Daily Meditation: The Basics for Getting Started and Keeping Going

The Bible encourages us to meditate day and night. We know it's something good and we know how the Bible connects it with God's blessing, but, often, we're not sure how to do it. The Bible says to meditate. Preachers tell us to meditate. But how? What should we do to get started? And how can we get started in a way that will help us keep going?

One of my favourite books on meditation is Nathaneal Ranew's Solitude Improved by Divine Meditation. Near the end of the book, Ranew gives a guide for daily meditation for those who are new to it. It's his outline of the basics to get started and keep going

1. Get yourself into the habit of lifting up your mind to God as the very first thing you do when you wake up. 

Ranew argues that this is a Biblical pattern (Ps 139:18; Ps 5:1, 3) and God's right (since He's so far above anything in this world that could grab our attention first thing). But he also argues that it's the most beneficial thing for us to do first in the day, because we are looking to the one who daily supplies us with grace and grants the sweetness of His peace. So we're starting the day with His grace and peace, rather than with worries and anxieties and only running to Him for peace later. When we lift up our minds and hearts to the Lord first thing, "the spirit acts upwards before lusts and corruptions are stirring, before Satan begins to interpose, and before the world comes in to us to hang its weights upon our hearts." Ranew's advice is good: "Visit God early, and He will visit us early."

2. Next meditate on the duties of the day ahead. 

The idea here isn't just to think about what's coming up and get either stressed or organised, but rather to meditate on the duties of the day in light of God's wisdom and thus to serve the Lord in all the duties of the day "with fervency of spirit."

3. Meditate on your chief and supreme end (i.e. on God Himself and your glorifying of Him).

As the Shorter Catechism puts it, "man's chief end is the glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The purest and highest thoughts of God far exceed all other thoughts and, Ranew tells us, lay "the foundation daily deeper of your self-denying."

4. Seriously think on your own eternal happiness and salvation.

Ranew points to Paul's example here: "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" (Phil. 3:13). "He kept his constant aiming," Ranew tells us, "and aimed better, still more fully." In other words, don't just think of salvation as something in the past, at conversion, but keep your eyes fixed upon the goal. Rejoice in what God has done for you, what He is doing for you, and what He will do. 

5. Ponder how God brings you to this happiness of enjoying Him forever.

Set your mind on "high and transporting thoughts of Jesus Christ, his fullness of grace freely offered, and your daily putting him on more, and growing up in him." Meditate on the precious promises of the gospel and on "the Holy Spirit's dwelling and operating in every good heart." Ponder the means of grace, the ways in which we have communion with Christ, and the ways in which the Holy Spirit comes to us.

6. At the close of the day, spend some time in a daily examination of review. 

The idea here is to look back over everything that's happened during the day and "judge yourself as to your heart's frame" and how you acted. Ranew warns that this will be "harsh and unpleasant work at first," but if we stick at it diligently and use it well, it will become "easy and pleasant" and that many find it "the sweetest part of the day." The point isn't to make ourselves feel bad at the end of the day, but rather to help us grow in Christlikeness, by seeing where we need to grow and to encourage us by seeing where we have grown.

Ranew's basic advice gives us a very good basic framework for getting started and keeping going with daily meditation. So let me sum it up again in bullet-point form:

1. Set your mind on God first thing.
2. Think on the day's duties in light of God's wisdom.
3. Meditate on God Himself.
4. Meditate on your full salvation. 
5. Meditate on the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit (in the past and the present)
6. Examine yourself at the end of the day.

He's got lots of other advice too, some of which I might sum up another time.