As Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 10 of Prayer, he notes that British theologian John Owen (1616-1683) believed there were three distinctive movements or stages within meditation. Owen first distinguished meditation from Bible study and from prayer proper:
“It is distinguished from the study of the Word, wherein the principal aim is to learn the truth . . . and so also from prayer, whereof God himself is the immediate object. But . . . meditation . . . is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and [humility].”
1. Fixing the thoughts. Pastor Keller suggests several ways we can fix our thoughts on a truth from the Bible:
a. take a crucial verse and think it through by stressing a different word each time you read through the verse
b. paraphrase the verse in your own words
c. memorize the text (memorizing is called “learning by heart”)
2. Inclining the heart. Owen described this stage as when the heart “adheres and cleaves to spiritual things . . . from the love and delight . . . in them and engagement unto them.” For Luther this meant working the truth into our relationship to God, to ourselves, and to the world.
3. Enjoying the Lord. This final stage consists either of enjoying the Lord or admitting His absence and asking for mercy and help. Pastor Keller observes that the important thing to remember is that meditation is a sustained process with cumulative effects. We must stick with it “day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
Today’s question: How does John Owen’s understanding of meditation impact your practice? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “The love we trust”