Thursday, August 06, 2009

meditation and prayer

The Puritans wrote much on both meditation and prayer separately, but they always emphasised that both are mutually indispensible.

What is meditation?
Meditation is “a holy exercise of the mind whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance, and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves.” - Thomas Watson

How are meditation and prayer joined to each other?"There is a meditation that is holy and godly, and that is when we meditate upon things that are holy and heavenly; and of this nature was the meditation of Isaac, he went out into the field to meditate on the works of God, and of the blessings and mercies of God; to meditate upon the Heavenly Canaan, and upon his sins; and this appears, because the Hebrew word that is here used for meditation, that is here translated meditation, doth also signifie to pray; and therefore it is in your margent, And Isaac went out to pray at eventide. It was a Religious work that Isaac went out about; and you must know that Prayer and Meditation are very well joined together; Meditation is a preparation to Prayer, and Prayer is a fit close for Meditation; and Isaac went out to meditate, to pray and to meditate, and to meditate and pray." - Edmund Calamy

How are they mutually indispensible?
“Meditation is the best beginning of prayer, and prayer is the best conclusion of meditation,” - George Swinnock.

"For as Mr. Greenham saith well, Reading without Meditation, is unfruitful; Meditation without Reading, is hurtful; To meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing.

If you do read and not meditate, then you will want good affections. If you meditate, and not read or hear, you will want good Judgement, and be apt to fall into some ill Opinions.

If you do read, or hear, or meditate, and not pray, you will want the blessing of the Lord upon both: Read, or hear first; then meditate; and then pray upon both. I speak of settled meditation, and let one be proportioned unto another. There must be a proportion between the one and the other, in a settled meditation; and therefore if that you would meditate rightly, I say in all your meditations, begin with reading, go on with meditation, and end with prayer". - William Bridge

How does meditation relate to both prayer and reading?
“Meditation is a middle sort of duty between the word and prayer, and hath respect to
both. The word feedeth meditation , and meditation feedeth prayer; we must hear that we be not erroneous, and meditate that we be not barren. These duties must always go hand in hand; meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer.” - Thomas Manton

How do prayer and meditation differ?
"They are often confounded in name, but inseparably linked in nature going hand and hand together; and can no more be severed, than two twins, who live and die together; only in prayer we confer and commune more directly with God by petition and thanksgiving; in meditation we talk and confer more directly and properly with ourselves and our own souls". - John Ball

What happens if we neglect meditation?
"Take away Meditation, and the duties of religion lose their life and vigor; prayer
is cold, reading unprofitable; think daily with thy self what great honor it is to be the son of God, what unspeakable joy to possess assurance that our sins are pardoned, how unvaluable a prerogative to lay open thy cares into the bosom of the Lord; persuade thyself of his readiness to hear, mercies to forgive, and compassions to relieve them that ask in his Son’s name. These things will stir up intention fervency in prayer; with what sighs and groans will he confess and bewail his iniquity who with a single eye doth behold the filthiness of sin and look into his own estate? But lay aside Meditation, and all is turned into form, comes to be of little use. For the appetite will decay if it be not sharpened; desire will cool if it be not quickened." - John Ball

Can meditation and prayer help us against temptation?
"we cannot be ignorant of this, that the old subtle fowler lets his snares and nets so thick in our way, that we have no shift but to fall into them, and light upon them, except with wings of meditation and prayer we mount up on high above them, and fly over them" - John Ball

How does meditation become the subject of prayer?
“Pray over your meditations. Prayer sanctifies every thing; without prayer they are but unhallowed meditations; prayer fastens meditation upon the soul; prayer is a tying a knot at the end of meditation that it doth not slip; pray that God will keep those holy meditations in your mind for ever, that the savour of them may abide
upon your hearts.” - Thomas Watson

"Never pray but let Meditation track thy prayer: this passage was right,that passage was amiss". - William Fenner

What sort of petitions can we use to help meditation by prayer?
"The matter or form of our prayer must be this, or such like, Oh Lord, it hath pleased thee to give me a mind ready, and desirous to perform this holy duty (for which I humbly thank thy heavenly majesty) I beseech thee by thy Holy Spirit to assist me therein, that I may bring the same to a profit and comfortable issue. Thou hast charged me, Oh Lord, to seek thy face, that is, thy blessed and holy presence.
Let my soul answer and say with thy faithful servant, Lord, I will seek thy face; Oh cause the light of thy face to shine upon me, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my memory, and sanctify my will and affections; withhold my ranging and truant-like heart, from all trifling fantasties, deceitful dreams, vain hopes, carnal fears, and worldly cares, wherewith it is naturally and customarily entangled, keep it unto thyself, and unto thy laws, that it may wholly delight and solace itself in thee, and grant that this point that I now go about to think upon, may be so settled in my memory, and rooted in my heart, that I may reap the fruit thereof all my life long, to thy glory, and upon my own comfort, and salvation, through Jesus Christ". - John Ball