Theme: Biblical Meditation
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we learn how prayer and Bible study work together to increase our faith.
Scripture: Psalm 119:145-152
When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians in his first letter and came to the closing section in which he was accustomed to give some practical applications of the earlier teaching, one thing he told these believers was to “pray continually,” that is, at all times (1 Thess. 5:17). The author of Psalm 119 seems to have learned this lesson too, since the next pair of verses speaks of his daily prayer pattern. He began his prayers even before sunrise, and he continued even into the watches of the night:
I rise before dawn and cry for help;I have put my hope in your word.My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,that I may meditate on your promises (vv. 147, 148).
When Paul told the Thessalonians to “pray continually,” he did not mean that they were to do nothing but pray. If they were doing that, they would never be able to get anything else done. He meant instead that prayer is to be a natural and consistent part of our lives. It is not to be restricted only to special prayer seasons or special prayer days. We are to be people whose lives are marked consistently by an attitude of prayer.
And yet, there is something to be said for specific prayer times since these fix our minds on God’s words and determine how we will be thinking and acting in the remaining hours. The psalmist seems to have prayed early in the morning, “before dawn,” and “through the watches of the night.” In other words, he was a person committed to strong spiritual disciplines, and regular morning and evening prayer times, together with Bible study, were important parts of his discipline.
One very important word that we have not yet adequately considered in these studies is “meditate.” It occurs in verse 148 as an explanation for why the writer remained awake during the watches of the night. It was “that I may meditate on your promises.” Christians today very much need to learn about and develop the habit of biblical meditation.
What is biblical meditation? It is more than merely reading the Bible and perhaps praying afterwards. It is more even than memorizing certain portions of it. It is internalizing the Bible’s teaching to such an extent that the truths discovered in the Bible become part of how we think, so that we think differently and then also function differently as a result. It is what God demanded of Joshua when he was about to lead the people of Israel in the conquest of Canaan: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Josh. 1:7, 8).
What does Paul’s instruction to pray continually mean?
Explain the advantage to having specific prayer times. How did the psalmist demonstrate this?
Describe biblical meditation.
Reflection: Do you have a specific prayer schedule? How would you characterize your prayer life?
Application: Learn to meditate on God’s Word by thinking about a portion of Scripture and determining how it applies to your thoughts and actions.
Key Point: We are to be people whose lives are marked consistently by an attitude of prayer.