Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix c. 1861
Jacob provides a good example of Christian meditation. I don’t mean that he picked on angels in bar fights. I mean he was willing to go to the mat with God until he received the blessing from the Angel of the Lord (see Genesis 32:26)
Christian meditation is reading, or listening to, or reciting out loud a particular passage of scripture expecting the Holy Spirit to give a person an understanding of the passage. The Holy Spirit will show one who “wrestles” for understanding the Law and the Gospel in the passage. This is what makes a true theologian.
Christian meditation is not sitting in some sense-deprived environment and emptying the mind to have an “alpha state” experience of God. It is not employing the words of scripture as a mantra to repeat over and over again with a view to have an ecstatic experience.
In comparing Roman Catholic Lectio Divina “Four Moments” practice to Luther’s concept, Rev. Jeffrey Ware wrote:
“Luther also completely redefines meditatio. Whereas in Lectio Divina meditation is focused on the human memory and its ability to make the text personal through the recollection of past events, Luther’s understanding of meditation focuses on God’s word. For Luther, meditation is simply the continual study of scripture. God’s word is not a mere sign that needs to be internalized in order to be heard properly, it is the very voice of God that comes with power both to kill and make alive” (A Lutheran Perspective on Lectio Divina, from SoundWitness.org)
As Luther noted:
Let him who wants to contemplate in the right way reflect on his Baptism; let him read his Bible, hear sermons, honour father and mother, and come to the aid of a brother in distress. But let him not shut himself up in a nook . . . and there entertain himself with his devotions and thus suppose that he is sitting in God’s bosom and has fellowship with God without Christ, without the Word, without the sacraments (The Kindled Heart – Luther on Meditation, John Kleinig).
What is the result of the type of meditation that wrestles with God through the word? First, one is humbled through the working and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Second, one’s faith in Christ is deepened and grown. Third, one serves others selflessly. Fourth, over time, a desire and ability to teach is developed in the one who practices Christian meditation. Fifth, one is brought into trials and temptations, which I will describe in my next article: Tentatio.