Lenten Classics – Praying the Scriptures


During each week of Lent this year, we will post an excerpt from a classic writing on Christian spirituality, followed by some questions for personal reflection.

This week’s selection comes from the writings of Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717). Born in Montargis, France, Guyon was given in marriage to a 38-year-old invalid when she was only 15 years old. Feeling dissatisfied with this arrangement, she embarked on a spiritual quest which led her to a life-changing encounter with Christ. Imprisoned in the Bastille because of her beliefs, Madame Guyon spent close to 25 years in confinement. Her writings from this period of her life are studied to this day because of their profound insights into the love of God.

In this excerpt Madam Guyon writes about the discipline of voicing the words of Scripture back to God in prayer.

“Praying the Scripture” is a unique way of dealing with the Scripture; it involves both reading and prayer. Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to.

Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently, and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read. In the past it may have been your habit, while reading, to move very quickly from one verse of Scripture to another until you have read the whole passage. Perhaps you were seeking to find the main point of the passage.

But in coming to the Lord by means of “praying the Scripture,” you do not read quickly; you read very slowly. You do not move from one passage to another, not until you have sensed the very heart of what you have read. You may then want to take that portion of Scripture that has touched you and turn it into prayer.

After you have sensed something of the passage, and after you know that the essence of that portion of Scripture has been extracted and all the deeper sense is gone, then, very slowly, gently, and in a calm manner begin to read the next portion of the passage. You will be surprised to find that when your time with the Lord has ended, you will have read very little, probably no more than half a page.

“Praying the Scripture” is not judged by how much you read, but the way you read. If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer you become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.

Of course, there is a kind of reading the Scripture for scholarship and for study – but not here…. To receive any deep, inward profit from the Scripture you must read as I have described. Plunge into the very depths of the words you read until revelation, like a sweet aroma, breaks out upon you. I am quite sure that if you will follow this course, little by little you will come to experience a very rich prayer that flows from your inward being.

Personal Reflection: 

  • In your normal approach to Scripture are you more like a bee skimming the surface of a flower or like a bee plunging into the blossom to remove the nectar?
  • Have you ever tried the approach to prayer and Bible-reading that Guyon describes here?
  • What is a verse from Scripture you would like to spend time praying back to God today?