The Bible talks about meditating on God’s Word and His laws throughout Scripture. The word meditation means “thoughtful contemplation or reflection for a period of time.” Psalm 1:2 says the man is blessed “whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” The Bible directs us to think scripturally by bringing God’s Word into our everyday thought life. Christian Devotional Meditation (CDM) is an attempt to understand one’s self and focus on God’s presence.
Christian Devotional Meditation is a particular meditation technique promoted by some churches and Christian psychologists. It is intended to enable a person to take every thought captive and center him or her on Christ for a period of time. Scripture is not really the focal point of the meditation; rather, the person meditating is advised to choose a mantra. For example, someone using Christian Devotional Meditation might meditate on the statement “God loves me” in order to overcome negative feelings and increase his awareness of God’s care for him. Recommended mantras include “Maranatha,” “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” “I walk by faith,” and “Peace, be still.” In its repetitive use of short, truth-filled statements, Christian Devotional Meditation is akin to contemplative prayer; in its focus on self-awareness, Christian Devotional Meditation resembles mindfulness techniques. In fact, Christian Devotional Meditation is sometimes viewed as a Christian version of mindfulness meditation.
True biblical meditation involves a private time of quiet, thoughtful concentration upon God’s Word. Our personal Bible study should be a time when we focus on Scripture, what it means, and how it applies to our lives. During proper, biblical meditation, a Christian starts with a passage of Scripture, prayerfully reads it, studies it, mulls it over, and allows it to penetrate his heart and change his life. However, Christian Devotional Meditation is not directly linked to Bible study. The topics of meditation in Christian Devotional Meditation might be spiritual, and they might be biblical, but they are not drawn from a study of Scripture per se. Simply repeating “God loves me” or “God is in control” or “The Lord is my shepherd” is not biblical meditation.
Christian Devotional Meditation has some inherent spiritual dangers. The use of mantras, controlled breathing, and relaxation techniques comes straight out of Eastern mysticism. Proponents of Christian Devotional Meditation also advise practitioners to choose a natural setting, listen to soothing music, and visualize something to help focus their thoughts. Again, these are meditative techniques associated with Eastern religions or New Age practice, not biblical meditation. Also, many practitioners of Christian Devotional Meditation claim that, in the quietness of their stilled souls, they hear the Holy Spirit speak to them and they see visions sent by God. Such claims of receiving “new” messages from God bypass the Bible’s authority and cheapen its worth. Christian Devotional Meditation’s connection to contemplative prayer, soaking prayer, and visualization are also problematic.
In the end, we don’t need Christian Devotional Meditation. We don’t need mantras and “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7) to connect with God. We don’t need controlled breathing or New Age music to enter His presence. We need a humble and contrite heart and a commitment to understand and obey the revealed Word of God (Psalm 1).