Q: “Can you please explain the difference between Biblical meditation and contemplative meditation?”
A: There is a big battle going on about these two subjects. Those who are proponents of contemplative meditation would have us believe that it is the same as Biblical meditation but it is not. If you look up “contemplate,” in the dictionary (since the word can’t be found in the KJV) you will see it begins with an actual view of something, while meditation begins with focusing on the words of Scripture.
In Biblical meditation, one begins with and stays within the boundaries of God’s Word. Consider Psalm 119:148, “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” In contemplative meditation, you begin with whatever is on your mind or in your heart. It may be religious and have some Scripture attached to it, but the problem is since one is becoming focused on his or her own view of a matter, his or her meditation will not be disciplined by God’s Word. Without the proper discipline of God’s Word, a person will be unable to compare it with spiritual truths in order to test the spirit behind it (1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 1 John 4:1).
God’s Word tells us what to meditate on. For instance, we are to meditate on God’s law. ”This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). See also Psalm 1:2.
As Christians we need to remember God’s Word is Law and that we do not walk according to the law of sin and death but according to the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). We are to walk in His Spirit according to God’s ways of righteousness to ensure that we fulfill this spiritual law in love (Romans 5:5; 8:1; 13:8-10). When it comes to contemplation there is no sure direction that is to be taken. One’s view, feelings, and concerns can serve as the springboard to launch the person into the spiritual realm. Such contemplation serves as a state of mystic awareness and becomes a door that is open to whatever spirit comes in, setting a person up to encounter a false, seductive light that can create an overwhelming experience that becomes more real to the person than the Word of God (2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 12-15). It is for this reason that New Agers and occultists use this type of contemplation to gain insight into the unseen supernatural realm.
As believers, we are to mediate on what is acceptable, which includes God’s works, pure doctrine (precepts), ordinances (statutes), and His testimonies (Psalms 19:14; 77:12; 119:15, 23, 78). The conclusion that comes out of such meditation is best described by Psalm 49:3, “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.” True Biblical meditation will lead to a greater understanding of God and what is important to Him. This is brought out in Psalm 104:34, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.”
It is clear that in contemplative prayer people seek enlightenment, while as believers we are to seek God’s perspective about a matter as well as His will that will be confirmed by the Word of God. After all, according to 1 John 5:14 we are to pray according to His will, and in Psalm 5:1 the psalmist made this request, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.”
In contemplation, the person decides what they are going to consider, where in Biblical meditation it is the text that determines what one is to ponder. In contemplation conclusions are based on experience, feelings, and what is considered enlightenment but in Scripture it comes down to a matter lining up to the Holy Spirit and the truth of God.
The Bible clearly gives us what we must meditate upon and there is a very good reason for it. The Apostle Paull states in 1 Timothy 4:15-16, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Meditation exposes us to the spirit and intent of something. The problem with contemplative meditation is that the people who practice it end up reflecting a false, seductive light that lacks real substance. As believers, we are to meditate upon the eternal things of God to ensure our minds are transformed and the inner man renewed, thereby, reflecting the glory of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ to a lost, dying world.