As a part of my journey discovering Christ-centered meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it has a long lineage of Judeo-Christian tradition. My desire is not at all to be a history buff, but to let you know that if you are interested in meditation, you're not crazy, eccentric, or unorthodox. You are a part of generations of Christians who came before you, desiring to seek God with all their heart, mind, and soul!
I was relieved to learn that although there are other types of meditation that have origins in Eastern religions, they don't have the "corner market" on mediation. In fact, meditation is God's idea and He encourages us to practice it day and night, indoors and outdoors, fixing our eyes and staying our minds on Him as He fills us with his Shalom Shalom (perfect peace) and transforms us more into His image!
There are two Hebrew words for meditation: haga which means murmur or meditate and siha which means to rehearse in one's mind. The Greek word meletao describes meditative ponderings. Finally, the Latin word meditari can be translated to have in mind, practice, or to think out.
The first place meditation is mentioned in the Bible, it states that Issac went out to meditate in the field towards evening. Later, God tells Joshua to meditate on the Book of the Law night and day. In 2 Samuel, it says "King David went in and sat before the Lord", so it's no surprise that David, author of many of the Psalms, writes often about meditation. Click here to discover more about What the Bible Says About Meditation.
I know I run the risk of completely losing your attention at the mention of the "Middle Ages" but don't stop reading! I promise to keep it short and simple. Most importantly, I want to reassure you that leaders and Christians throughout history believed in this meditation stuff - further evidence that you and I are normal...for the most part anyway!
Meditation was heavily influenced by the introduction of monastic life (monks) in the early middle ages. In the 6th century, Lectio Divina was introduced as a way to meditatively read and experience scripture. In 10th century Greece, following the earlier traditions of monks called the Desert Fathers, the Eastern Christian church developed a practice called hesychasm, which used repetitive words and prayers in their meditation. This form never really took off within Western Christianity, but is still a form of meditation used today in the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the 11th century writings from people like Saint Anselm, concerning meditation and prayer emerged, and some in the church sought to bring more structure to meditation as a means to truly contemplate God and encounter His word. Thomas Aquinas described meditation as necessary to devotion, and St. John of the cross exhorted even spiritually mature people to return regularly to meditation.
Although the approaches to meditation and contemplation varied throughout the Christian church, many church leaders stressed the importance of it being scripture-based so as to avoid falling into spiritual error. St. Teresa of Avila, a prominent 16th century nun, prepared her heart with Scripture, and used that to reflect upon and contemplate, leading to a conversation with God. Some approaches relied more heavily upon recitation and memorization of scripture, while others, like St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises incorporated placing oneself in the middle of a Bible scene using one's imagination, leading to an intimate more experiential knowledge of Christ.
In the 18th century, biblical meditation was downplayed in some branches of Western Christianity. Some in the church even became skeptical and developed a more critical view of mystical practices. They wanted to turn away from traditions of the Middle Ages and return more to biblical and early church sources. A more critical approach to Bible analysis emerged and other issues of importance took center stage like determining the historicity of the gospels. However, as the 20th century arrived, so did a renewed interest in biblical meditation. The Roman Catholic Church began to reemphasize the use of Lectio Divina, especially surrounding liturgical holidays, but also during ordinary times.
Today, there are multiple books, apps, and websites that explore and encourage Christians to reclaim this lost art of Christian meditation. I believe you and I are a part of an ongoing movement of Christians who desire deep intimacy with God. Our minds can be used for intellectual and devotional study of God's Word and Truth. But our minds and imaginations can also be touched by God to see these Truths COME ALIVE when we sit quietly with Him in meditation. Today, we don't need to become monks, running off to the deserts to have these encounters. We can take moments everyday to press pause on the busyness of life, see His Word play out on the big screens of our minds, experience His truth, and live looking more like Him in the process.
You are not alone on this journey. Let's walk it out together!
"Christian Meditation." Wikipedia, 2017,
"Christian Mysticism." Wikipedia, 2017,
"Discursive Meditation." Family Life Institute, 2017
"History of Christian Meditation." Wikipedia, 2017,
"Ignatian Contemplation: Imaginative Prayer." Ignatian Spirituality, 2017,