Last Saturday Jonnie Sue and I were off to a slow start, and sometime about early afternoon we were struck by how much of the day had slipped away. It reminded me of one of my favorite passages from the Proverbs, which I tried to quote and didn’t do too bad a job of it: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs: 6:10-11) In the Book of Common Prayer, the Psalms are given great prominence. In fact the entirety of the Book of Psalms is part of the Prayer Book. And Archbishop Cranmer laid out a pattern for reading the Psalms which takes you through all 150 psalms each month at Morning and Evening Prayer. But the Proverbs get short shrift. In the Daily Office Lectionary selections from the Proverbs are the Old Testament reading in only four weeks, and even those are weeks that are often skipped depending on whether Easter is early or late. (The weeks are the weeks of the 7th and 8th Sundays after Epiphany and Propers 2 and 3 in the season after Pentecost.) That’s a shame because the Proverbs are full of wise counsel which ought to be, and used to be, part of the waking consciousness of every man, woman and child. Some are stand-alone short passages, like 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Some are more fully detailed, like the warning against adultery, which is most of chapters 5, 6, and 7. One who contemplates dalliance with a married woman should pay heed to Proverbs 6:34-35.
I have a suggestion for incorporating the Book of Proverbs into your regular pattern of prayer or spiritual reading. Since there are 31 chapters, they equate nicely to the number of days in a month. My suggestion is that occasionally, in the course of each year, for one or more months, you add the reading of a chapter from Proverbs after the Gospel reading. You know, on the first of the month, read Chapter 1, on the second, read Chapter 2, and so on. You’ll be glad you did.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC.