Read and Pray
George Everard, 1881
A few years ago there lived an aged Christian woman, who lived very near to Christ and very closely followed her Lord. Her dress, though plain, was always neat and tidy, and the cottage where she lived alone was a pattern of cleanliness and order. So consistent was she in her life that the more she was known, the more was she valued and beloved by her neighbors. When in health, she was never absent from her place in church, nor from the Lord's Supper, where she rejoiced to meet with Christ's people, and to remember the Savior's dying love, and thus by faith to feed on the bread of life. If from any cause she was prevented being present at the monthly celebration of the communion, she never forgot to lay by her usual gift for the relief of those poorer than herself, and when next she came, she added it to that which she cast into the Lord's treasury.
The word of God was her constant friend and companion, and it cheered and comforted her in many a solitary hour. While she read it, she prayed much for heavenly light, and for the teaching of the Divine Spirit, "O Lord, open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law." "Send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me." Such was continually the burden of her prayer.
And as she had lived — so she died.
One day it was noticed that her shutters had not been opened, and after some delay it was thought advisable to force the door, lest she might be unwell, or some accident might have befallen her. When search was made, she was found in her chamber kneeling by the bedside with her Bible open before her. As the neighbors approached, they found she did not stir; she was stiff and cold, for while thus communing with God over His word, the call had come, and her spirit had taken its flight into the presence of her Lord! Face to face she now beheld Him whose word she had so greatly prized.
The life and death of this Christian woman may remind the reader of the necessity of much prayer in searching the Holy Scriptures. You may read your Bible every day, you may be able to repeat verse after verse, or even chapter after chapter, you may go over it again and again. Yet unless you ask God to teach you, and to write it on your heart by the Holy Spirit — it will profit you little. The prophet Isaiah speaks of those to whom "For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." Isaiah 29:11
It is exactly the same with God's word now. To very many, both learned and unlearned, it is like a sealed book. They see the words, but they do not discern the meaning. Or if they understand something of the meaning, they do not feel its mighty power. It does not convince them of their sin, it does not make them to know and love the Savior. And why is this? Because the veil is upon their heart.
I have read of an old Scotchman, "Blind Alic" as he was called, and this man, it was said, could repeat nearly the whole Bible from Genesis to the Revelation, and yet — and this is the sad part of the story — he was as blind in mind as he was as to his bodily eyesight — he continued to his life's end a stranger to the grace of God.
Reader, be sure you never neglect to pray whenever you take the Bible in your hand. It is only in this way that you will find real profit and comfort in reading it. Pray that you may understand whatever you read. If you read there of one who committed sin — then pray that the grace of God may preserve you, that you may never fall into the same snare. If you read of any one who exercised any particular grace, as faith, or repentance, or love, or patience, or obedience — then pray that the Spirit may plant the same grace in your heart. If you read any solemn warning or threatening — then pray that the curse or punishment spoken of may never light on you. If you read any gracious promise — then pray that God may make good the word to you. If you read anything of Christ, as the Good Shepherd, as the High Priest — then turn in prayer to Him, and ask Him to guide and guard you, to make you and keep you as one of His sheep, to bear your name before the Father, and to intercede on your behalf.
There is no part of Scripture that you cannot in some way turn into prayer, and the more you do so, the more you will find it like a well of living water. You will never fail to find help and refreshment from it.
Reader, may you learn to prize God's precious word, and to find it food and drink to your soul, as she did. Do not turn from this simple story with weariness, as if it were the old, old thing about reading the Bible. You know you have a soul to save. Christ is the only Savior of sinners. The Bible is the only book that tells us about the way of salvation. Do not say it is a difficult thing to read and understand that book. True, some things in it are dark and difficult, but the way of salvation is so plain, that the wayfaring man may not err therein. It tells us of Christ and His cross, of the gift of the Holy Spirit, of the new life, and the blessed hope of everlasting life. May it be yours to use the book aright, to meditate therein, and as you read to grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus your Lord.