Series Sermons

Meditation – What is it

Brief Notes taken by Shane for srmn.blog
Preacher/Teacher: Timothy J. Keller | Oct 5, 1998
Series: Gospel Spirituality: Leader Talks, 1998-1999
Duration: 42:26

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Listen to the sermon for free on the Ultimate Training Camp Podcast here.

Review: Last time we covered that there are forms of prayer, like adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication, that we seldom talk about level of prayers. We are scared to talk about levels of prayer. Levels of prayer means going far deeper into the presence and reality of God.

At the end of the Narnia series the kids are moving closer to heaven, and they keep saying “higher up and deeper in”. How do we do that?

5 levels of prayer.
1. Vocal prayer
2. Meditation – listening to the truth in the presence of God – different than study
3. Affective prayer. Offering the heart in the presence of God.
4. Contemplation. The gaze by faith in the presence of God.
P5. rayer of Glory in Romans 8, the spirit baring witness with our spirit.

What we want to do this year is look at these levels of prayer and get depth of experience.

Why is meditation so critical to prayer?

Psalm 1.

Psalms is the prayer book of the bible.

1 Blessed is the one
 who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
 or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
 and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
 which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
 They are like chaff
 that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
 nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
 but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

There are promises here given to people who meditate. If you look at the beginning it says blessed is. Blessed is often translated as happy, but it means something much deeper. That’s the reason the Aaronic blessing talks about complete shalom, absolute fulfillment in all areas, that’s blessed. Blessedness is promised to someone who meditates. (2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.) Secondly, meditation is the key to deep change. What is contrasted with meditation? (who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers). Why does it not just say “who does not listen, does not do and does not think like the world does? Is there something more than poetics going on here? Yes, walk, stand, sit are life patterns. This is daily life. To put off the dominating world patterns, you must meditate. Not just believing in the law of the Lord, meditation on it.

RC Sproul at Tim Keller’s wedding preached a 1/2 hour sermon on Psalm 1. He said what is the quintessential mark of a Godly person? That he loves the law of the lord and meditates on it day and night.

Numbers 6:22-27 The Aaronic Blessing
22-23 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
24 God bless you and keep you,
25 God smile on you and gift you,
26 God look you full in the face
 and make you prosper.

Thirdly, a person who meditates is like a tree. They are stable. Unless a tree is planted by water in a desert, the climate is going to kill the tree off or it won’t bare fruit. It’s not stable. Being planted by a stream means that the roots have Gond deep and are getting nourishment. So the tree will bare fruit in the proper season. A tree not growing by a stream is subject to the climate and during a dry spell will not bare fruit, so it is unstable.

Meditation brings:
1. Blessedness
2. Change and freedom
3. Stability
4. Prospers (not success as we think of it, it means what we do won’t be in vain. It’s wisdom.)

Why would meditation have all these promises attached to it? These are powerful promises. The reason this is important and critical is because is because this is the gateway to prayer. Psalm 1 is the begging. Not by accident, the Psalms were edited and the order is important. This Psalm, which is not a prayer, is the at the beginning as an introduction because it’s a preparation for prayer. If you want to pray like the rest of the psalms direct, you have to meditate. It’s critical to a prayer life where you experience God. That’s why it’s at the beginning.

The suggested order to get the most out of prayer is”

Study -> Meditate -> Prayer

Prayer is much deeper after meditation.

Eugene Peterson – Answering God – Psalm 1 is the gatekeeper. Unless you can meditate, you are not able to enter into deep prayer.

George Müller, who is know for starting an orphanage, wrote a book in 1896 called Soul Nourishment First where George Müller said this.

The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this:
Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the Word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for a revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer.

But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour, on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc., and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart, first being nourished by the truth, being brought into experiential fellowship with God, I then speak to my Father and to my Friend, (vile though I am, and unworthy of it), about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.

It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet, now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow.

Verse 2 also mentioned meditation day and night. This is helpful as well.

The ordinary way to experience God is through very deliberate and hard work of disciplined meditation day and night. Instead of hoping and waiting for God’s presence, you can do this, you can be deliberate. Psalm 1 tells us how. Day in and day out if we meditate, we will experience God.

What is the fuel of meditation? You can meditate on providential circumstances. You can meditate on anything. But primarily you must meditate on the law of God.

There are two reasons why.

1. Torah, which is the Hebrew word for law means , means to throw something at a mark and hit it. T target something and hit it. Why would it means this? It shows us that God’s idea of the Word of God, it’s not only information. It’s not more than information or less than information. It’s a living power. Meditation unlocks that. Meditation is critical to understanding the Word of God. Realization of the nature of the Law of the lord is the foundation for practice. There is enormous power here, but we do realize this. It becomes a power in our life.

2. If you do not understand that the Word of God is the primary fuel for meditation, then you may not do things in the right order. There are two streams of meditation that are not based on the word of God. Catholic and Quaker. Center, Behold, and Listen. These are great, but the order is not the best. Center means collect yourself. Behold means imagine. Imagine Him, sense Him. Then lastly go to the Word Of God and listen. But the problem is if you do not start with the word of God, how do you know you are imagining correctly. Our imagination needs to be dominated by the truth. Before you meditate on anything, you start with the Word.

Psalms 1 tell us that meditation is to delight what God has said over what you hear in the world. It effects your heart greatly.

You are already meditating, you just don’t know it. Religion is what you do with your solitude. What you think of when you don’t have to think of anything, like the house on the lake you want to own, the car, the guy or girl, that’s what you worship. We all fantasize and meditate on something. So we need to meditate on Him. Worry is also meditation. 🙂

Psalm 39 says that mediation is getting your heart during with truth. Thinking about God in His presence.

Psalm 119 says that synonym – meditation is reckoning. Reckon means to think as if. Not just consider, but to think as if. God reckons us as righteous. He is thinking and meditating on us righteous.

You meditate until you live as if He is as great as the word says he is.

Meditation is sensing with the mind instead of just thinking.

Thinking is reading a passage and saying “this says this” and “this says that”. That’s thinking. But if you read a passage and say, “that’s sweet”, “That’s beautiful”, “That hurts!” etc. You are using sensory language. By letting your heart sense the truth instead of simply understanding, you are starting to meditate.

Descend with the mind into the heart.

Delight in meditation.

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