It feels like praying when you read Scripture—but isn’t it also praying when reading links you to the holiest part of yourself?
Years ago I was interviewing a doctor and asking, as I often do, about his prayer life. “I’m not very good at meditative prayer,” he said to me, “but I like to read a lot and for me, reading is a way I pray.”
Reading as praying? I liked the idea and immediately started to look for examples: how when you read you end up talking to God about what you’re reading or how the very act of reading puts you in a meditative mood.
I’m part of a reading family. My kids learned the pleasure of reading from the days we first read to them aloud. (I can’t look at some of those books, like Goodnight Moon or the Chronicles of Narnia without wanting to snuggle back on the couch and read them over again.) I get so focused on my reading that I’ll read a book while walking down the busy New York sidewalks. At least I look up from the text when I cross the street! And I can tell what kind of mood my wife is in by what she’s reading.
Reading is not at all a lonely thing to do. You do it alone, but it connects you. To others who are reading the same thing, to writers who have the prose to transport you to another world, to God who connects us all.
Not long ago I was reading a new book by a friend, Will Schwalbe’s poignant The End of Your Life Book Club. Feeling helpless after his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Will struggled to come up with something he could do. In those last two years of her life, he and his mother started reading the same books together, sometimes while actually sitting together when she was getting chemotherapy. It was literally a way to stay on the same page at one of the hardest times of his life.
Of course, reading feels like praying when you read Scripture or devotional books—but isn’t it also praying when it gives you a link to the holiest part of yourself? Isn’t that why all of us readers feel so drawn to the stirring opening passages of the gospel of John about Jesus, “...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”? How else do you connect to the Word except by reading?
It’s also important to be careful what you read. If I read too much news first thing in the morning, it puts me in a grumpy mood; I can only think of what’s going wrong in the world. But if I read a psalm or two, I start focusing on what can go right.
Reading is prayer, and an avenue to prayer. In the average day we’re surrounded by thousands of words, but I hope you can do some reading today that feels just like prayer.