If someone took all your books away and only allowed you to keep three of four, what would they be?
I had a recent visitor comment on my blog post A Diary of Private Prayer that this was one of his favorite books and that if his books were to be taken away and he was only allowed to keep three of four, this one would always make his list. His comment made me look at my own overflowing book shelves and ask which ones would I keep if I could only keep three or four. I had attempted to reply back with my response but at the point where my comment turned to over 345 words, I figured it qualified as a valid blog post.
I am quite a book lover myself and narrowing it down to only three or four outside the bible would be quite a painful experience. I would have to say mine would be The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. It’s very similar to John Baillie, only very much expanded. It is a collection of puritan prayers that are heart felt. I have posted a few of my favorites on my blog. The Gift of Gifts, Sleep and Choices. I have several more but I know the book is copyrighted and I am always fighting the temptation to post them all. But there are more posted at Oldlandmarks.com. There is actually a Walking Through the Valley of Vision Prayer Guide that you can use with this devotional book at the Gospel Coalition website. Walking Through The Valley of Vision: A Strategy for Prayer.
My second choice would be “Heaven Taken By Storm” by Thomas Watson originally named The Christian Soldier. I discovered this book last year and have read it three times already. It reminds me that if we would have any part of heaven, any part of the spiritual life, it must be seized and taken with much vehemence and force in discipline, effort and labor. The godly life does not and never will come naturally to us but must be continually fought for in order to be gained and to be maintained for any length of time. As long as we are living and have breath in us, we are to be fighting on behalf of the Kingdom of God to further it’s rule in our own lives and in the world around us, pushing back the darkness, the lies, the oppression, the deceit, the hatred, the selfishness that rules, the ignorance and setting the captives free. I am afraid if I began listing the great treasures I found in this book, I would not be able to stop but I will share a couple of my favorite excepts from it which are Exerting A Holy Violence for Heaven and How to Get the Most Reading From Your Bible to give you flavor for it. This book is in the public domain and can be read online at FiveSolas.
The remaining two open positions would have to go to two very yellowed, earmarked, underlined and highlighted books that I keep on my desk at home because they have earned their positions by my abuse of their pages. I’ve always said an unmarked book is a neglected book. They are “The Ministry of Intercession” by Andrew Murray and “What Shall This Man Do? Discovering Your Place in Ministry” by Watchman Nee.
I have always found it helpful in my own personal prayer time to read from a devotional book on prayer before praying. It helps me to stir up my own spirit of prayer and places me in the right frame of mind when my own heart is cold and I am feeling distant. It is much like Charles Finney once said in his Lectures on Revival that a spirit of prayer in one man leading a prayer meeting can often stir up and fan into flame the spirit of prayer in another man until it ignites the whole room. Reading books by Andrew Murray, Charles Finney and E.M. Bounds does this for me in my personal prayer time. I can not read them and not pray so great is the spirit of prayer on these men and in their writings. I have so many underlined passages and ear marked pages in this book The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray that I only have to open it and read a highlighted passage before I am able to as Thomas Watson would say in his book Heaven Taken By Storm “pray with a holy violence”. Prayer, especially intercessory prayer is labor, it is the work of God and because of that, many times it does not come easy to us and probably never will in this life as our flesh would have our prayers die silently within us instead of letting their newborn cries be let loose to fly up to heaven to our heavenly Fathers throne. A praying spirit must be worked at in order to be entered into. You can download a free ebook edition of this book at Google Books.
Fourth place goes to”What Shall This Man Do? Discovering Your Place in Ministry” by Watchman Nee. Like Andrew Murray and Thomas Watson, Watchman Nee is another favorite author of mine and it is really difficult to narrow down my favorite book out of his selections. I could easily list several, Spiritual Authority, The Normal Christian Life, The Spiritual Man are just a few. This particular book I chose is probably one of his lesser known works but after reading it for the first time three to four years ago, it has never left my desk. It’s poor and broken condition only speaks of it’s much loved condition with me much like the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. This is one of those books which contain so many compact truths inside it that I can read a mere paragraph and have to put the entire book down for a week to digest, meditate on, pray over, journal about before I can pick it up again.
I love reading Christian classics, because they have a witness, a testimony to share with me about their own walk with God and his faithfulness in their lives. Lives with struggles and trials similar to mine and sometimes greater then mine. It’s like sitting down with a grandparent or a great aunt and uncle who is waiting to encourage me through sharing their own stories, their own struggles, their own thoughts and meditations on the word of God and priceless discoveries. And we enjoy them together. Their lives inspire me and encourage me. In moments when my own fire seems dim, reading from writings such as these has always fanned my heart into flame again.
If I would be allowed a fifth book, just to make it a nice number and because book addicts always have to have one more…I would without hesitation name the book which I am currently reading but haven’t finished yet. I’m not even half way through it and already it ranks right along side with the books I listed above in my must read and re-read to slowly digest category. It is called “A Serious Call to A Devout & Holy Life” by William Law.
I have read a lot of quotes in various commentaries from William Law and that is what drew my initial attention to this particular book and sealed the sale was the back cover summary which says John Wesley, George Whitefield and William Wilberforce each stated that reading this book was a major turning point in their spiritual lives. How can anyone pass up such a book that carries such a claim as having influenced so greatly such influential men of God as these three? I paid the price and carried it home and am still paying the price because I understand why they would say it was a major turning point in their spiritual lives for I too am deeply convicted by the cost it is impelling me to pay to live more for Christ in the common areas of my daily life. A free online version of this book can be found online at CCEL (Christian Classic Ethereal Library) which is a site if you are not already familiar with you will definitely want to bookmark. I am more of an audiobook person myself and would also recommend a great audio version that was recently released at Librivox.org .
These are my favorites and if I think about it any longer my list would definitely grow longer especially as I look at the other books I keep within hands reach on my desk. These are my top five devotional books that enhance my daily time of reading, prayer and meditation and continually stir up my spirit and encourage me to pray, meditate, labor and seek God especially when I am tired. I am curious which 4-5 books you would keep outside the bible if someone were to take all your other books away?