Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ever one God, world without end, Amen. -The Lutheran Hymnal, Collect for the Word
Above is a prayer that is utilized by many before the reading and study of Scripture. It is a great prayer to know. Even better, it’s a prayer to not only begin your study with, but let it serve as a guide for reading the Scriptures. Something I have observed about my own devotional life, and I will admit it has always been an area of struggle for me, is that even when I sit to spend time in God’s Word and prayer, I often do not give it the time it deserves. So, recently, I have started to pray this Collect for the Word.
At first, this prayer calls us to hear, to listen to the Word of God, for faith comes through hearing, after all. So, it may be worth reading out loud, so you not only read it but hear it, and so you accomplish the reading and hearing altogether. Now, I will admit I often stop there, I will check off my box for the day, and move on to the other tasks that await me on what is a seemingly endless agenda and to-do list. But this helpful prayer calls us to slow down, to stop, to not only hear, to not only read but to go further. God’s Word deserves more than passive listening, listening that will most likely lead to being forgotten, as James warns us.
So, we go further, we not only read and listen, but we mark it. Yes, this means you are free to mark up that Bible of yours. Don’t worry, there is no issue. It is not defacing Scripture. God’s Word is greater than a few notes and underlines. Marking can help us to learn, retain, and focus more deeply on what we hear and read. We are called to learn them, to know them, to mark them. It is our story, the story of our people, the story of God’s redemption through Christ to all who put faith and trust in Him, and it deserves our attention.
But even then, this beautiful prayer doesn’t stop there. It calls us to allow these words to remain in us long after we have heard, read, marked, and learned them. It now calls us to digest them, one of my favorite phrases in all of prayer. In a hustle and bustle world, we often complete a task and move on to the next thing, leaving behind what we were doing before the immediate task at hand. Not in this case, not regarding God’s Word. No, God’s Word is not something to simply move on from, leaving it behind in a checked box on a to-do list. Instead, it is something that is digested. A slow process, as the body digests it pulls all of the nutrients from the food it has consumed, allowing it to nourish the body. Similarly, we too digest the Scriptures, extracting all of the life-giving vitamins from it that give nourishment to the soul.
Lent is a great time to intentionally evaluate our relationship with God’s Word. Our devotional life is not something that ought to be burdensome or crushing. But something joyful, refreshing, and something that gives us life. During this season, I invite you to consider the Collect for the Word above. It has helped me to slow down, and I pray that it may help you. God’s Word deserves our attention, but it also demands it. So let’s allow it to move through us from our ears to our hearts, as we inwardly digest it for all that it’s worth. It holds the Words of eternal life, and it will keep us holding fast to the faith that brings us life through Christ. Let us then hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.