him, it's beneficial to
review His mighty promises.

In Scripture, He has promised us peace, He has promised us provision, He has promised us protection.  These promises
belong to each of His children.  When we meditate on God and remember the promises He has given us in His Word, our
faith grows and our fears dissolve.  David understood that.  Many times, in the caves hiding from Saul and with six to
twenty thousand men searching for him, David quietly shifted his attention to God.  Under the stars or in the darkness of
the caves, David focused his attention on God who had equipped him to slay Goliath and had given him swiftness of
body and keenness of mind.  He remembered God who had allowed him to avoid the penetrating point of Saul's javelin.  
As he fixed his inner man upon God, his fears and frustrations were soothed by the presence of God.


As we sit before the Lord in meditation, we shouldn't just listen; there is a time to make a request too.  In II Samuel 7:29
David asked, "Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You."  
What a tremendous request!  He didn't just ask God to bless his family, he boldly asked for God's everlasting favor.  And
God answered his prayer.

On one occasion I was meditating upon the Word, and I came to Philippians 4:19: "And my God shall supply all your
need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Suddenly I stopped, I began to meditate upon that verse.  
Without previous thought upon the subject, I prayed for God to provide a large sum of money.  I didn't even have a
purpose for it.  I was burdened to ask for it and to expect it.  Several days went by and my burden grew heavier, and all
the time I wondered why.  Without warning, I had a rather large financial need.  Within a matter of hours, God supplied
the finances to meet that need.  He had burdened me to ask even before I knew I had a need!  He had already set in
motion to supply a need I didn't even know would exist.


If we are to have a profitable time of meditation, we can't just rush in, jot down one or two prayer requests, quickly pray,
and then go on to dinner.  That's not what God wants.  He wants us to sit before Him.

Meditation isn't a spontaneous occurrence.  Certain disciplines must be put in play in order for us to receive the full
benefits of its application.  Certain requirements must be heeded if the biblical practice of meditation is to be more than
just wishful thinking.

These are the principles that have aided me in personal meditation.

A Season of Time

When we think about meditating on the Lord, the first requirement is a season of time.  The length of time, whether it's
five minutes or an hour, will be determined by our purpose.  If we are in deep distress about a subject, the period will be
lengthened.  If we simply want to be quiet, it may be a matter of minutes.  Psalm 62:5 enjoins us to "wait silently for God
alone, For my expectation is from Him."

When we tell God we don't have time for Him, we are really saying we don't have time for life, for joy, for peace, for
direction, or for prosperity, because He is the source of all these.  The essence of meditation is a period of time set
aside to contemplate the Lord, listen to Him, and allow Him to permeate our spirits.  When we do, something happens
within us that equips us to carry out our duties, whether as a mother, a clerk, a secretary, a  mechanic, a carpenter, or a
lawyer.  Whatever we do, the time of meditation is God's time of equipping us in preparation for life.

It is amazing what God can do to a troubled heart in a short period of time, when that person understands the meaning
of meditation.  We live in a hurried and rushed world, and it's not going to slow down.  So each of us must ask, "How am I
going to stay in the rush of it all and hear God?"  I'm convinced that the man who has learned to meditate upon the Lord
will be able to run on his feet and walk in his spirit.  Although he may be hurried by his vocation, that's not the issue.  
The issue is how fast his spirit is going.  To slow it down requires a period of time.

The most important lesson parents can teach their children is the practical importance of prayer and meditation.  In
doing so, they give their children a lifetime compass.  When children learn early to listen to God and obey Him, and
when they learn that He is interested in what interests them, they develop a sense of security that no other gift will give
them.  God is always available, no matter what the circumstances.  He will always be there when parents are unavailable.

My wife and I used to pray before our children were ever born, "Lord, show us how to teach our children to pray and
listen to You."  My heart rejoices as I see and hear them practicing that precious lesson.

The only way to teach your children to spend time with the Lord is by example.  They need to hear you praying, walk in
on the praying, listen to you share how God is speaking to you.  They will soon realize that if God hears the prayers of
Mom and Dad, He will hear theirs as well.  You could not give your children a greater heritage than praying parents.


If we're really going to meditate upon the Lord, stillness is a key.  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God."  
We'll know God best when we not only set aside time for Him but also learn to be still before Him.

Stillness brings us to the point where we can concentrate.  It's difficult to fix our thoughts upon God as we barrel the
expressway or stand in the midst of noisy friends.  We often miss God's most beautiful interventions in our lives because
we are so distracted by other things that we can't see or hear Him.  We are not sensitive before Him.  We haven't
learned to be still in His presence.

When we become still before the Lord, gradually the competing elements of life ebb away.  God's benevolent goodness,
greatness, and grace come to the forefront of our minds and our problems begin to diminish.


Mark wrote of Jesus: "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a
solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35).  If the Lord Jesus Christ, who was perfect in His relationship with the
Father, felt it necessary to leave the twelve disciples whom He loved the most and seclude Himself before God, then
shouldn't we make provisions for such solitude?

Everybody needs to be alone at times.  It's wonderful for husbands and wives to love each other and to want to be
together, but there are times when they need to be apart.  When each one meditates in solitude before God, nothing will
bring the couple closer to intimacy with each other.

God wants you alone sometimes because He wants your absolute, undivided attention.  For example, suppose your
spouse was always with four or five people twenty-four hours a day.  It wouldn't take very long before you would grow
rather annoyed at that problem.  So, too, God wants you to have a private time with Him, free from the competition of
others.  He loves just plain, simple, exciting
you.  He wants you all to Himself to put His loving, divine arms around you.

God doesn't hug two people at a time; He hugs us one at a time.  He loves us one at a time, but unless we are willing to
get alone with Him, our minds will always be divided.  Private meditation allows the Lord Jesus Christ to have each of us
all to Himself.  His private workings are often His most precious.


Oftentimes God wants us to sit before Him in quietness.  He doesn't want us to do all the talking.  As Isaiah 30:15 says:  
"In quiet and confidence shall be your strength."

For some people, meditation is best described as a one-way conversation.  They have no real relationship with God
because they do all the talking.  To have God speak to the heart is a majestic experience, an experience these people
may miss if they monopolize the conversation and never pause to hear God's responses.

If we quiet ourselves before Him, God can interject His thoughts into our thinking.  If we are silent for a few moments, He
may bring a favorite passage of Scripture to mind, He may reveal an absorbing truth, or He may bring peace to our inner
beings - or He may do all three.  We should sit before Him in silence and allow Him to pour Himself into us.

Silence and seclusion before God allow Him to speak to our hearts clearly, positively, and unmistakably.  Though God
may not speak to us audibly, He will move in our spirits and impress our minds.  We will know God has spoken to us.  
God saved us to glorify Him, and He developed a relationship with us so that we can love and understand who He is.


When we meditate, we may feel as if nothing is happening outwardly.  Just because we can't detect God's functioning
overtly doesn't mean that God is not at work.  Just as Paul had to learn to keep his body under control (I Corinthians 9:
27), every believer should consider self-control necessary discipline.

As we begin to meditate, we may have to labor mentally a bit to focus our attention on God.  If that sometimes is a
problem, we can turn to a psalm and say, "Lord, I have a hard time keeping my mind on the subject at hand.  I want to
get immersed in this psalm and get my attention on You."

In a few moments you can stop reading and begin to think just about Him.  As you do, become lost in His grandeur.  
There can be nothing better, more productive, or more rewarding in your life than to become lost in great thoughts
about a great God.

Proverbs 8:34 exclaims, "Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my
doors."  Notice the word
daily;  that means that the believer must take deliberate steps each day to bring his mind, body,
and life under control so that he can spend time waiting and listening for God to speak.

Some people feel that certain body postures can aid in the practice of meditation.  Others prefer to sit quietly with the
palms of their hands raised upward to the heavens to receive gifts from above.  Still others opt to kneel or even lie
prostrate on the floor.  I would encourage each individual to discover the posture he is most comfortable with, keeping in
mind that God is, above all else, interested in the position of our hearts, and not our bodies.


James wrote: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:10).  If we are rebellious in our
hearts and insist on having our own way, we won't meditate.  Rebellion is the antithesis of submission, and if we are to
hear Him adequately, our minds and hearts must be totally surrendered to Him.  Yieldedness is vital in listening to what
He has to say.

When we refuse to deal with the problem God has pinpointed, we don't lose our standing with Him.  We are still saved,
our relationship is the same, but our enjoyment of His fellowship is broken.  Do you suppose it is possible that the
primary reason we don't spend more time alone with God is we don't want to face the certain type of music He keeps
sending our way?  It is a sound, which says, "Give up.  Surrender. Yield.  Let Me love you to the maximum of My
potential, so that you will reach the maximum of your potential."

Now let's discover the rewards of spending time alone with God, thinking about Him, adoring Him, and praising Him.


When we meditate upon the Lord, we see things from a different perspective.  The things that worry us lose their grip.  
The things that weaken us, God turns into strength.  Our viewpoint of others and ourselves, of our tasks and our
problems, even of our enemies, changes because we see them from God's viewpoint.  Our inward look at problems or
situations is replaced by a heavenly view, because we learn that we are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  
Meditation brings us to a position in which we can see ourselves in the light of God's truth.

David declared in Psalm 36:9, "In Your light we see light."  There is something about having God shed His enlightenment
on a subject that causes us to see clearly His truth.  Paul prayed that the Ephesians might be given a "spirit of wisdom
and revelation in the knowledge of Him" so that "the eyes of your understanding [may be] enlightened" (Ephesians 1:17-
18).  We cannot rightly see ourselves or God without His revealing participation.

The pressures in our lives begin to dissipate when we are secluded, silent, and still before the Lord.  God pulls the plug
in the pressure tanks of our lives, and our anxieties begin to drain.  When we first begin to meditate, our frustration
levels are usually at full, but the longer we sit focusing upon Him, the emptier the reservoirs of tension become.  Biblical
meditation causes something to happen to our spirits, in our souls and our emotional beings, even in our human
bodies.  Our physical tiredness is somehow lessened.  Isn't it strange that we will sit down to watch television for three to
four hours a night, just to get relaxed, when the Divine Relaxer can do it in a few minutes?  Focusing attention on God
can help believers go to sleep, peaceful and relaxed, despite the difficulties of the day.


Jesus said, "My peace I give to you" (John 14:27).  Christ who lives within us comes to the forefront of our lives.  He
becomes the all in all.

A Positive Attitude

As God substitutes peace for pressure, a positive attitude replaces a negative one.  We can't wait to get up the next
morning to see what God is going to do in our lives.  When we spend time with God, our old selfish selves move out of
the way and let the radiant Christ within us blossom and grow.

Personal Intimacy

When we sit before the Lord, it's like the experience we had when we met that special person for the first time.  As we
talked and shared our hearts, our joys, and our hurts, we grew intimately interested in each other.

As time passed, we realized that we could live with that person for the rest of our lives.  It's the same with God.  He never
wants us think of Him as distant or detached.  Through the Holy Spirit, God lives intimately with each of us.  He is
embedded within the deepest core of our lives, and He desires fellowship with us so that He can pour His life into us.  
But, He can't do that if we fail to spend time meditating upon Him and learning who He is.


As an expression of His love and devotion to us, God will often put His finger on areas of our lives that are conspicuously
wrong.  Because He loves us, He wants to cleanse us so that we might be filled with His life and joy.  

That is when we either run away or develop our relationship with Him.  When we are wiling to sit before Him and let Him
expose our hearts, something happens.  He prunes from our lives what isn't clean.  However, if we rationalize our
problems when He points them out, we will spend less and less time meditating, because we won't want to face God in
that area of our lives.

If we don't want to be alone with God, it may be because He is dealing with particular points in our lives that we simply
don't want exposed.  We will not let Him love us.

When two people who live together intimately have something wrong in their relationship, they don't really have to tell
each other.  Both of them know it.  When we are quiet before the Lord, and He wants to do something in our lives and
things are not right, we stymie our growth by not yielding to Him.  We work against the very God who is on our side,
working for us, encouraging us, and building us up.  So whatever He brings to mind, the best thing is to admit it, confess
it, repent of it, and deal with it.  That is the only way to keep the sweet fellowship of meditation.

Ongoing personal purification was one of the chief attributes that made David a man after God's own heart.  We all know
that he was far from perfect.  His record as a murderer and adulterer would eliminate him from any pulpit in America, yet
Jesus referred to Himself as the "Offspring of David" (Revelation 22:16).  How could David commit such gross iniquity
and still obtain such divine affirmations?

I believe it was because David was zealous to confess and repent whenever God pinpointed David's sin and confronted
him with it.  Psalm 51 has been the soulful prayer of many a believer who has willfully or blindly offended God, as David's
remorse was laid open before God.

When he wrongfully numbered the children of Israel in a census, he quickly admitted his wrongdoing.  "And David's heart
condemned him after he had numbered the people.  So David said to the LORD, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have
done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly'" (II Samuel 24:10).  
Rather than run from God's searching, probing light, David humbled himself before the Lord, confessing his
transgressions and asking God to cleanse him.

A Passion for Obedience

As we kneel before God and He pours Himself into us, we in turn give ourselves in devotion to Him.  The result is that
God places within us a passion for obedience.  We want to obey God.  Nobody has to prod us.  We don't have to hear
sermons to make us obey Him.  Obedience is now part of our inner beings.

We can be tired, weary, and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into
our bodies energy, power, and strength.  God's spiritual dynamics are at work in our inner beings, refreshing and
energizing our minds and spirits.  There is nothing to match meditation in its impact upon our lives and the lives of others.

An unschooled man who knows how to meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest
education who does not know how to meditate.  Education not backed with meditation is doomed for failure.  When we
make time alone with Christ a priority of our lives, it affects and influences every single facet of our lives.  Of all the
things Christ wants for us, loving Him and focusing our attention on Him are the most important.  Then we can follow Him
and receive all He has prepared for us.

I am always moved when I read one special verse in the fourth chapter of Acts.  Let me describe the situation leading up
to it.  Filled with the newly discovered power of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John had been ministering powerfully.  
Thousands had been saved and great numbers added to the fledgling group of Christians.

Peter and John were arrested by the Sadducees and brought before Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and
Alexander, all of high-priestly descent.  They placed Peter and John squarely in the center of their contemporaries and
asked about the nature of the disciples' work.

Picture it for a minute, won't you?  Peter and John, two large, cedar-rough fishermen with a minimum amount of
education, stood before a room full of highly educated, influential, skilled, religious rulers.

The outcome of the confrontation is electrifying.  Immediately, Peter took the offensive, pushing the Sadducees into the
proverbial corner.  He attacked with power and persuasiveness.  His hearers were startled.  Luke recorded their
amazement in the potent language of Acts 4:13: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived
that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus."

Though the rulers referred to the two men's association with Jesus, the principle holds true for us today.  The amount of
time we spend with Jesus - meditating on His Word and His majesty, seeking His face - establishes our fruitfulness in the
kingdom.  Meditation is simply a matter of spending our time in rich fellowship with our personal Lord and Savior.  Do
people recognize us as "having been with Jesus"?


HOW TO LISTEN TO GOD, by Charles Stanley, Copyright 1985, Thomas Nelson, Inc.