Follow Jesus Week 3
The article below digs deep into the final week of the Winter Class called Follow Jesus offered by our Emmaus Institute in January 2020. You can listen to the podcast or read the article.
In this last session, we will look at the spiritual disciplines of Scripture meditation and prayer.
All throughout the Bible we see commands to meditate on Scripture (Josh 1:8; Ps 1:1-3, 119:15, 145:5). The word used for “meditate” in the Bible means to speak something to yourself or think deeply about something. Donald Whitney defines meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”
Meditating on Scripture is not an emptying of your mind like meditation in other religions or our culture. It is the filling of your mind with Scripture and biblical truth. It is like soaking a tea bag in hot water, instead of dipping it in a couple of times. Meditation also needs to be based on proper study and interpretation of Scripture. This ensures you are mediating on proper, biblical truth, so it is important to follow the three steps in the first two sessions.
When we meditate on Scripture, it accomplishes three things:
- Brings focus to the passage and what God wants to teach us
- Helps lead to heart change
- Creates a bridge between studying Scripture and prayer
- Tim Keller says, “While deep experiences of the presence and power of God can happen in innumerable ways, the ordinary way for going deeper spiritually into prayer is through meditation on Scripture.”
- The puritan Thomas Watson says, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
Steps for practicing biblical meditation:
- Select your passage/verse that you will spend time meditating on – it could be an entire section of what you’re studying or a smaller part of it or just one verse
- Spend a few still moments before the Lord focusing on the passage or verse
- Pray through the passage or verse
- Read through the text in different ways – emphasizing a different word or phrase each time
- Rewrite it in your own words
- Use meditation as part of the application step
- Take your time
- Keep in mind John Owen’s three stages of meditation
- Fix your mind (focus on the text)
- Incline your heart (application)
- Respond as the Holy Spirit leads
The last discipline we will go over is prayer. After studying, interpreting, meditating and applying Scripture, it is time to move into prayer. Prayer is extremely important to our spiritual growth and is spoken about all throughout the Bible. Jesus often spent time in prayer (Mk 1:35; Lk 9:18, 11:1; Heb 5:7). We as his followers are called to pray too (Matt 6:5-15; Lk 11:1-13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:17). Prayer is important because it changes us. Prayer helps God’s truth sink into our hearts and lives. It aligns our desires with God’s desires. It focuses our mind on Him and not the things of this world.
When thinking through how to pray, Jesus gives us a model in the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:5-15. In this prayer, Jesus gives us 8 steps for crafting a prayer:
- “Our Father in heaven” – pray with understanding of who God is
- “hallowed be your name” – pray with understanding of God’s nature
- “Your kingdom come” – pray with understanding of God’s work
- “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – pray with understanding of God’s plan/desires
- “Give us this day our daily bread” – pray with understanding of God’s provision and desire to give us good gifts
- “forgive our debts” – pray with understanding of depth of our sin
- “as we also have forgiven our debtors” – pray with understanding of need for right relationships with others
- “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” – pray with understanding of the strength of our enemy AND the far superior strength of Jesus, who has already won the victory
Another helpful model for prayer is ACTS:
- Adoration – praise/adoration of God, for who He is and what He has done (Ps 96)
- Confession – confess your sins (1 Jn 1:9)
- Thanksgiving – thank God for the many blessings/gifts he provides (Ps 100:4; Col 4:2)
- Supplication – bring your requests to God, for you and others (Phil 4:6-7; Lk 11:5-13; Matt 7:7-11; James 1:5-6)
Other practical tips for prayer:
- Use mediation as a bridge for prayer. Start your prayer time by praying about the things God revealed during your time of studying His Word.
- Keep track of prayer requests and how/when those prayers were answered.
- Use the Psalms as a guide for prayer.
- Have a time of silence before the Lord – don’t do all the talking!
- When you ask, ask in faith that God can do all things. Trust that he will always accomplish what He wants to.
- Pray throughout the day.