Is Meditation permissible for Christians? (in 500 words)

Here is an excellent pithy article concerning meditation from Clint Archer. Highly recommended read. The original article is located here.
The practice of meditation in its many forms (transcendental, mindful, body scan, awareness, zen, etc.) has suddenly metastasized into a lucrative industry, assimilated by Western corporate conglomerates.
Even the Marines are taking a stab at the practice.

The frenetic noisiness of modern life has fertilized the market for a new crop of meditation apps (e.g. Headspace and Calm), productivity pundits (e.g. Leo Babauta of zenhabits(dot)net fame) and business section bestsellers aimed at secular readership (e.g. 10% Happier by Dan Harris and conclusions in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss).

Some Christians, who are rightly wary of imbibing any gateway drug to New Age worldviews or practices, are curious about the intersection of Eastern-origin and biblical meditation. I have been asked on a few occasions, “Is it permissible for Christians to engage in meditation?” And the answer is…

Let’s define our terms.

Meditation is a biblical term, used 22 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Here’s a smattering of examples:

Genesis 24: 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.

Joshua 1: 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.

Psalm 77: 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints… 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 119: 97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. …99 …your testimonies are my meditation.

Psalm 143: 5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

Psalm 145: 5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Isaac’s practice (Gen 24:63) is not described, just mentioned. But whenever the practice is described, it is coupled in parallel with other verbs that convey an active practice of dwelling mentally on content derived from God’s revelation.

So, meditation is far from being an unbiblical practice when it is practiced in this way: filling one’s mind with true content, such as the historical truth of God’s works, God’s character, God’s teachings, God’s will. In short, when you fill your mind with Scripture or truths derived from Scripture, meditation is a profitable practice.

Whereas the biblical practice of meditation is a filling of the mind with truth to be understood, memorized, and implemented (see Phil 4:8-9), Eastern meditative practices, in contrast, emphasize the emptying of the mind.

All Eastern or secular meditation practices I have encountered in my research—as taught on the internet, in popular books, guided courses, and smartphone apps—propose ways to focus on a word or a thought that is devoid of biblical content, or is a practice of mindful awareness, non-judgment, and other argot for “do anything except think about the God of the Bible and his will.” The idea is to allow thoughts to pass through consciousness without judgment, or to edge thoughts out of the mind completely.

Granted, a Christian might be able to graft Scriptural truth into the practices that teach one how to focus on one word or concept or attitude or feeling, by substituting biblical content as the object of one’s focus. But I don’t believe there is any need to lean on secular, New Age, or Buddhist practices to learn about biblical meditation.

We can learn meditation from the Bible.

We are encouraged to fill our minds “day and night” with God’s word so that our thoughts and feelings are influenced by truth about him and his doings and his will.

Hope this helps.