How many sermons, youth meetings and Bible studies teach us that reading the Bible and praying the Agpia are the solution to the obstacles in our spiritual life? Yet we still struggle to read the Bible every single day because our time is occupied with other priorities. We raise so many questions, overthink scenarios and talk to our Confession Father, expecting him to give us a straight answer. Yet, his answer will still revolve around the question: “Do you read your Bible?”
We tend to separate ‘standing up for prayer’ and ‘reading the Bible’ and, as such, treat them as 2 entirely separate methods of bonding with God. But look to the saints, for example, who always intertwined prayer with reading the Word of God.
This separation affects us on a deep level spiritually, including by making us more susceptible to spiritual coldness. We all go through phases of spiritual coldness when we don’t feel the Mass, prayer meetings or even just reading our Agpia prayers, as a part of our spiritual canon. A reason for this struggle in prayer is our disconnect with scripture because we don’t read the Word of God with enough depth. The Church Fathers teach us that opening our Bible and reading lets the word of God speak to us, without a worry about time. And so, it will slowly take us to that spiritual high that we are seeking.
This explains why during Passion Week, we all feel like holy saints! When we spend 50% of our week in Church contemplating on all the Gospels and Psalms in the Paschal sad tune, and reading the prophecies. Through this, His word, the grace of God is bestowed upon us and we become filled with His richness.
On richness, in the book of Revelation, St John writes:
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”
In this verse, St. John is listening to God’s message to the angel of the lukewarm Church. Sometimes we may think, “I am rich, I know the Bible, I’ve heard the stories many times, I listen to them every week in the Mass, why do I need to keep reading the Scripture?” In reality, this is a thought from the devil to give you the satisfaction that you don’t need to add more to your knowledge and that you are already good enough. This, in turn, causes you to fall into pride and spiritual coldness, causing you to struggle to find the spiritual heat in prayer which you received during times such as Passion Week.
St John then continues:
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see”
With the negative connotations Revelation 3:17, here we’re offered a solution! Some of the Fathers interpret Revelation 3:18 by explaining that the white garments represent purity and we attain purity by reading the word of God in depth and by spending more time with it. We receive these white garments in baptism and are cleansed during this Sacrament. As we read in the Gospel of the 3rd hour, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (notice here the beauty of our Coptic Orthodox Church in linking the Agpia with the Bible, so that is teaches us how to pray!)
If we stop here for a moment, we can ask ourselves, how much time do we give to reading the word of God? We need to understand that the more time we spend reading for meaning, the purer we will become, returning to that white garment. Also, the more time we spend reading for purpose, the closer we are to the road to perfection. If we spend more time in refining our gold with fire and clothing our nakedness with the white garment, we will feel the Mass with more depth and will strive to go into our rooms and connect with the Lord.
Also, notice in Revelation 3:18, we are instructed to “anoint your eyes with eye salve” as the third cure given to blindness. Eye salve here is equivalent to eye drops, meaning the word of God helps cleanse our vision to see Him clearly. If our eyes are lacking vision, we can’t see the message God is delivering to us, we can’t see the world properly, we can’t see the grace of God and we can’t even see our own sins! So then, the word of God will be like the eye drops which open our eyes. So, from Revelation 3:17-18, we see that the word of God here is like gold and we are presented with two options:
- we may choose to open our Bible, read every verse slowly, contemplate, memorise it and pray about it, and in this way, we become rich (like gold refined in the fire) and have clear vision of His presence and His will (anointing our eyes with salve).
- on the other hand, we can choose to treat the Bible like a history book or even a knowledge book, finish 3 chapters in 5 minutes and then label ourselves as “rich” with biblical knowledge, but in truth, our gold is fake and unrefined, leading to a spiritual decline.
Ultimately, the Bible is written for the reader, meaning that we can all read the exact same verse and all emerge with a completely different message and this is the beauty of the word of God. As an illustration of this, when the lawyer asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ answered, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:26). It is not about how much knowledge one knows, but how we read the Bible and how we use it to connect with God. In prayer we speak to God, as we read the Bible we hear His voice and every time we read the Word, let us say as Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10).
Here are some examples as to how we should relate the Bible to prayer:
- If you are reading a story, ask God to enlighten your mind with the virtues in the story, If you don’t quite understand it, pray that He may open your mind capacity to grasp His word.
- If you read Peter’s denial story, use the story to pray that God may give you the wisdom so you don’t rush to conclusions like St Peter. Don’t think to yourself, “Wow St Peter denied, that’s horrible!” At the start, it will seem weird to transform the little stories to a substance of prayer, but then later on, you will unintentionally start doing it while reading and God will guide you through His Holy Spirit.
- If you read Judas’ betrayal, remember that this man spent over 3 years in service with Jesus, was fed by Him, was living in communion, had his feet washed by Christ and witnessed multiple miracles. When I read his story, I can’t think of anything else to pray but “Lord have mercy on me because hours of praying can’t be enough to cover my multitude of sins. If this disciple did this to you Lord, how can I, the ignorant, say I have no need to read? Have mercy on me Lord for sin begins small and then end with a disaster.”
Friends, remember no one will stand on the gates of Heaven and ask you how many chapters you read or how many verses you memorised. The quantity won’t be a ticket to entry! However, you will get asked what did the Bible change in your life and how did it make you a better person? How did you connect with God through reading His Word? Honestly, one verse can be your ticket to Heaven if you live it with sincerity. If you read the Bible with depth, you will not fall into spiritual coldness and carelessness and you will learn how to climb the ladder of prayer. Transform the scripture to a prayer and it will be transformed to a way of life!
SAYG ~ Anonymous.