Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556): Prayer for a grasp of the Scriptures

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Most people who grew up in Afrikaans churches (not only the Dutch Reformed Church) are familiar with the song:

Lees jou Bybel; bid elke dag, bid elke dag, bid elke dag,

Lees jou Bybel; bid elke dag

En jy sal groei, groei, groei

Translated into English as:

Read your Bible; pray every day, pray every day, pray every day

Read your Bible; pray every day

And you will grow, grow, grow

While this is the simplest of songs and is taught to small children, it contains two of the most essential elements of the Christian life: the daily studying of Scripture and prayer. The English Reformer Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) combines these two in a prayer for a grasp of the Scriptures, or alternatively, for Scripture’s grasp on us:

“Blessed Lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant us that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our saviour Jesus Christ.”

– Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), Collects, Second Sunday in Advent

For Cranmer, the touchstone or reference point for wisdom is “all holy Scriptures.” He prays that we would not only hear the Scriptures as words, but “inwardly digest” them as the Word by which we may be comforted (i.e. strengthened). Cranmer views the Bible as providing both the grounds for our patience and the fuel for our strengthening. Such patience and strengthening are able to take us by the instrumentality of hope right up to the threshold of our present lives. After we cross this threshold, we shall receive the “everlasting life” promised in the last phrase. Cranmer invites us to love the Bible and learn it, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the cause for which it was written: our patience and our comfort.

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