The Importance of Remembering What We Already Know (Deut 8.10) ‣ Praying Through the Bible

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You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.

Deuteronomy 8.10


This call to prayer occurs in the midst of a passage that addresses the problem of forgetting the blessings we have. Just before this prayer, the writer repeats the Ten Commandments (Deut 5.1–33), discusses why the Law is so important (6.1–25), and presents the “whats” and “whys” of how Israel was to act towards other nations (7.1–26). The entire passage is structured around two phrases, poetic negatives of each other: “Remember” and “Do not forget.” After each is a lengthy list of the things God did for the Israelites, including the provision of manna, clothes, water, food, and protection. We may not often think of the staples of life as blessings, but without food, water, or clothing, we would die within a short time. Whether a family farmed their own food or bought it from someone, its origin was in God. Near the end of the passage, God warns the people: do not think these things come about by your own hand, and, more significantly, if you forget that it is God who gave them, bad things can happen.

The call to prayer is a simple prayer. It comes in the middle of a discussion of the importance of “remembering” and follows immediately after a description of the land’s abundance of food and water. The prayer is like a blessing for a meal: “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

Despite its simplicity and brevity, this prayer speaks volumes. Enjoy what you have and then offer a blessing to the One who provided it. Do not forget.


We are people who sometimes forget a lesson soon after learning it. Whether it is a good or bad event, time tends to diminish our memory of it. We forget the gratitude we felt; we forget the fear we had. As I write this, the United States of America just observed the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the attempted attack on the Capitol Building. When the planes hit those buildings, I was just leaving home to teach a class at a university. I remembered driving to campus and listening, numb, to the news pouring in. I arrived at the classroom to find a room of stunned students who could hardly speak, except to say, “Why?” I did not have an answer to that question, except to say that this event, just like many others throughout history, demonstrates that evil exists in our world. Yet God still cares about us, even if terrible events happen, and we do not know why. I prayed with them and dismissed the class.

In the following weeks, as I went to and from campus, almost every overpass I drove under had ribbons tied to the fences, signs that read “USA,” “United we stand,” “we are with you, FDNY,” and so on. Many of the bridges had people standing on them, waving flags and chanting as the cars drove underneath. Other demonstrations of unity were everywhere. To most of us, we felt like one people again. We were united in our shared geography, culture, and history. We were united in our resolve not to give in to fear or defeat.

As we watched and learned of the heroics of emergency response teams, we had a sense of pride and patriotism that I had not experienced in my life. We had gained a perspective that—despite the differences between groups and individuals—we believed the same on important issues: freedom, heroism, courage, and the ideals of a free society. There was a new civility.

Unfortunately, it was not long before many began to lose that perspective. Within months, some denounced the attack as the fault of the US. Others said the US had been behind the attacks. A couple of professors at my own University objected to a “United We Stand” poster as a partisan political statement rather than a simple declaration of unity in the midst of calamity.

red flower paper on board 9-11 memorial
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem

As I write, ten years later, we are as divided as I can ever remember. We are divided on politics, culture, race, class, and so on. Political and social differences are not differing philosophies to be debated and studied, they are vehicles to attack groups and individuals personally. Political and social rhetoric is judgmental and dismissive, with little evidence of any desire for open and engaging debate.

Personal attacks and name-calling are the first weapons of choice by politicians. Flash mobs rob local stores. People fight on buses and in McDonald’s, every few weeks there is a new group protesting unfairness, injustice, or oppression by someone. There is a different tone in society, and it does not say “united we stand.” We are more divided by our disagreements about than united on where we agree.

As Christians, we do the same thing in our relationships with people. We do it in our relationship with God. The good things God and others have done for us fade into time. All the blessings, protections, and favors become less meaningful (many of which we may not have deserved in the first place). Instead, we focus on the difficulties, oppressions, and suffering. In trying times, it is understandable: pain tends to diminish our perspective. Much like a severe cut on your arm—the rest of your healthy body gets ignored.


This week, take some time with to sit down with your prayer journal and think back over the last week. Write down any good things you gained, saw, or experienced. It could be everyday staples: your shelter, your transportation, or your food. It could be relationships: family, friends, or co-workers. Once you have written these down, consider the larger picture of your life: the place you live in, the place in life you occupy now, your education—formal or experiential. The availability of information through books, TV, and the internet. The ease of communication with almost anyone in the world. These are all gifts that God has given you.

After you have made your list and considered the context, offer a brief blessing to God for each one along the model of the prayer above. Eat your fill, and bless God for the good things He has given you.

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