It occurred to me that I am free to post excerpts from my books on this website. (This will give me additional time each week to write more books!) So here is the Introduction from my latest book: “Praying with Scripture: The Bible—You’ve Got Mail!” . . .
I would like so much for all Christians to be able to comprehend “the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ” through the diligent reading of the Word of God, for the sacred text is the nourishment of the soul and the pure and perennial source of the spiritual life of all of us. ~ Pope Francis
Providentially I began the first version of this book on September 30, the feast of St. Jerome. This was very fitting because this priest and Doctor of the Church spent years in a cave in Bethlehem translating the Bible into Latin, which was then the language of the people. His Bible is known as the Vulgate. Through Jerome’s efforts back in the fourth century, God’s Word became accessible to all.
Today the full Bible has been translated into at least 531 languages and is the best selling book of all time. Yet many people who own a Bible do not read it. Some of them do not realize its power to connect us with God and shape our spiritual lives. Others know how important Scripture is and desire to read it, but unfortunately find its complex format and foreign setting too intimidating.
Praying with Scripture is intended for ordinary people, not Scripture scholars (although even they might discover a new idea or two in it). This book is an attempt to help you in three ways: first, to make you more aware of the great gift we have in the Bible; second, to present basic Bible facts that will enable you to explore and understand it; and third, to furnish you with traditional as well as innovative methods of using it to come into contact with God.
Why Read the Bible
The English writer G.K. Chesterton was once asked if he were shipwrecked on a desert island, what book he would want with him. He answered, Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding. Now most Christians would have expected him to respond, “The Bible.” There are many good reasons for this.
Encountering God is what we yearn for as we struggle to cope with the mysteries in our lives and in the universe. We long to touch the One who created us and is the origin of everything. The Bible allows us to meet God because God is present in it. God lives and breathes in it and acts through it. What’s more, God has chosen to communicate with us in Scripture—if we give God a chance. That is why we speak of the Holy Bible and Sacred Scripture.
Scripture is for those who are looking for a way to enrich their relationship with God. It is for those who want to add depth and breadth to their prayer and to their daily lives. The Bible is also for those who wish to cultivate stronger relationships with other believers. For the Bible is the book of the Church, the community of faith, and is best understood in the context of this community, specifically a group of people who reflect on it together. Moreover, the Bible, a divine GPS, is for those searching for a guide on life’s journey. The Bible is for those who yearn for joy and meaning in their lives. Finally, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
God, who gave us the Scripture, knows it offers all of these benefits. In our challenging age, the Spirit is moving to draw people to the Bible. Individuals are reading it on their own, taking courses on it, and gathering for Bible studies. A repairman who came to my house asked where he could get a good version of the Bible. A young woman who checked my bags at airport security informed me that she had just purchased a Bible and was delighted with it. The surge of interest in God’s Word is further evidenced by the growing number of books about it, including this one.
Swiss theologian Maurice Zundel observed, “You can only understand the Bible on your knees.” The book you have in your hands does not explain in depth the Bible’s composition, history, or interpretation. You will have to look elsewhere for such information. (And I recommend that you do so.) The focus of this particular book is primarily learning to pray with Scripture, both alone and with others.
St. Jerome taught, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Through reading and praying the Bible, may you grow closer to Jesus, who is the Incarnate Word of God.
What role does the Bible play in your life?