Demetrius Dumm is a New Testament scholar who in addition to teaching in a seminary context for many years has given many retreats and workshops. This work represents his effort to introduce a larger audience to the many ways that the Scriptures can be prayed and can nurture prayer.
Starting with the Scriptures as a record of the events of salvation history, the great deeds which God has done, Dumm shows how these writings elicit a response of celebration and thanksgiving from readers or listeners. He notes how the liturgy of the Eucharist serves as a paradigm of prayer inasmuch as it is the communal setting where this record is read and the great deeds are recalled and re-experienced and the community gives thanks. The Eucharist stands as a model of a full response to God's saving deeds.
Likewise Jesus, himself word and event, comes in the Scriptures as a model of how to pray. He embodies the attitudes that should characterize the Christian who prays. He fully experiences the great deeds of God in his own life. He does not hesitate to ask for help, to praise and thank, to trust in God who will see him through all difficulties. Dumm observes how an overemphasis on the divinity of Christ has obscured how the prayers of Jesus can serve as models for the praying of believers today.
Dumm also notes how praying the Scriptures is fully realized in the ancient practice of lectio divina, the prayerful reading of the Scriptures developed in the early Church and continued in the monastic movement. Dumm observes: "Lectio divina implies an unhurried, attentive reading of the text, which is not concerned primarily about learning something but that seeks to enter into a personal and experiential relationship with Jesus" (125).
Relative to the practice of lectio divina, Dumm recalls the proposal of Guigo II, a Carthusian spiritual writer, for a four phased assimilation and experience of God's word though an extended reading process. As Guigo II presents it, the actual reading of the Scriptural text is the first rung on a ladder leading to God. The second rung is meditation, a chewing over of the text through a process of memorizing, repeating, and reflecting on the text. There follows as a third rung or phase: prayer, the expression of one's own needs and desires as these have come to consciousness through the reading and meditating. The whole process culminates with a contemplative moment, a resting in God's presence now experienced through this encounter with the word.
In the final sections of the book Dumm brings forward other biblical figures who stand as models for prayer. Mary, Abraham, Moses, and Miriam are among the witnesses to the full reality of prayer. David, introduced early in Dumm's work, gives testimony to the power of faith. The Psalms traditionally attributed to David provide people who read and pray them with a vision of faith. They lead people through diverse experiences—such as lamentation, abandonment, anxiety, fear, and pain—back to God.
Dumm's work offers clear testimony to the powerful resource that the Scriptures are for Christian believers. The Scriptures present both models and texts for prayer. Petition, praise, contrition, thanksgiving are all given expression within the sacred pages. Everything comes together, in Dumm's view, in the liturgical prayer which is the Eucharist. In sum, he presents a well-articulated argument for the vital place of both word and sacrament in the lives of Christian believers.