Last summer I borrowed Writing for the Soul, by Jerry B. Jenkins, from the library. I was struck by excerpts from interviews Jenkins conducted with Billy Graham.
I returned the book a couple of weeks later, but I kept thinking about his interaction with Mr. Graham. In fact, here it is months later, and I’m still thinking about it. So I checked out the book again a couple of days ago, to re-read that section.
After capturing amazing stories from Mr. Graham’s life, Jenkins said that he wanted to do more than simply chronicle his life story—he wanted to provide some nuggets of wisdom from this man who has modeled consistency and humility over the course of his lifetime.
Trouble was, Mr. Graham resisted offering any advice, feeling that he’d failed the Lord too much to be set up as a model. Mr. Graham simply did not want readers to look to him for how to maintain their walk with God.
Jenkins finally tried asking how Mr. Graham maintained his spiritual disciplines. For some reason, that phrasing clicked; Mr. Graham readily replied that there is no secret—that the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and to search the Scriptures.
He said that he did that.
Mr. Graham said that he has prayed every waking moment since he received Christ as a teenage boy. In fact, Mr. Graham said to Jenkins that he was praying at that moment in the interview, praying that the Lord would use the book they were working on, that the two men would do their jobs well, that the book would be more about the Lord Himself than about Billy Graham.
Praying without ceasing: So simple…yet, so hard.
Jenkins also wanted to hear more about the other part that Mr. Graham mentioned, the part about searching the Scriptures.
Mr. Graham said that whether he is at home, in his office, in a hotel room or in another country, he leaves his Bible open and sets it someplace where he is sure to notice it during his day.
It’s open and available for him to pick up and read—not for study or sermon prep, but for his own “spiritual nourishment” (Jenkins 68). Sometimes he’ll read a verse; other times a chapter. Sometimes he’ll read for one hour; other times, two.
Like Jenkins, I thought this was a useful and creative idea for anyone wanting to develop a more consistent devotional life. I thought about how I’ve done similar things—I’ve left a Bible in the kitchen to refer to when I’m waiting for pasta water to boil, for example, or in my van so that it’s available to peruse when I wait for my kids during soccer practice.
But before I got to feeling a little too clever—a little too pleased with myself for having devotional habits similar to a spiritual giant—I read what came next.
Jenkins asked what Mr. Graham did when he missed a day or two. How did he get back to his routine?
Graham answered that he didn’t think he’d ever missed a day or two.
He said it was his spiritual food and he would no more miss it than he would a regular meal (68-69).
The thought of missing a day was unthinkable to Mr. Graham. The Scripture serves as his spiritual food. Why miss the chance to be nourished?
I wriggled uncomfortably each time I read or thought about it.
Why miss the chance to be nourished?
I do, though. I miss my “meals.”
Before long, my soul grumbles, hungry for truth.
I pick up my Bible.
This very morning I prayed, “Open my eyes, Lord, and change me.”
And I read this:
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him. (Psalm 111:4-5)
He provides food for those who fear Him.
He is food for those who fear Him.
Like physical hunger, a day will pass and I’ll need to refuel.
Tomorrow morning, the Lord will again provide my daily bread.
Will I partake?
Suzie Lind says
Such a great post Ann. I will have to check this book out too. When my 3 kids were practically babies, I would leave my Bible open in the kitchen, pray for God to give me insight and catch little bits here and there. I honestly think I grew more in my understanding of God’s word during that time than any other time in my life. We tend to put such yokes on ourselves for a quota of volume or time an yet our God can do a lot with even just a little.
Kelly Sauer says
Very challenging, Ann. Thank you for sharing. Suzie, your comment deeply encourages me, with two littles at my home for the last couple of years…
Suzie and Kelly: Thanks for these thoughts–I, too, would grab what I could when the kids were tiny. I think of that verse in Isaiah, “He gently leads those that have young,” and imagine how pleased He is to feed and care for us as we feed and care for our young…even if all we have time for is one small verse.
In fact, I would think that giving concentrated thought to one verse between diaper changes is as beneficial spiritually as reading several chapters for an hour.
When my mom came to visit last summer, she found and bought “Writing For The Soul” for me at a second-hand store. It looked interesting and I wanted to read it, but life and other things got in the way. Today, that book is at the bottom of the drawer in my nightstand. I think I need to dig it out.
Billy Graham always fascinated me. The only thing he ever made a really big deal about was Jesus. This insight into his spiritual life challenges me.
Thank you for this Ann. I read something similar about Ruth Graham. I know that I tend to make such a “big deal” out of everything – so much so that it isn’t long before I fail and then think there is no use in going on.
How wonderful to make prayer and scripture reading a natural part of our lives – like eating and talking. I think the Father longs for relationship that is so much deeper and closer than I can even imagine. He waits at the table and invites me to come, and I am far too caught up with other things.
I really needed to read this.
Hazel I. Moon says
Most of have three meals a day and often a snack. If we view the Word of God as spiritual food, perhaps one quick meal a day is not enough. I repent.
Wow. What an inspiration. I”m going to have to check out that book! I never did see the movie on Billy’s life, that’s on the list too.
Thanks for giving me this food today, Ann.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Thanks for this post. Unlike the physical food calorie intake, which I try to limit, there is no detriment to an unlimited diet of Scripture. And it’s like all-natural, organic, health food too! It’s hors d’oeuvres, soup, salad, main course, dessert and demitasse all in one. I will partake…
Amy Sullivan says
Pray without ceasing and search the scriptures…yes, good advice. It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by. I forgot how much I like it here! Thanks Ann.
Amber and I are finding this nourishment lately. It comes on the heals of being challenged in memorization. We found as we started that memorization was difficult, like stretching legs we haven’t used for too long. But the deeper we get into it, the more we find that the meditative aspect of our faith has been too long dormant. Food, indeed.
Your place here is good. Thanks for encouraging those in your space to devour scripture. This place is exemplar for sure.