In his book Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction, John Jefferson Davis delves into some very deep topics concerning how one meditates on Scripture, and yet, in the end, his concluding application probably sounds very familiar to us as he lays out a fourfold approach to daily meditation on Scripture:
1. Intention and invocation (clearly forming your intention to enter God’s presence and asking God to bring you into the presence of Christ.)
2. Reading and reflection (the meat of delving into the text of Scripture).
3. Prayer (thanking God for his presence and any insights gained).
4. Recollection (at some time later in the day).
While the first three are probably the most familiar and the fourth is not rocket science, it is the fourth, Recollection, that might help you the most if you find yourself being consistent in your devotional life but not feeling like you are “gaining” anything.
The fourth step, recollection, is, strictly speaking, not a part of the meditation time itself, but rather a means of follow-up and take-away. It is helpful for our spiritual growth if we intentionally make the effort to remember at some later time during the same day the insight, word, phrase, image or feeling that might have been impressed upon us during our time of meditation. This could be a spare moment when we are stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the bank or checkout counter. This helps to cement the spiritual benefit that we have received in our souls.
Davis’ advice is very similar to that of many Puritans, including these words of Richard Baxter (as quoted by J. I. Packer here):
Come not to hear with careless heart, as if you were to hear a matter that little concerned you, but come with a sense of the unspeakable weight, necessity, and consequence of the holy Word which you are to hear; and when you understand how much you are concerned in it, it will greatly help your understanding of every particular truth….
Make it our work with diligence to apply the word as you are hearing it….Cast not all upon the minister, as those that will go no further than they are carried as by force….You have work to do as well as the preacher, and should all the time be as busy as he….you must open your mouths, and digest it, for another cannot digest it for you…therefore be all the while at work, and abhor an idle heart in hearing, as well as an idle minister.
Chew the cud, and call up all when you come home in secret, and by meditation preach it over to yourselves. If it were coldly delivered by the preacher, do you…preach it more earnestly over to your own hearts….