God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton
This is one of the more important books I’ve read in a long time. We do hear about meditation, but it’s not emphasized enough, and seems like it’s certainly not practiced enough. The author’s goal in writing this book is “to convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation.” If you need any convincing of how important and beneficial meditation is, not to mention how it’s commanded and practiced by many inspired writers and people of faith in Scripture, you will most likely be convinced after reading this book, unless you just don’t care. The book also stresses that meditation is not for speculation or inquisitive thinking, but for practical matters and application to one’s behavior, which is another part of why the reader is left with how important this Biblical practice is. There are numerous short quotes on every page from well-known and not so well-known Puritans. Every one of them stresses the importance of meditation, but also stresses that the privilege becomes an enjoyable habit that benefits us and honors God.
The author doesn’t assume that everybody has a problem with meditating, which is refreshing. It bothers me when authors appear condescending when they assume that everybody has a problem with prayer, for example, when I know from experience that it isn’t true. David Saxton describes people who do meditate and how it greatly benefits them. The book is very encouraging and positive, although you may know how strict the Puritans can be in their descriptions of who godly people are, and what they do and don’t do.
Although it’s only 138 pages long, the book is pretty comprehensive in its treatment of meditation. I would call this a popular level book that’s easily understandable for anyone except a new believer. We learn about the unbiblical forms of meditation, which dispels any negative notions some may have when the word meditation is mentioned. Meditation is also called the doctrine of Biblical thinking, which may be a more helpful term for some people. Also written about are forms of meditation (like occasional and deliberate), types (Scripture, creature, and creation), reasons, benefits, difficulties and choosing what to meditate on.
One thing I didn’t see is how to progressively get into meditation for those who haven’t done this at all, similar to Nine Minutes With God – How to have a quiet time. Even though I often combine meditation and prayer, exactly what meditation is has always been kind of an enigma for me, and Saxton provides the reader with many valuable methods and helps, but many of the Puritans mentioned ‘an hour’, which might be a little scary for most of us. A guide on how to first start out would have been nice, since there really isn’t a lot of solid material out there on this subject.
I think the book could have been a little bit better organized and edited, but that doesn’t take away from the content. I’m sure the author had his reasons for the way he ordered things. Many times there was repetition. A quote from Watson appears on page 12 and 22 for example. Other concepts were repeated and could have been consolidated. You’ll find that chapter 9 is Reasons for Meditation, where I would have put it near the beginning. Types of meditation were near the beginning; I would have put them later on in the book. But it’s still all there and repetition can’t be that bad of a thing for learning.
There was almost no part of this book that left me uninterested (although I admit I skimmed the part about unbiblical meditation). It kept my interest the whole way through and has solid knowledge and wisdom throughout.
I would highly recommend this important book for anyone who isn’t already greatly benefiting from meditation or anyone who would like more perspective on what the Puritans think about this subject. I would give it 4 1/2 stars, but will round it up because of its importance.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an unbiased review.
Oh, remember this, the sweetness of religion is incomparably more than all the pleasures of sense.
–William Bates, On Divine Meditation, as quoted in God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, pg. 123
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