Years ago I recall reading about the experience of an American POW in Vietnam. He wrote about how he survived the deprivations and suffering he experienced. He managed to sneak in a pocket sized New Testament and read it when the Viet Cong weren’t watching him. He discovered a new approach to Bible reading that helped him survive.
I have noticed when in groups or at meetings, when we say the Lord’s Prayer, there is a tendency for individuals to say it faster as the prayer progresses, like they were trying to get through it because they were thinking about the next task on their schedule.
The POW on the other hand created a technique he called, “Super Slow Reading.” He would pause after each word in the passage for quite some time saying the word to himself, whispering it ever so quietly over and over again so as not to be overheard by the guard; reflecting on the word, the word becoming a doorway into the ineffable Presence of God. He realized that he hadn’t truly read the Bible before. A similar practice called Lectio Divina, or Holy Reading, which is a contemplative praying the Scriptures was developed in the early centuries. The POW wrote that the Super Slow Reading had transformed him within so that he could cope with what was without. This reminds me of the collect in the Book of Common Prayer:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
One of my favorite phrases of Scripture comes from John 10 when Jesus is attempting to teach the thick-headed Pharisees who are stuck in their own self-constructed illusion. Jesus told them plainly: The Father and I are One. To apply Super Slow Reading in this Passage could take a half hour. Taking each word, inhaling and then whispering it on the out breath helps us to receive the Living Spirit of the Word that lives behind the word. Then after repeating each word. Putting the sentence together and then on the exhale saying, The Father and I are One.
Of course, we might be a bit uncomfortable saying this. After all, how can we say what Jesus said? Wouldn’t that be disrespectful or worse? Let me correct any misconception here. Being One with God doesn’t mean we are God. Were we not baptized into the One Spirit of God to be One with Him? This is our birth rite. Or birth right, if you want to play with words. Practice this a few times a day for ten minutes or more at a time and you’ll forget that you had anxiety. When we forget and the anxiety returns, go back to step one.
After all, what’s your hurry?