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Sabbath Evenings – Prayer Books

Prayer Books. Through the years I have acquired more copies than I can count. Some of them are here with me in the study. More are packed in boxes up in the attic. I’ve given quite a few away. Hardback. Paperback. Leather. I love all my books but am partial to my prayer books. Inside these volumes are prayers written and prayed by contemporaries and ancients. Thanksgivings, praises, laments, and petitions. Prayers of angst and protest. Prayers with language that is deep and complex – others simple and more straightforward.

Prayer books have taken a bashing in contemporary culture. For many Christians books with written prayers are considered ethereal or irrelevant using words that are archaic and out of touch with the messiness of life. Others say they are hard to read filled with page after page of lofty and aloof language. [To a small extent, I agree. Why do you think I have a box of Prayer Books up in the attic?]

The common thread in these prayer books is the relationship between Abba and His child. Richard Foster in Prayer writes,

How good of God to provide us a way into His heart. He knows that we are stiff-necked and hard-hearted, so he has provided a means of entrance. Jesus, the Christ, lived a perfect life, died in our place, and rose victoriously over all the dark powers so that we might live through him. This is wonderfully good news. No longer do we have to stand outside, barred from nearness to God by our rebellion. We may now enter through the door of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. (p. 3)

The language and heart of the pray-er is what draws me to these written prayers. I am intrigued with the vocabulary and phrases. Often times—these prayers give me the words to pray what my heart is wanting to express. Or, they may be instructive and teach me to pray in a new way. I have noted that the prayers are usually informed by writers who have spent time reading and studying their Bibles.

One of my long-time favorite Prayer Books is John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer. The original copyright was 1949. My edition is from 1977–a gift from a friend. This prayer book has been a staple. Even though I might pull another one off the shelf every once in awhile — I return to Baillie’s prayers. He writes a note in the beginning

Here are prayers for all the mornings and evenings of the month . . . These prayers are to be regarded as aids; they are not intended to form the whole of the morning’s or evening’s devotions or to take the place of more individual prayers for oneself and others. [Baillie has kindly allowed a blank page to add personal prayers.]

Here is the first paragraph from day 21, Morning:

O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide.
Inspire all my thoughts.
Pervade all my imaginations.
Suggest all my decisions.
Lodge in my will’s most inward citadel and order all my doings.
Be with me in my silence and in my speech,
in my haste and
in my leisure,
in company and in solitude,
in the freshness of the morning and
in the weariness of the evening;
and give me grace at all times to rejoice in Your mysterious companionship.”

Baillie believes the greatest gift is the life of Jesus. I can see this through his prayers as he asks God to help him remember all that the Lord Jesus said and did.

Do you have a favorite Prayer Book that you use from time to time? For you, what would the blessing be in reading and studying written prayers? Do you have a prayer and author to share?

Categories: Sabbath Evenings
  1. The Akers
    March 15, 2010 at 6:09 am

    I too used to think written prayers were out of touch and irrelevant. I didn’t understand why prayers were read in chapel- why couldn’t we just pray what we felt at the time? But then I realized that prayers have been written for centuries- look at the book of Psalms. I don’t have any prayer books, but hope to collect some in the future! Thanks for the morning prayer- I’m reading it on my balcony with my morning OJ and it is a great prayer to start my day.

  2. March 17, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Hey Laura, thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts. I am so glad you mentioned the Psalms! That’s really the best example of an ancient prayer book. Here are a couple of more titles you may be interested in: Phyllis Tickles, “The Divine Hours” or “The Celtic Book of Prayer,” or the “Treasury of Daily Prayer” in addition to the one above.

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