When I have lost passion or devotion in my time alone with God, I have simply lost sight of him. I’m still reading and praying, but I’m not seeing him, not as clearly. A fog has blown in slowly over days or weeks, covering his beauty from the eyes of my heart, numbing me to my need for him, and depriving me of a deeper and stronger happiness in him.
Maybe you’ve known the fog. King David did. And he longed for what he would see, and feel, when the clouds finally parted:
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night. (Psalm 63:5–6)
David teaches us to cut through the fog with meditation. And not just meditation on words, but on God himself — “I remember you upon my bed . . . and meditate on you.” Meditation means to linger longer over God in Scripture for the sake of our hearts.
“When we meditate on the words of God, we meditate on God himself.”
When we steep our souls in the exodus, the Levitical laws, the Psalms, the Minor Prophets, the Gospels, the early church, and Paul’s letters, we are meditating not merely on words on a page but on God. He reveals himself through words. We are seeing him in radiant glory, hearing from him in infinite wisdom, tasting him in his unique ability to satisfy the human soul.
We do not wake up early simply to study God or to exercise discipline. We wake up early to meet God. “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Psalm 145:5). When we sit down to meditate — early in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon, during the watches of the night — we can expect glory, splendor, and majesty. We can expect God.
More Important Than Sleep
The watches of the night were stretches when a guard or lookout was posted to watch for enemies. Safety was more important than sleep, so someone went without to keep the rest of the city safe.
Many Christians, especially in the West, are not left wondering if someone will break in to kill us overnight, but something is still more important than sleep. The psalmist says,
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise. (Psalm 119:147–148)
As precious as rest is, he knew that meditation was even more satisfying. He would gladly forgo sleep to get a little more of God.
If we consistently skip time with God in his word and prayer because we love sleep, our hearts have fallen out of sync. Sleep is important (Psalm 127:2). But it is not most important. Food is important (1 Timothy 4:4; 6:8). But it is not most important. Marriage and family are important (Proverbs 18:22; Psalm 127:3). But they are not most important. Communion with God — knowing and enjoying him in actual unhurried moments meditating on and praying to him — is more important than anything else we do, no matter how urgent everything else feels.
If God keeps us up late at night, or wakes us before the sun comes up, it may be because something is more important than sleep. He knows when we need to rest, and he knows when we need to meditate and pray. He may graciously open our eyes long before the alarm goes off, to give us another glimpse of his majesty to enjoy or to open his ears wide to the burdens we brought to bed.
We might assume we’re awake because of stress, indigestion, or some other imbalance, but it may simply be grace. God may be beckoning us from bed to something more nourishing and satisfying than sleep.
With Focused Affection
However, meditation will not feel like grace if we’ve lost the ability to focus. For the most part, the Internet does not encourage extended meditation. Almost every site we visit is ruthlessly wired to keep us clicking, moving, shifting — relentlessly looking for the next thing, and therefore rarely truly focused on whatever is in front of us. Even when God himself is speaking to us.
“Communion with God is more important than anything else we do, no matter how urgent everything else feels.”
Again, the psalmist says, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways” (Psalm 119:15). When was the last time you gave that kind of attention to anything? When did you fix your eyes on something, and refuse to look away — not for notifications, not for a snack, not for breaking news or sports scores? If all the joy in the Psalms seems unfamiliar or even unattainable in our everyday life, it might be because we have estranged ourselves from meditation — from diligently searching for God. Have we lost our hunger for going hard after him?
Meditation is not just about focused mental attention — reading and thinking without distraction. Passionate desire, not cold compliance, fuels our pursuit of God: “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:48). Meditation is focused, thoughtful, even tenacious affection. Blessed is the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2).
For Hard and Heavy Mornings
Meditation may seem to require quiet, uninterrupted, predictable mornings — “normal” days — but few of us know what quiet, uninterrupted, predictable mornings feel like. We’re much more acquainted with busy and unpredictable ones. Abnormal is our normal. We make plans, buy journals, set our alarms, and then life happens again. We end up with less time than we thought, or seemingly no time at all. Someone needs us unexpectedly. We begin to understand why David chose the watches of the night, when everyone else was asleep.
Some days, and even seasons of life, will be more conducive than others for ideal meditation, but the Psalms show us that we cannot wait for a conducive time to meditate. In fact, meditation becomes even more valuable when the ideal circumstances for meditation crumble around us. In the midst of trials and opposition, the psalmist says, “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:23). David was also driven from his home, surrounded by enemies, and confronted with danger, but he would not surrender meditation. In psalm after psalm, when he was forced to leave everything else behind, he did not forsake thinking and praying with focused affection for God.
You Are Not Alone
If you wake up early tomorrow to meditate on God in his word, he wants to meet you there — not just to be understood and admired, but to help you understand and admire him. Paul says to his disciple Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). True meditation is an exercise in killing self-reliance, because the wisdom of God confounds and offends even the wisest human minds apart from grace.
“When you open your Bible, lay down your need to be strong, smart, and independent.”
When you open your Bible, lay down your need to be strong, smart, and independent. Pray with the psalmist, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27). We bring focused affection and prayerful dependence, and he gives the understanding — the comfort and healing for a lingering wound, the breakthrough in fighting sin, the insight for difficult relationships or situations, and most of all, the awe of beholding his beauty again.
When God moves in our meditation, we will say with Robert Murray McCheyne, “Rose early to seek God and found Him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company?” God is sitting next to us when we read, even within us by his Spirit. When we meditate on God with God, the one our souls love meditates for us and through us, showing us glimpses of himself we never would have seen on our own.