The title of the article might be a bit deceving. The New Testament never shows Jesus in meditation in the sense that we think of it today. There is no description of Him assuming a lotus position and and engaging in Transcedental Meditation. The Biblical understanding of meditation is very different from that of eastern religions. Biblical meditation involves actively thinking about something, such as a passage of Scripture. Prayer and meditation on Scripture often go hand-in-hand.
The New Testament provides numerous examples of Jesus pulling away by Himself to pray, rest, and refresh Himself, spirit, soul, and body. The first place that we see this is in the temptation story. Immediately after His baptism, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan in several areas. It is very likely that Jesus intended to spend those forty days of prayer and fasting to prepare for His upcoming public minstry. Instead, both Matthew and Luke go into some detail about the spiritual battle that Jesus ended up engaging in with Satan. While this clearly did not end up being the time of prayer that Jesus was looking for, the spiritual struggle left Him, “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power,” when He returned to Galilee (Luke 4:14).
Another place that we see Jesus retreating to be by Himself is in Mark 1:34: “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” This seemed to be a regular habit for Jesus. In several other passages, Jesus is seen withdrawing to be by Himself and pray. Another notable example during Jesus’ ministry was right before He designated twelve of His followers as the Twelve Apostles. “One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13) This passage shows Jesus spending an extended time in prayer before making a very important decision.
After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus, “went up into the hills by himself to pray.” (Mark 6:46) Another version of the same story in John 6 shows the crowd wanting to take Jesus by force and make Him king after they had seen the miracle. That was not why He had come, so withdrawing into the hills to pray was likely to help him stay focused on what His true mission was.
One last example of Jesus withdrawing to pray is seen on the night before He was crucified. He went to one of His favorite places, the Garden of Gethsemane, near the Mount of Olives. It is there that He prayed His famous prayer, “Father, if it is possible, please let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus knew that He was about to face tremendous suffering. He prepared Himself by quieting His heart and talking to God.
While these examples of Jesus pulling away to be by Himself and pray do not fit the traditional model of meditation, they do fit the model of meditation that the Christian mystics participated in in early Church History. Many of these mystics fasted and prayed for long periods of time. Many of them also withdrew to isolated locations to devote themselves to prayer and the study of the Scriptures. The biggest difference between the mystics and Jesus, however, was the fact that Jesus did not stay in the wilderness. He withdrew, prayed, and then returned to the ministry that God had called Him to.
Is meditation and prayer a part of you regular routine? How do you meditate?
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