Borrowing Prayers from John Baillie


John Baillie was a professor of divinity at Edinburgh University in Scotland from 1934-1956 and wrote over 15 books on theology.  I bought one at a garage sale for 50 cents.  It has changed my life.

Unlike his other deeply intellectual volumes, this little book is plain and simple.  It’s called “A Diary of Private Prayer”.  I’ve always liked reading other people’s diaries.  Getting in on someone’s private thoughts might seem nosey, and I guess it is.  However, being allowed into a godly man’s private prayer closet feels like hushed and holy ground.  It’s a real privilege. 

For thirty-one days, Professor Baillie wrote a prayer for each morning and each evening.  They sound like prayers you could imagine your grandfather saying, with all the “thees” and “thou arts”, “dosts” and “hasts”.  People don’t talk like that anymore, but there is something beautiful about the language that just seems sacred and hallowed.  I admit, those ancient words trip me up occasionally and I find myself interpreting them to my 21st century mind.  Even then, these prayers ring true and touch a deep place somewhere in me.  I couldn’t in a million years come up with prayers like this on my own, but I sure like to pray like this sometimes.  So I borrow John’s prayers when I need to inject some oomph into my paltry parlance.  For instance:

“First Day, Morning – Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of Thee, let my first impulse be to worship Thee, let my first speech be Thy name, let my first action be to kneel before Thee in prayer…  Let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of Thee.  Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day…”

Translation: “Dear Lord, this morning let the first thought that enters my mind be of You, let my first impulse propel me to worship You, let the first word out of my mouth be Your Name, let my first act be to get on my knees in prayer.  And when I walk away from this quiet time, don’t let me get away with thinking I’m done worshiping and forget You the rest of the day.  Instead, let these quiet moments infuse light and joy and power into every hour ahead of me.”

Amen, brother John.  Thanks for lending me your prayers.

6 thoughts on “Borrowing Prayers from John Baillie

  1. As you did – i found this little 1949 printing of “Diary of Private Prayer” by John Baillie second hand and sincerely feel blessed to have it…these daily prayers quickly took root and have proven very powerful in my life since…

    • Thanks for your comment and for reading! I love the old hardcover version. I gave paperbacks to my friends for Christmas, but there’s nothing like the feel of the original, yellow pages and all. Glad to meet another Baillie fan and kindred spirit!

  2. I LOVE that book…found my first hardcover at the Salvation Army…it had been given as a gift to someone in 1974….I have bought a couple other copies and given them away. I have informed the hubs that if we ever get another dog….its name will be Baillie.

    • We had to put our dog to sleep this spring and have decided to have no more pets. Maybe I can talk one of our kids into naming a grandchild Baillie! We have such similar tastes in books!!

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