How to Meditate on a Psalm
by Jacob Hudgins
“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day”(Psalm 119:97)
We must first prepare ourselves to meditate. Time must be set aside to engage in this vital activity. David chose to fill his “down time” with thoughts of God’s goodness: “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches”(Psalm 63:6). Perhaps a quiet time of driving to work, a moment of peace after the kids go to bed, or the quiet of an early morning are good times to set aside for our meditation of God. But it wasn’t just when convenient: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night”(Psalm 1:2). Thoughts of God should persist throughout our day, although at times they must be in the background of our tasks. A warning is also needed: meditation is not as exciting as recreation! It is a deep, introspective process that slowly refines character. We must prepare ourselves to be successful in it.
As we read, we need to follow the psalmist’s train of thought. Think carefully about what he is saying, and let your mind travel with him. He declares, “Praise the Lord from the heavens” then moves to “Praise the Lord from the earth” then calls on “Kings of the earth and all peoples” to praise (Psalm 148:1, 7, 11). We must not allow our reading to be simply for facts, but to think along his lines and be impressed with these mental images.
Our goal in this reading is to draw out the main point. Since most psalms are quite poetic, we must be careful not to veer from the major thought to chase down every rabbit trail. Psalm 119 beautifully praises God’s word and its benefits—yet it contains some odd images. David says, “For I have become like a wineskin in smoke”(v. 83)—an odd, difficult expression, but one which only adds to his praise of God’s law. We must avoid being sidetracked or baffled by the exact meaning when the main point is clear.
Applying the text, we must think about similar circumstances in our lives. Haven’t we “cried out to the Lord in (our) trouble”(Psalm 107:6)—and He delivered? Haven’t we experienced the fact that “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”(Psalm 107:9)? Thinking about our lives helps us connect emotionally with the psalmist—and to praise God alongside him!
Another important goal of this meditation is to consider what is taught about God. In this book we learn about God—that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous” while “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”(Psalm 34:15-16). We learn that God is kind and merciful—dependable and benevolent—just and faithful to His word. We must use God’s word to understand Him—to pursue God!
Let thoughts of God and His word permeate your life—and be blessed!