Here’s a basic question for you: How do you draw close to God?
If you’ve heard that one before, you might know some of the answers. The Church of God helpfully focuses on four big actions we can take to draw close to God: Christians can pray, study their Bibles, fast, and meditate.
It can be a little tricky to start doing these things regularly. Thankfully, the Church provides plenty of help on how to get the most out of prayer, study, fasting, and meditation. When I tried to start doing these activities regularly, it was a slow process, but I gradually felt myself get better at prayer, study, and fasting. Little by little, I felt like I was getting more out of these things. Some days were better or worse than others, but generally, these practices seemed to be going in the right direction in my life.
Meditation was different—I rarely felt like I was getting much better at it. I knew the basics: think about a godly concept deeply. True meditation is not emptying one’s mind, as some religions teach. Philippians 4:8 tells us that “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” That’s a great list, but what does it mean practically? How exactly are we supposed to think deeply about those things?
Recently, I’ve realized that there might be a couple of tips we can use to try to meditate more frequently. These “meditation hacks,” if you will, can hopefully make meditation a more routine part of your life, too!
First off, read good books! Books, by their very nature, can help us think deeply about a topic. But this is not true of all books, as we know, so how do we tell a good book, one that will aid our meditation, from one that will not? One key is that it’s probably better if the book is non-fiction—the first thing Philippians 4:8 mentions is to meditate on whatever things are true. Works of fiction are not sinful (well, some are, but that’s a different topic), but fiction can be harder to use if we are trying to meditate.
Among non-fiction books, I frequently try to find a good history book. History can be a challenge to become interested in if you aren’t already, but it can guide our meditation about how God has worked out His plan over the last 6,000 years. The simplest key to finding a good history book is to ask! Your parents are the best place to start, and after that, ministers usually have a few good reads to point you toward as well.
But history is not the only source of good books to meditate with. Philippians 4:8 also mentions that we should meditate on things that are noble and just. For those, consider finding good books on leadership. Again, parents and pastors can give good recommendations for these types of books. Beyond these topics, good books can be found on many subjects—books that might be praiseworthy and of good report. Always remember, though, that with all secular books, you have to keep your brain turned on!
Some of you might not like reading. I hope that changes for you over time, as it does for many of us, but thankfully there’s another good tip for meditation: listen to good podcasts! Okay, podcasts might be too specific, but the things you listen to can also help you meditate. There are sermons, radio programs, and podcasts on a variety of topics. You won’t be surprised that I go for the same topics that I like to read about—history and leadership!
I find that I can listen best when driving or exercising—sort of. If I’m walking or biking, I can listen to a sermon, but I cannot pay attention when running, though maybe that’s different for you. I listen just fine when driving on a quiet interstate, but if I try to listen to a podcast while driving around a city, I won’t get much out of it. I always prefer to listen when I have chances to pause the podcast (or whatever I’m listening to) so I can think about what was just said. If there’s a good point, I’ll try to pause the podcast so I can meditate on that point a little more. If there’s a bad point, I’ll pause it so I can think through why I disagree with it. Most importantly, if it’s a point that I think applies to me personally in some way, I’ll pause the podcast to make sure I further meditate on that topic!
This is especially handy when listening to a sermon. When you’re at services, you can’t exactly pause your minister—but if you listen to an extra sermon a week, you can pause it all you want, and that can help you meditate on the points. As Romans 10:17 reminds us, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Sometimes we cut the “hearing” part out of that verse and focus on how faith comes from the word of God, but often we get faith from hearing someone else explain the Bible. Pausing sermons can be a great opportunity for us to meditate on how a message applies to us (before hitting play again!).
These are, of course, not the only ways to meditate, but they are two ways that have helped me draw close to God by thinking deeply about a topic. Good books and podcasts can present us with topics that are true, just, noble, and praiseworthy. Have your parents and pastors help you find good ones if you want to improve your meditation!