Savoring Every Bite

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. 

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10 thoughts on “Savoring Every Bite

  1. We are all gifted with different abilities and called to different stations in life.  But, whatever our gifts and abilities, each of us can take time to savor scripture and ponder its meaning in our individual lives.  The challenge in our day and time is to take the time to slow down and do it.  Thanks for the reminder.  Good way to start the week.

  2. I once heard a teacher say that when it comes to savoring Scripture, it’s OK to "read between the lines". He didn’t mean to invent stuff and make connections that aren’t there. What he was saying was that if we slow down and read meditatively and devotionally, going beyond a surface skim in order to check off a box in our daily "quiet time" routine, we will discover the Author between the lines of our text. 
    This has been a big help and a continual challenge to me, as I’m typically a speedy-fast reader. But this isn’t about reading.  It’s about encountering God.

  3. Jim, thanks for this post.  I am just now learning to pray in this way.  There is a certain freedom in this approach.  One of the negative results of some good training in biblical study has been my fear of misapplying a text.  I’d become so robotic in my approach to the Word that the relationship aspect was gone.  This method, and others like it have given me the freedom to walk with my Lover in new ways.

  4. Hi Dusty,I share your fear and have to deal with that as well in my own life.  I have also reacted to those who wanted to completely dismiss context, intent, setting, etc. What I am seeing now is that one doesn’t have to sacrifice one for the other.Thanks Dusty. 

  5. Sounds quite a bit like lectio divina to me. I have been learning quite a lot about this, and I have been challenged to slow down, sit down and sometimes shut up so the scripture can speak to me.

  6. Jim,
    A very godly Christian sister taught me how to "pray" the scriptures. It was a powerful experience and I found the more I desired to "savor" the Word, the more I craved it and the more it consumed my thoughts. It was and is a great way to meditate and pray.

  7. I have struggled greatly throughout my short lived nineteen year journey on this earth with giving God’s Word its due place in my life. Even after growing to be somewhat of a spiritual leader to those around me, I struggle deeply with taking the time to look at the map before I trek off on His mission.Recently I was confronted with the extent of my weakness. When I honestly took the time to look at my spiritual walk, I found despite my over-ambitious intentions, I was doing very little practically to find God’s will for my everyday life.I am finally seeing a glimpse of the power of the Word of God. There is so much to learn…Thanks for the Post

  8. I’m always trying to explain to people that the Bible is not a book you pick up and read from beginning to end. I loved this post, because it confirms to people that we DO need to pray about the scripture we are reading. That is when God shows us His will. I always ask Him, “God show me the scriptures that will help me further your Kingdom”. It’s amazing what happens when you pray that!