The great French theologian John Calvin believed that one of the essential elements of worship was the “Prayer for Illumination,” offered immediately before the Scripture was read and proclaimed. He recognized that the reading and understanding of Scripture must come through prayer and humble submission to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
We must open ourselves in prayer to discern the meaning of Scripture, but this first requires the opening of the Scriptures! It is impractical — if not impossible — to gain biblical insight for the issues of our day if we are not willing to devote time and reflection to the daily reading of Scripture. We can participate in all the studies we desire, but, until we live in God’s Word and make Scripture the primary point of reference in our lives, it is doubtful we will grow in our biblical understanding. Scripture only becomes the authoritative Word of God when we open ourselves to the revelation and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Faithful interpretation and humble submission to the Spirit are required if Scripture is to become God’s living, “authoritative” Word for our lives.
If I have anything to offer someone — especially those who are in need, confused, hurting, lonely, oppressed, or abused — it is the Gospel. Only the Gospel can give meaning, purpose, and direction to humanity. It is not I but Christ who makes the difference. But without honest effort, devotion, and reflection toward discerning God’s Word, all my efforts remain just that: mine. And this is not very effective in the long run. Only when God’s Word becomes central in my life — when I read and prayerfully reflect upon Scripture every day — can I begin to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Then and only then can my actions begin to reflect Jesus Christ and His redemptive mercy in the world.
The Psalmist wrote: “Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:97, 103-105)
May we have the strength, insight, will and courage to devote ourselves to God’s redemptive Word today, as the Spirit of Jesus Christ leads us.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps