Reading and Prayer: A Compelling Combo 

In today’s faced-paced culture, I’ve noticed that two things in particular really suffer:

1) reading retention

2) prayer

I still read (and listen) to a lot, from books to podcasts to articles, but it’s easy to forget the content an hour later. My mind is challenged, but the material goes “in one ear, out the other.” Worse still, my heart and spiritual life can remain unchanged.  

It’s not that we’re not reading, in some ways we are reading more than ever before, from timelines to twitter feeds to advertisements. But we are definitely scanning and filtering (and we have to or we’d go crazy).  All this makes it difficult to really internalize the important. In fact, our minds are often consumed with the UNimportant: the score of the game, that funny cat video, Trump’s latest tweet.   

Perhaps there’s a solution: What if we combined reading and prayer? Could the two work together? Could this make reading and listening less about information and more about transformation (the person I want to become)? What if this makes reading not just an intellectual exercise but also a relational one?  

This will require us to slow down in our intake. We may need to hit pause to pray. It will take us longer to get through a book, longer to get through our devotions.  But I think the tradeoff will be worth it.   

So Why Should I Read And Pray At The Same Time?

1) You’ll REMEMBER more of what you read.  When you internalize, meditate, and talk with God about what you’ve read, ironically, this will make you smarter because you’ll remember more of it. More books and more content often equals LESS wisdom because it doesn’t always get digested.  

2) You’ll grow closer (relationally) with God as you talk with him more.  

3) The content will probably seep more into the heart, and not just stay in our heads.   

4) You’ll reevaluate the kind of content you’re consuming. If I’m having a hard time praying while I’m reading or listening to something, maybe the book or podcast isn’t that valuable.   

How Should I Do This?

1) Read with a pen in your hand. If you don’t like to write or underline in your books/Bible, then have a journal or notebook nearby to jot down quotes, thoughts, questions, and inspiration. 

2) When you read (hear) something that stirs your heart, pause and pray what you’re feeling.  Is it thanksgiving? Confession? Concern?  For example, last night I read from Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: “It is that familiarity with the things of God that will cause you to lose your awe.” That really struck a chord with me, and I briefly paused my reading to help me regain a sense of awe for him.  I’m still thinking about it today (rare for me). 

3) Write your prayers down too. If you’re anything like me, prayer is difficult, and I frequently lose concentration and start thinking about soccer practice (‘tis the season). But when I write my prayers down, it’s much easier to stay focused on them (and they’re interesting to look back on months or years later). If you’re driving, keep at least one hand on the wheel, please. But what you can do, when driving, is to pause the podcast and process or pray out loud. Yes, talking to yourself is okay. We all do it.   

Well, what are you waiting for? Read and pray, and let me know how it’s goes!

-Tyler