From ancient times God’s people have known that meditation on Scripture promotes health in body, soul, and relationships with God and others. More recently numerous scientific studies have validated specific ways that meditation improves our health and well-being.
Of course, the main reason to meditate on Bible passages and pray is not for health — it’s to renew our minds (thoughts and feelings) in God’s word so that we join Jesus in loving God with our whole being, trusting God’s love for us, and loving our neighbors (Rom. 12:1-2; Mark 12:30-31).
To meditate — or be “mindful” as is often said today — in the Christian tradition is to reflect on Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to be fully present to God with our thoughts, feelings, and desires. Quiet prayer, soul talk, nature, music, poetry, and art can also facilitate meditation.
Meditation promotes your well-being in these ways:
1. More compassion
Recently, I got frustrated with a store clerk that was refusing to help me. Afterward, I felt sad that I lacked empathy and kindness toward her. So I meditated on Jesus’ compassion and mercy in the Gospels. I prayed for the clerk and then I prayed that the Spirit of Jesus would form my disposition to be like the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to offer compassion (Luke 10:25-37).
A research experiment (1) found that regular “compassion meditations” helped people receive compassion and give it to others.
2. Experiencing positive emotions
When I meditate on Jesus embracing the children (Mark 10:13-16) or healing a leper with a touch (Luke 5:12-13) I feel wanted and cared for, I feel joy, and my body relaxes.
A scientific study (2) showed that practicing loving-kindness through meditation produced lasting positive emotions, sense of purpose, and life satisfaction.
3. Improved emotional health
I like to meditate on Scriptures like Paul’s words in Philippians 4:4-13 as coming from a master psychologist (and from the Holy Spirit, of course). In this way grace and wisdom calm worry, lift discouragement, and melt away envy.
Scientific studies (3) have shown that meditation improves many aspects of mental and emotional health, like decreasing fear, anxiety, and depression.
4. Improved focus and memory
Many years ago I began memorizing chapters of the Bible for meditation and prayer, like 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. I did this to love God and care for my soul and was surprised that it also improved my abilities to sustain attention and remember things.
A research study (4) found that even just a few days of meditation training improved cognitive focus, mindfulness, working memory, and decision-making.
5. Improved physical health
Before I go to sleep and after I wake up I recite Scripture and let it inspire my prayers. Renewing our mind and heart in the Lord’s teachings brings health to our bones and prolongs our life (Prov. 3:1-3, 8).
Scientific research studies have found that meditation fostered physical health by improving sleep (5) and immune system functioning (6) and lowering stress-induced illness. (7)
6. Decreased pain
A woman who suffered from severe pain for 12 years and spent all her money on doctors but just got worse was healed just by touching Jesus with faith! (Mark 5:24-34). Meditation on Scripture is a spiritual touch and countless people have reported that it helps reduce their physical and emotional pain.
Scientific studies (8) have validated that meditation can decrease pain.
7. Improved creativity
Most days I spend time outside enjoying nature, praying, and appreciating God’s presence, beauty, and wisdom. Often this produces spontaneous creative thinking for my writing and problem-solving for my leadership. Many of Jesus’ creative stories and teachings, along with his discernment on what to do, came this way (Matt. 13:34; Mark 1:38, 3:13).
A study by the Harvard Business Review (9) found that a routine of just ten minutes of mindfulness meditation enhanced creativity and innovation for executive leaders.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Take a moment to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you in this time of quiet meditation on the powerful Psalm 23, led by Kristi. Refresh your soul!
1 Hooria Jazaieri, et al. “Enhancing Compassion: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training Program” Springer Science+Business Media, July 25, 2012.
2 Barbara L. Fredrickson, et al. “Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95.5(2008): 1045-1062.
3 “The Benefits and Science of Meditation.” ChristianMeditation.co.
4 Fadel Zeidan, et al. “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training.” Consciousness and Cognition, 19.2(2010): 597-605.
5 David S. Black, et. al. “Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances A Randomized Clinical Trial“. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175.4(2015): 494-501.
6 Richard J. Davidson, PhD, et al. “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation.” Psychosomatic Medicine, 65.4(2003): 564-540.
7 “Meditation: In Depth.” NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
8 Madhav Goyal, et al. “Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systemic review and meta-analysis.” NIH National Library of Medicine, March, 2014.
9 Emma Schoostra, et al. “Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative?” Harvard Business Review, August 29, 2017.