“Getting the Word to Stick”
The Lord’s example prayer (Mt. 6:7-15) illustrates that, while there is merit to spontaneous prayer, we often need structure to engage in the daily struggle of prayer. Have you ever started to pray and lost your train of thought? It’s easy to get off track. One way we can maintain our focus in prayer is to use the psalms as a guide.
The Psalter was the combined prayerbook and hymnal for the ancient Israelites and the early church. The first psalm teaches us how to use the others. It mentions the practice of meditation (Psa. 1:1-2). The blessed man “meditates” on God’s law day and night. This is not referring the practice of clearing the mind or verbal repetition to achieve a transcendental state. Biblical mediation is an active pondering over God’s word to find insight into its meaning.
The Hebrew word for “meditation” is the same word used to describe the sound of a lion growling over its prey (Isa. 31:4) and the sound of a dove cooing in its nest (Isa. 59:11). When used of people, it describes the soft sound of Scripture being repeated under one’s breath. Biblical meditation occupies the space between reading Scripture and prayer. It is a kind of devotional thinking which uses Scripture as a guide to keep the mind from wandering.
Meditating on God’s word deepens our prayer-life and clears out valuable mental real estate for God’s word. This way it “sticks” with us: “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).
Try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean. This works particularly well if you do it first thing in the morning.
Pick a psalm and slowly read the text aloud. The point is not to finish the psalm but to savor the words and give them a chance to sink in. Next, meditate on the text, asking what it means, how it points to Christ, how it applies to you, etc. Then, pray the text. Try using the words from the psalm to formulate your own prayer. Finally, contemplate the text throughout the day. Notice how the words of the psalm intersect with what happens that day, with conversations you have with others, with the work that you do or the problems you encounter. If we meditate on God’s word it will be a blessing to us.