We have come to the first section of Morning Prayer where we have some discretion. This is not a time to be wasted – we can move straight into our intercessory prayers – but that would be to miss one of the most valuable opportunities we have – to reflect on the Scriptures we have been reading. What is God saying to me today?
At the beginning of his leadership, Joshua was given these words in order to lead the people over the Jordan to take possession of the promised land:
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Josh 1. 8
We can take away from our morning prayers a text or a theme to learn or on which to meditate during the day. We can put ourselves into the stories, by personalising the text – just as if we were actually there. The quiet moments before preparing to sleep can also provide an opportunity to focus our minds on good things from God’s Word and help us to come to terms with the struggles and pains we may have experienced during the day. This is something that will take time and commitment; but we need to not just be hearers of the word, but those who put it into effect, remembering that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Tim. 3.16,17
The Bible is a fine book with a myriad of absorbing stories and historical information. If you have been following the morning Lectionary over the previous six months, we have together explored the historical narrative from the beginning of Genesis to the anointing of David as King of Israel. We have read the whole of Luke’s gospel and are about to embark on one of the most exciting books of all – the Acts of the Apostles. We can be taken up with the stories, and be shocked at the violence and the repeated failures of people who lived in different circumstances from ourselves. But we will always be drawn to the fact that people behave in fundamentally the same way. Their natural tendency is to live godless lives, seeking power and possessions for themselves, at the expense of the poor, and rejecting outsiders from other nations. As they follow their own selfish agendas, God has had to intervene repeatedly to help humans to refocus on faith and on the things in life that matter most.
In New Testament times, the Bible has become the primary source of God’s communication to his people – and we need to be able to feed ourselves and not always rely on the interpretation of others. We reflect on Scripture for inspiration, and to build up our faith when it is at its lowest ebb. The walkers on the Emmaus Road were downcast by the events surrounding the crucifixion, but in meeting Jesus, the words of Scripture were brought to life:
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”Luke 24. 32
When we read Scripture, at times it will challenge us and point out aspects of our lives which need correction:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119. 9-11
We can read Scripture for guidance. We may not always receive a specific verse to answer our problem, but the biblical principles we have absorbed may provide us with the clarity of thought and the wisdom that we need:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.Psalm 119. 105
Many of us are still babes in our faith. The writer to the Hebrews observed that by the time he wrote to them, the Christians should have become teachers, instead of which they needed someone to teach them the elementary truths of God’s word all over again – needing milk not solid food. Paul expresses it like this:
…from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.2 Tim 3.15
Many people turn to the Bible in times of trouble, and the current pandemic has driven many to reconsider the meaning of life. At such times, favourite verses, such as the 23rd Psalm will come to mind, and we can join with the psalmist to pray:
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.Psalm 119. 28
So, let us not skim through our Bible readings – if we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through its contents, it has the power to transform our lives and meet our daily needs. May it bring us faith in times of doubt, bring solace in times of despair, bring inner strength in times of weakness, and help to bring us to a place of deep fellowship in the presence of our Father God.