A godly man is much in private prayer.…when a gracious heart is alone, it wrestles in prayer and will not leave God till it has a blessing. A devout Christian exercises eyes of faith and knees of prayer.Private prayer keeps up the trade of godliness. When private holiness is laid aside, a stab is given to the heart of religion. (The Godly Man’s Picture, pp. 167-8)
John Baillie, a Scottish theologian born in 1886, produced a classic guide to private prayer which was first published in 1936. The title of this little book is A Diary of Private Prayer. This is the third book that I would like to recommend to you in this series on Books that have Impacted My Christian Walk. Of all the books that I have mentioned here, this is the one that I hope gets the most use of all.
The dedicatory page of this little book simply states “For Ian”, who was then the author’s fifteen year old son. Ian passed away in November of 2008 and expressed his desire that this book be updated on account of the somewhat dated language it contains. I have not heard any more about an updated edition but it may very well be in the works.
However, if you are familiar with The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, you will quickly recognize that the language of Baillie’s Diary is much easier to follow although it does make use of “thees” and “thous” throughout.
There are a good many helpful books on prayer, such as the works of E. M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, D. A. Carson, Bill Hybels, and Richard Pratt. However, the difficulty in reading about prayer is that you often take up the task with a desire to pray, but then end up spending most of your time reading rather than praying. I have loved using Baillie’s Diary because it guides me and teaches me how to pray while directing me in prayer. So, I learn to pray while I pray.
The prayers are purposefully Trinitarian. They show variety of expression, and adaptability to common life settings. They are saturated in scripture and scriptural language. They are short guides that encourage further, deeper, experiential praying. They are evangelical, grace-filled, Christ-centered, Spirit dependent and mission-oriented.
Permit me to offer you two examples which will give you a sense of the language used and which also happen to be the two places where the pray-er is lead in prayer with regard to reading.
Twenty-First ~ Morning
Leave me not, O gracious Presence, in such hours as I may to-day devote to the reading of books or of newspapers. Guide my mind to choose the right books and, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to Thyself. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.
Sunday ~ Morning
O Thou who art the Source and Ground of all truth, Thou Light of lights, who has opened the minds of men to discern the things that are, guide me to-day, I beseech Thee, in my hours of reading. Give me grace to choose the right books and to read them in the right way. Give me wisdom to abstain as well as to persevere. Let the Bible have proper place; and grant that as I read I may be alive to the stirrings of The Holy Spirit in my soul.
Part 2 - When You Pass Through the Fire