Using Sacred Scripture in Prayer

Brother John Raymond
July 9, 1995

Sacred Scripture can add another dimension to our prayer life.
But, of course, we must read it first. The Church shows her
encouragement of this practice by giving a plenary indulgence for a
half-hour of pious reading of Sacred Scripture. (The other
conditions of Confession, Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy
Father's intention must be fulfilled also.) There are two ways of
reading that I recommend. One is to read the Holy Bible cover to
cover by reading a chapter a day. I did this and it took about one
year. Another way is to get a book of daily Mass readings and read
them every day. Now in both of these it is helpful to spend some
time reflecting on what you've read. In many bibles we find
footnotes at the bottom and a cross-index reference to other parts
of the bible related to the verses of our chapter. These are good to
look at to help our understanding of the reading.

It is important to read Sacred Scripture in the Church, that is,
in harmony with Tradition. For instance, when we read "brothers of
the Lord" in the New Testament we cannot understand by this that
Mary had other children, besides Jesus, because the Church teaches
Our Lady was "Ever-Virgin." Rather, "brothers" should be taken to
mean "brethren." Reading Sacred Scripture is not like reading just
any book. It is the Holy Word of God. God speaks to us. As we read a
chapter slowly we may be struck by a certain passage. We should stop
our reading. For some reason the Holy Spirit wants us to learn
something or is giving us an insight. We need to ask for His help as
we reflect over it. Even if this doesn't happen it may be helpful to
apply some meditation techniques to what we have read. If the
chapter lends itself to this we can imagine ourselves present during
the event, what it looked like, what we may have said or done there.

Another way of reflecting is by trying to understand the chapter in
the context of the whole Bible. For instance, how does this apply or
effect the New Testament. One important part of meditation is to
find some application for it in our own lives. "What does this mean
for me today here and now?" It should bear some fruit in our lives.
One of the great advantages of reading the whole Bible is that
the Holy Spirit will call it to mind from time to time. Before Our
Lord ascended into Heaven He reminded His apostles that He would
send the Holy Spirit to recall what He had said and done. Now it's
hard for the Holy Spirit to recall some part of Sacred Scripture to
us if we have never read it. Also, by reading the whole Bible we
will understand the Liturgy of the Church, whether it is the Holy
Mass or the Divine Office better, since they are very much

Another way of using Sacred Scripture is to pray the prayers that
are contained in it. Now we already do this to some extent with the
Our Father and the Hail Mary. But there are many more prayers in the
Bible. The Psalms are hymn-prayers. They cover life in most of its
circumstances__from praising and thanking God to pleading for His
help. There are also "Canticles" found throughout Scripture such as
Our Lady's Magnificat. These follow the same structure as the Psalms
though they are not Psalms. There are many of them in both the New
and Old Testaments. (Jud. 16:15-21, Dan. 3:57-88 & 56, Tob. 13:1-10,
Lk. 2:29-32, etc.)

The Church holds Sacred Scripture most highly in her liturgical
prayers. As our mother she sets an example for us. We should
incorporate them into our prayer life, too.