Editor's note:

Long before I knew any­thing about John Bail­lie or the read­ing in Devo­tion­al Clas­sics, a won­der­ful woman of prayer sent me a copy of A Diary of Pri­vate Prayer by John Bail­lie. I should not have been sur­prised by the gift. Melin­da knows the pow­er and place of prayer in the life of a Christ-fol­low­er. I count on her prayers for my fam­i­ly. I receive her prayers as wis­dom. I learn as she prays. 

Richard Fos­ter writes, There is no bet­ter way to learn about prayer than by pray­ing, and we can have no bet­ter teacher than John Bail­lie. It is good to debate the mys­ter­ies of prayer, to pon­der the pro­fun­di­ties of prayer, to learn the meth­ods of prayer. It is bet­ter to pray.”

Melin­da learned about prayer by pray­ing John Baillie’s prayers — morn­ing and evening prayers. And then she taught me about prayer. 

Our fam­i­ly prays the first para­graph of the Twen­ty-First Day morn­ing prayer before impor­tant deci­sions. It all began when our son inter­viewed for a job in Wash­ing­ton D.C. He was excit­ed about the oppor­tu­ni­ty. We were drawn to John Baillie’s peti­tions Inspire all my thoughts … Sug­gest all my deci­sions … Be with me in my silence and in my speech.” Our son did not receive the job offer but we knew that our prayer was answered. I am grate­ful for John Baillie’s book of prayers and for my friend who teach­es me how to pray through her prayers. 

Allow John Bail­lie be your teacher. Con­sid­er rewrit­ing two of John Baillie’s prayers — a morn­ing prayer and an evening prayer — to make them your prayer. May God inspire all your thoughts.

—Margaret Campbell

Excerpt from Devotional Classics

1. First Morn­ing: My First Thought”

Eter­nal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to wor­ship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer. 

For Your per­fect wis­dom and per­fect good­ness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mys­te­ri­ous oppor­tu­ni­ty of my life:
For the indwelling of Your Spir­it in my heart:
For the sev­en­fold gifts of Your Spir­it:
I praise and wor­ship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morn­ing prayer is said, think my wor­ship end­ed and spend the day in for­get­ful­ness of You. 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; 

Keep­ing me chaste in thought:
Keep­ing me tem­per­ate and truth­ful in speech: 
Keep­ing me faith­ful and dili­gent in my work:
Keep­ing me hum­ble in my esti­ma­tion of myself:
Keep­ing me hon­or­able and gen­er­ous in my deal­ing with oth­ers:
Keep­ing me loy­al to every hal­lowed mem­o­ry of the past:
Keep­ing me mind­ful of my eter­nal des­tiny as a child of Yours.
Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

2. Sec­ond Morn­ing: Con­tin­ued Depen­dence upon You” 

O God my Cre­ator and Redeemer, I may not go forth today except You accom­pa­ny me with Your bless­ing. Let not the vig­or and fresh­ness of the morn­ing, or the glow of good health, or the present pros­per­i­ty of my under­tak­ings, deceive me into a false reliance upon my own strength. All these good gifts have come to me from You. They were Yours to give and they are Yours also to cur­tail. They are not mine to keep; I do but hold them in trust; and only in con­tin­ued depen­dence upon You, the Giv­er, can they be worthi­ly enjoyed. 

Let me then put back into Your hand all that You have giv­en me, reded­i­cat­ing to Your ser­vice all the pow­ers of my mind and body, all my world­ly goods, all my influ­ence with oth­ers. All these, O Father, are Yours to use as You will. All these are Yours, O Christ. All these are Yours, O Holy Spir­it. Speak in my words today, think in my thoughts, and work in all my deeds. And see­ing that it is Your gra­cious will to make use even of such weak human instru­ments in the ful­fill­ment of Your mighty pur­pose for the world, let my life today be the chan­nel through which some lit­tle por­tion of Your divine love and pity may reach the lives that are near­est to my own. 

In Your solemn pres­ence, O God, I remem­ber all my friends and neigh­bors, my fel­low towns­folk, and espe­cial­ly the poor with­in our gates, beseech­ing You that You would give me grace, so far as in me lies, to serve them in Your name. Amen. 

3. Third Morn­ing: Joy­ous and Help­ful Labor” 

Lord of my life, whose law I fain would keep, whose fel­low­ship I fain would enjoy, and to whose ser­vice I would fain be loy­al, I kneel before You as You send me forth to the work of anoth­er day. 

This day, O Lord—
give me cour­tesy:
give me meek­ness of bear­ing, with deci­sion of char­ac­ter:
give me long­suf­fer­ing:
give me chasti­ty:
give me sin­cer­i­ty of speech:
give me dili­gence in my allot­ted task. 

O You who in the full­ness of time raised up our Lord and Sav­ior Jesus Christ to enlight­en our hearts with the knowl­edge of Your love, grant me the grace to be wor­thy of His name. Amen. 

4. Fourth Morn­ing: Your Wait­ing Presence” 

Almighty and eter­nal God,
You are hid­den from my sight:
You are beyond the under­stand­ing of my mind:
Your thoughts are not as my thoughts:
Your ways are past find­ing out.
Yet You have breathed Your Spir­it into my life:
Yet You have formed my mind to seek You:
Yet You have inclined my heart to love You:
Yet You have made me rest­less for the rest that is in You:
Yet You have plant­ed with­in me a hunger and thirst that make me dis­sat­is­fied with all the joys of earth.

O You who alone know what lies before me this day, grant that in every hour of it I may stay close to You. Let me be in the world, yet not of it. Let me use this world with­out abus­ing it. If I buy, let me be as though I pos­sessed not. If I have noth­ing, let me be as though pos­sess­ing all things. Let me today embark on no under­tak­ing that is not in line with Your will for my life, nor shrink from any sac­ri­fice which Your will may demand. Sug­gest, direct, con­trol every move­ment of my mind; for my Lord Christ’s sake. Amen. 

5. Fifth Morn­ing: The Lord and Giv­er of Life” 

God of my fore­fa­thers, I cry unto You. You have been the refuge of good and wise peo­ple in every gen­er­a­tion. When his­to­ry began, You were the first enlight­en­er of minds, and Yours was the Spir­it that first led them out of their brutish estate and made them human. Through all the ages You have been the Lord and giv­er of life, the source of all knowl­edge, the foun­tain of all goodness. 

The patri­archs trust­ed You and were not put to shame:
The prophets sought You and You com­mit­ted Your word to their lips:
The psalmist[s] rejoiced in You and You were present in their song[s]:
The apos­tles wait­ed upon You and they were filled with Your Holy Spir­it: The mar­tyrs called upon You and You were with them in the midst of the flame:

For­bid it. Holy Lord, that I should fail to prof­it by these great mem­o­ries of the ages that are gone by, or to enter into the glo­ri­ous inher­i­tance which You have pre­pared for me; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

6. Sixth Morn­ing: This Your Great­est Gift” 

O God, who has proven Your love for all human­i­ty by send­ing us Jesus Christ our Lord, and has illu­mi­nat­ed our human life by the radi­ance of His pres­ence, I give You thanks for this Your great­est gift. 

For my Lord’s days upon the earth:
For the record of His deeds of love:
For the words he spoke for my guid­ance and help:
For His obe­di­ence unto death:
For His tri­umph over death:
For the pres­ence of His Spir­it with­in me now:
I thank you, O God.

Grant that the remem­brance of the blessed Life that once was lived out on this com­mon earth under these ordi­nary skies may remain with me in all the tasks and duties of this day. 

Let me remem­ber—
His eager­ness, not to be min­is­tered unto, but to min­is­ter:
His sym­pa­thy with suf­fer­ing of every kind:
His brav­ery in the face of His own suf­fer­ing:
His meek­ness of bear­ing, so that, when reviled, He reviled not again:
His steadi­ness of pur­pose in keep­ing to His appoint­ed task:
His sim­plic­i­ty:
His self-dis­ci­pline:
His seren­i­ty of spir­it:
His com­plete reliance upon You, His Father in Heav­en.
And in each of these ways give me grace to fol­low in His foot­steps. Amen.

7. Sev­enth Morn­ing: O Lord and Mak­er of All Things” 

O Lord and Mak­er of all things, from whose cre­ative pow­er the first light came forth, who looked upon the world’s first morn­ing and saw that it was good, I praise You for this light that now streams through my win­dows to rouse me to the life of anoth­er day. 

I praise You for the life that stirs with­in me:
I praise You for the bright and beau­ti­ful world into which I go:
I praise You for earth and sea and sky, for scud­ding cloud and singing bird:
I praise You for the work You have giv­en me to do:
I praise You for all that You have giv­en me to fill my leisure hours:
I praise You for my friends:
I praise You for music and books and good com­pa­ny and all pure plea­sures. Amen.

An Evening Prayer

O God, immor­tal, eter­nal, invis­i­ble, I remem­ber with glad­ness and thanks­giv­ing all that Thou has been to this world of men: 

Com­pan­ion of the brave: Uphold­er of the loy­al: Light of the wan­der­er: Joy of the pil­grim: Guide of the pio­neer: Helper of labor­ing men: Refuge of the bro­ken-heart­ed: Deliv­er­er of the oppressed: Suc­cour of the tempt­ed: Strength of the vic­to­ri­ous: Ruler of rulers: Friend of the poor: Res­cuer of the per­ish­ing: Hope of the dying: 

Give me faith now to believe that Thou can be all in all to me, accord­ing to my need, if only I renounce all proud self-depen­dence and put my trust in Thee. 

Show thy lov­ingkind­ness tonight, O Lord, to all who stand in need of Thy help. Be with the weak to make them strong and with the strong to make them gen­tle. Cheer the lone­ly with Thy com­pa­ny and the dis­tract­ed with Thy soli­tude. Pros­per Thy Church in the ful­fill­ment of her mighty task, and grant Thy bless­ing to all who toiled today in Christ’s name. Amen. 

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Excerpts tak­en from Devo­tion­al Clas­sics: Select­ed Read­ings for Indi­vid­u­als and Groups (Richard J. Fos­ter & James Bryan Smith, Edi­tors. Harper­Collins, 1993.)

Orig­i­nal­ly from A Diary of Pri­vate Prayer by John Bail­lie, pub­lished 1936.

Pho­to by Ted­dy Kel­ley on Unsplash

Originally published December 1992