John Baillie was a theologian and minister in the Church of Scotland, perhaps best known for his classic devotional book, A Diary of Private Prayer, published in 1936. I picked up the book earlier last year after learning about it from a friend, and I’m glad I did. Each morning and evening in December I prayed through Baillie’s prayers, a practice I found deeply meaningful.
As the blurb on the back cover puts it, Baillie intermingles “adoring and meditative thoughts about God with a concern for the social and individual good.” And that intermingling is precisely what I most loved about the substance and the focus of his prayers. Whereas the prayers for Monday through Saturday have a lot to do with consecrating the work of our hands, the prayers for Sunday presuppose the practice of Sabbath. And one paragraph in particular made me smile as I read it each Sunday morning:
O Thou who art the Source and Ground of all truth, Thou Light of lights, who hast 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 Thy Holy Spirit in my soul.
As I reflect on the books I read in 2012, and as I consider which books to read in 2013, I’m making this prayer my own. I’d like to invite you to do likewise. If the books we read shape who we become, our reading choices have a lot to do with our very well-being, and by extension, I think, the well-being of others.
Which books are the right books for us to read in 2013? And what are the right ways to read them? Which books deserve our abstention, and which ones merit our perseverance? And how do the books we read relate to the Good Book itself?
Byron Borger, independent bookseller extraordinaire, offers some helpful clues in a guest post for Bob Robinson’s (re)integrate blog, describing what he calls “a crisis of vocational distinctiveness and innovative faithfulness in public life.” He proposes three (admittedly partial) solutions: Reading wisely, reading seriously, and reading attentively:
Such wide reading helps us realize that all of life is being redeemed in Christ, that we can witness to His grace and point towards His Kingdom most fruitfully as we live out a uniquely Christian perspective in our callings and careers. An integrated Christian way of working and living requires a framework, a foundation, a coherent narrative, which some call an intentionally Christian worldview. Reading faithfully is one tool for developing a Christian worldview, way of life, and normative way of working. In order to grow in such faithfulness, we must see ourselves as life-long learners.
I think this is good advice, as one would expect from a guy like Byron. By the way, in the same post he recommends – by my quick count – 73 solid books in eight distinct categories, each available from his bookstore with a nice discount. And while you’re at it, check out the additional book recommendations from contributors to Fieldnotes magazine.
With these ideas of “faithful reading” in mind, what are the books you’re most looking forward to reading in 2013?
[Photo credit: bookstoreguide.org]