In his book Devotional Classics, Richard Foster writes the following about Madame Guyon:
Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) was born in Montargis, France. When she was only fifteen, she married an invalid who was thirty-eight years old. Unhappy in her marriage, she sought happiness in her devotional life. She lived in a convent under royal order for a year and then was imprisoned in Vincennes and the Bastille because of her religious beliefs. Almost twenty-five years of her life were spent in confinement. Many of her books were written during that period.
The work she is most famous for is her book Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. In an exercise which she calls "Praying the Scripture," she writes:
"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 has been extracted and all the deeper sense of it is gone, then, very slowly, gently, and in a calm manner begin to read the next portion of that 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…"
(Foster, Devotional Classics, pp. 302-303)
I find this helpful — especially as I think about the importance of reading Scripture to shape and form my life. No, this is not a substitute for a rigorous study of Scripture in its original languages and seeking to understand the setting in which it was written, etc. I do think we need to hear what she is saying. What she is saying can greatly complement my Bible reading and study. It is a reminder to me that Scripture is to form and shape me. It is a reminder that the goal of reading Scripture is not to see how much Scripture I can read but to see how much of my life I can open before the Lord as he speaks in Scripture.
A number of years ago, I was teaching a Bible class at a church. As I recall, the subject of the class was the nature of the Bible itself: its origin, languages, forms of literature, authors, etc. At one point, a guy in the class said, "Who needs all of this? No one needs to know Greek or Hebrew! We just need to read the Bible!!" Of course, on one level, he may have been correct. One does not have to understand what I just mentioned in order to have a rich life with God. Yet, I noticed that he had in his lap a Bible — an NIV. As I recall, I said something like this in response, "No, you don’t have to know all of this. I do think we can be very grateful for those who have taken the time and discipline to learn these languages so that the rest of us can have a Bible in our own language like the one in your lap. While all of us don’t have to learn the original languages, I am thankful that some people do so that we can have a Bible in English."
In the meantime, I am also thankful for a person such as Madame Guyon who speaks powerfully regarding the power of savoring Scripture. She reminds all of us that reading Scripture is like eating steak. It is important to savor every bite.