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 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.