Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psa 119:105
Many who are in ministry will have experienced attending – and praying with – some soul seemingly swallowed by dementia, only to find that they can recite vast quanities of the Prayer Book and Psalter – not to mention sundry hymns – by rote. The words and rhythms are ingrained so deeply that, when all else seems lost to them, this still abides.
Words make up who we are. When the Greeks came up with the idea of the Word, the Logos, it was with the consciousness that words are more than simply how we speak, they are how we define the world. We think, we plan, we react with words.
Imagine if the thought world that we are constructing around the things that cross our path today were made up of words from scripture – holy words, God-breathed words. Then build on that words making up the prayers that have built up the worship of our Church over generations, millenia, even. What difference would that make about the thoughts we have, the decisions we make, the actions that follow? If we put together a garden of the scriptures in our mind where we can walk and, to use a Johninne word, abide. Our everyday words and thoughts will begin to be built by these learnt phrases, forming the foundation of our selves.
For it is not only with age or illness that our intellect can fail us. Stress, crisis, tiredness, wrath – all these can steal our words from us, affect our ability to see, to hear, to reach out. But if we build a library of well-worn texts within the deep places of our minds and hearts, these prayers and verses can be waiting for us when our own words fail us. In the midst of chaos we have an anchor of holy words, waiting to keep us rooted and grounded in the Word when we need him most.
Imagine if these were the words that made first thing we said in the morning, the last thing we said at night. What would we like our last words on this earth to be?
What difference would that make?
So a possible Lent disciple this year might be to apply ourselves to drawing some words down into our heart. And who knows, it might be a habit that sticks …
There’s also a website – Learn Scripture – which uses the the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System and the principle of spaced repetition to help people learn passages from a range of translations (you choose).
I’d be interested to hear what other sources people have, or what works best for people when they’re trying to learn passages and prayers.