We are often encouraged to spend less time talking with God and more time listening to God. But sometimes I wonder if people really understand what it means to listen. Perhaps we give the impression that listening is sort of like trying to turn off or empty our minds, while we wait for God to put some thoughts into our heads.
And if we are not careful, we may attempt to listen to God the same way that some non-Christian religions practice what they call meditation. It seems to involve trying to shut off our thoughts and clearing out our minds so that we can receive messages God (or perhaps our “inner self”) might be trying to send to our brains.
The Bible does indeed speak about meditation. But it is a different kind of meditation. When we meditate Biblically, instead of trying to make our minds empty and passive, we actively use our minds to mull over the actual words of Scripture.
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
“I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:12)
God’s primary way of speaking is directly through His Word, the Bible. He speaks to us when we mediate on it.
But doesn’t God also give us direction by speaking to our hearts?
Yes, He does! Most of us can remember times when God gave us a flash of insight that enabled us to say the right thing, do the right thing, offer someone a word of wisdom, start a project, mission, or ministry that brought glory to Him, etc.
Of course, I can’t speak for you, but at least in my case, these flashes don’t seem to come when I just sit and try to empty my mind. They come when I’m busy living and doing what God put me here to do. They may come when I’m studying His Word. They may come when I am praying, or agreeing with someone else who is praying.
I believe that there is some danger that, while trying to empty our minds of all thoughts, we may open ourselves up to thoughts that are not from God at all!
We must remember that just because a thought has come into our heads doesn’t mean that God put it there! That may be why God said, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (1 John 4:1) It may also be why, in the book of Proverbs, we are reminded three times (11:14; 15:22; 24:6) that we need many counselors!
Hopefully we all have some godly people in our lives that we can talk with about the throughts that come into our minds. Be very thankful if, like me, you have a godly spouse who will help you listen to God!
But if you do not have those kinds of people in your life, make that your project! Ask God to give you some godly friends or a godly mentor. And plead with those people to help you grow in Christ! Ask them to help you “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Expect God to give you directions as you meditate on His Word, do His work, or talk with Him. Be open to His promptings to obey Him, or to become involved in projects, mission, or ministries.
Test all the ideas you get with Scripture and with godly counsellors.
For best meditation results, don’t try to empty your mind. Fill it with God’s Word!
Stay in the Battle!
(related post: Tuning in to God–Can You Hear Him?)