03 / autumn issue

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We have a practice in Cultivating of each season highlighting two books on prayer – one old and one new. This practice is based on the understanding that those who have gone before us in Christ have amassed wisdom for us to use now like riches of wisdom bound in the books they have left us and the recognition that not all wisdom comes from our own age.
This concept is expressed perhaps most famously by C.S. Lewis in his introduction to On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria. Lewis advises readers to keep a broad palette of old and new texts:

“Therefore, let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].” Hebrews 4.16

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one until you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

PRAY

WHAT IS

Morning and Evening Daily Readings

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For this summer’s recommendation for an old prayer and devotion guide, I offer Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Daily Readings. Spurgeon is someone I still read frequently and am helped every time I do so. Known as the “Prince of Preachers”, he lived during the Victorian age, yet his sermons and devotional writing carries all the power of an abiding relationship with Christ and bears a quality of timelessness. I not only receive comfort from reading Spurgeon, it is not infrequent that I also receive conviction, something harder to come by these days. This particular edition is small enough to easily carry in a bag or backpack, with beautiful binding and printing, and feels almost like a small Bible. These are good words here to help shape and guide one’s prayer life. 

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EVERY MOMENT HOLY

Our recommendation this season for a new work of collected prayers is Every Moment Holy. Unlike many books of private prayer, this is a book of collective prayer made to be read and shared in community. Written by Douglas McKelvy, gifted author, song lyricist, scriptwriter, and video director, and illustrated with enchanting woodcut illustrations by the marvelous illustrator Ned Bustard, Every Moment Holy almost certainly will become a classic and it deserves to become so.
It is beautifully written in a style that is reflects the beauty of structure found in old liturgy and yet worded with the concerns of daily living in contemporary times. Every prayer gives voice to the sacred in our everyday lives. Published and produced by The Rabbit Room, it is a remarkable book worthy of a place in every praying Christian’s life.

Here is a glimpse of praying from Every Moment Holy. 

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valley of vision

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The Valley of Vision is a treasured of collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Each one reflects the craft of language so true to the time in which they were penned. And each page is typographically formatted with care and workmanship not often seen any more in our rushed to publication world. The leather-bound edition from banner of Truth is a beauty to hold and read, to pray with and to reflect with. Here are prayers written by fervent believers articulating the longings of their souls fully steeped in Scripture and suffering. Many of these prayers and devotions were written nearly 400 years ago now and yet in praying through the prayers one feels the close kinship we hold with those saints still. There is depth here that comes with the patina of time, humility, and a profound consciousness of The Lord God Almighty as sovereign Ruler of all. Reading through these prayer anchors our souls to the older foundations of Christian faith and steady’s us as we grow in maturity and deeper dependence on our God and King. 

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A diary of private prayer

A Diary of Private Prayer is a beautiful older book published in 1949, written by John Baille, Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. My own copy was given to me by a very close friend and it has become one of my most cherished books. I love it for much the same reasons that I also love The Valley of Vision. It is older, from a time before. It uses language rooted in strength, and honesty, and is permeated with the consciousness of God’s holiness and our inherent frailties. For me personally, it reminds me of truth I encountered in AA and it grounds me in a wisdom and posture needful for growth in Christ, surrendered and mindful of need. I love it also because even though it is older, the way it is written could be written for me. It is private, confessional, honest, humble, and true. 

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These books give the praying Christian a sense in some immediate way of those who have come before us, those whose faith became the foundations shaping and supporting our own faith. When spending time in these good works, we get a sense of the “great cloud of witnesses” who are even now praying for us and urging us forward to finish our races. 

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