“Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?” – Benjamin Warfield, Princeton Seminary, 1911 address to students
I have been surrounded by books for as long as I can recall. As a child I could hear the footsteps of my parents coming up the stairs as a signal to turn the light out and stash the stack of books under the covers so not to be caught in the crime of staying up past bedtime. I would read four or five books at the same time. I had, and really still have, a reverence for libraries.
When I recently came across this passage from Benjamin Warfield it summed up my ongoing need to incorporate prayer into my studies. Although Warfield’s audience was seminary students, my practice and scholarly work as a school psychologist is challenged by this call to incorporate prayer in scholarship. Desiring for my scholarly work to reflect Christ, I often find myself reading and writing, rather than praying, reading and writing.
A few years ago I met a wonderful Christian South African woman while vacationing. It was on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my mother through the Alps of Germany, Austria, Italy, and France. Before embarking on this tour, I had studied the places we would travel with fervor. Just like I was as a child, I surrounded myself with books and articles about everything we might see, making well-informed decisions about where to spend my precious little time in order to get the most bang-for-my-buck, historically speaking. What I had not learned in my studies was the degree to which the beauty of the Alps was astonishing. On a bus from one breath-taking location to another, my new friend causally said, “How can anyone see this and not believe in God?” I immediately agreed but was perplexed about what about my heart was misaligned that I was not in a prayerful worshiping stance as she was. How could I be surrounded by this amazing scene and not have a similar worshipful experience?
After thought and prayer, it made sense to me that I was focused on creating accomplishments for myself on my checklist of world travels. It’s not that the accomplishments were malignant, nor the pre-visit study. Not being in tune with what was really being shown to me was a wake-up call to worship and prayer and to recognize the moments when I need to look up from the books and stand in awe, or to study in prayer so that the future experiences I have will recognize God’s glorious work more immediately.
I’m grateful for the experience and blessed that God continues to show me his glory in study and in His creation. I hope to bring the combination of prayer and study more intensely into my academic life.
You have given us a majestic world and the gift of experiencing it through scholarship. Help us to align our scholarly activities to your will through prayer. Teach us to recognize your majesty and glory through our scholarly work and to honor you with it. Align our hearts, minds, and bodies to your will. Thank you for your sacrifice and grace. Come soon. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
Do you have a practice of prayerfully consuming or producing scholarly work?
What steps will you take to incorporate prayer into your scholarly work?
Warfield, B. B. “The Religious Life of Theological Students.” The Master’s Seminary Journal vol. 6, no. 2 (Fall 1995), 181-95. http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj6g.pdf
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