“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16)
Each Sunday, the Church of England has a set prayer, or collect, for that day. It’s rather lovely to think that, along with the many other things we pray for, churches across the country are praying for the same thing. The prayer for the Last Sunday after Trinity opens with these words:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
It’s good to be encouraged to pray for our attitude and receptiveness to God’s word. Whether it’s together in church, in small groups or on our own, we need ask for God’s help to bring the Bible to bear on our lives.
The words of this prayer are, I think, particularly helpful. We are encouraged to read the Bible and to mark the Bible. ‘Marking’ doesn’t mean writing in your Bible (although you might find that helpful to underline, highlight or write notes!). It means to pay attention to God’s word. It’s good to read the Bible, and it’s even better to pay attention to what we read.
Next we are called to learn God’s word, which is immensely powerful. Having parts of the Bible memorised, even if it’s a handful of verses, can help to fight against sin and walk closely with Jesus. If you have never tried memorising God’s word, why not start simply with one verse that is important to you?
The final part of this prayer is probably the one easiest to overlook. We are called to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ God’s word. Reading, marking and learning are all things we do with our minds; inwardly digesting is something we do with our heart and soul. We need to allow the truth of the Bible to dig down deep into our lives, to take root and to nourish us.
Jeremiah speaks about this when we says to God, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” Jeremiah fed on the words of God and was sustained by it.
Let’s approach our Bible reading not as an intellectual exercise but as a mealtime. Here God nourishes and sustains us as he brings the word alive by his Holy Spirit. Here is food for the soul.