Friday, July 20, 2012

Books that have Impacted My Christian Walk (Part 3 -Learning to Pray)

Of prayer, Thomas Watson wrote:‎

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 MurrayD. A. CarsonBill 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.‎

Two Examples
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.‎

Read the introductory post to this series: Thoughts on Christian Reading
Part 1 - Discipleship