When it comes to the Bible, we’re familiar with words like “read” and “study.” But we might not be accustomed to the word “eat.”
“Eating the Bible” may sound strange to us, yet God gave us His Word to be our spiritual food. So though we may read and study God’s Word, if we don’t eat it as food, we’ll be spiritually hungry and, as a result, weak in our Christian life.
In this post we’ll discuss the necessary and enjoyable practice of eating the Word of God.
Let’s say we haven’t eaten for a while; we’re really hungry and even faint from the lack of food. Suddenly, we catch a whiff of a delectable aroma floating by. It’s a pleasant scent, but we remain as hungry as ever. Smelling the aroma of food isn’t enough. We have to get to the food and eat it to be satisfied and strengthened.
Being inspired by something we read in the Bible is kind of like smelling a delectable aroma. It’s not that we get nothing at all; we just aren’t satisfied; nothing spiritually “sticks to our ribs.” To eat the Word of God, we have to go further and deeper.
The eating organ
Our nose is the right organ to use to smell the aroma of food, but we can’t eat food with our nose. And we certainly can’t eat food with our ears or our eyes. Our mouth is the right organ for eating food. We have to open our mouth, take the food in, chew it, swallow it, and even digest it. All of this may be very obvious, but we must realize that to “eat” the Word of God also requires us to use the right organ.
We may be used to exercising our mind to learn something or our emotion to feel something when we open the Bible. But neither our mind nor our emotion is the right organ for eating the Word of God.
Exercising our spirit
By themselves, the words in the Bible are only black and white letters, and if we use only our mind to understand them, that’s all they’ll ever be to us—letters, even dead letters. The knowledge we acquire from them may even cause us to be proud, puffing us up.
But in the Word of God is the Spirit, and the Spirit gives life. So for the Bible to become the food that fills our inner hunger and enlivens us, we need to touch the Spirit in the Word of God. We do this by exercising, or using, our spirit.
Our human spirit was created by God to contain and contact God. It is uniquely qualified to contact the Spirit in the Word. So above all, above studying, memorizing, reading, or expounding, we must exercise our spirit to “eat” the Word of God.
How do we exercise, or use, our spirit? We exercise by prayer. Just as we exercise our feet by walking, we exercise our spirit by praying.
The Spirit, the Word, prayer, and our spirit
Exercising our spirit, our eating organ, by praying is the way we eat the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17-18 puts the Spirit, the Word, prayer, and our spirit together:
“And receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit.”
These verses makes it clear that we are to receive the Spirit in the Word of God by means of all prayer, praying every time in our spirit.
When we exercise our spirit by prayer to touch the Spirit in the Word, we go beyond the black and white letters of the Bible to touch the living Word that nourishes and supplies us for our Christian life. This is to eat the Word of God.
How do we use our spirit by prayer to eat the Word of God?
To eat the Word of God by exercising our spirit by prayer, it helps to pray aloud. It isn’t that God can’t hear silent prayers, but praying aloud helps us to exercise our spirit more strongly, focus on the Word, and be less distracted by thoughts in our mind.
Praying even before we open the Bible is also helpful: “Lord, I come to You in Your Word. Lord, help me to exercise my spirit right now to take Your Word as food. Feed me, Lord, in Your Word.”
Then we open the Bible. Perhaps we’ve been reading through the New Testament and have arrived at John 1. As we read, we don’t need to be concerned about what we can and can’t understand. This is a time for eating, so we should just concentrate on exercising our spirit to take in the Word.
For example, as we read John chapter 1, we can read until we come to a verse we can somewhat understand and that gives us a delectable aroma, or inspiration. Since that verse “smells” so good, we stop and pray with that verse in a simple way. Let’s say we stop at verse 4:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
We might pray, “Lord Jesus, in Him, in You, is life. And Lord, You’re in me! Oh, thank You, now that I have You, I have life. Lord, keep me enjoying You as life all day today. And praise You, Lord, You are the light of men. Oh Lord, You are my light. Shine, Lord, over all my heart. Don’t let me be in any darkness.”
Perhaps as we’re “eating” the Word about light, the Lord may suddenly shine on a sin we were previously unaware of. We can pause and confess that sin right away, be cleansed, and continue our eating.
Then we can continue to read until a verse strikes our spirit again, stopping to pray spontaneously with what arises from our heart and our spirit. We don’t need to feel compelled to finish the chapter, or even the section. This time in the Word is for eating, not for reading a set amount. We can take our time to eat by reading and praying, praying and reading.
As we thank the Lord with His Word, praise Him with it, repeat it back to Him, and pray with it without any formula or set way, we enjoy spiritual food. We can be free from being formulaic or ritualistic, from praying the same prayers every time. In fact, we may pray with the same exact verse many times in our lives, and each time it would be different. This is because the Spirit is living, and when we pray not in a routine, habitual way, but with our spirit exercised, we contact the living Spirit in the Word.
Take time to eat
We should read the Bible regularly, even daily, for our whole lives. We also should study the Word of God and seek to understand it. But in order to be nourished with the divine life of God and grow in that life, we also need to come to His Word to eat it by reading and praying with it.
When we take time to go beyond mentally touching the black and white letters of the Word, but instead exercise our spirit, our deepest part, to touch the life in the Word, we’re inwardly satisfied. By speaking to the Lord in a simple, genuine way with His Word, the Bible becomes spirit and life to us, enlivening us and satisfying our hunger.
The entire Bible is a living prayer book, a feast full of food to nourish us as we exercise our spirit to eat it. Thank the Lord for such a wonderful feast!
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