Introductory 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.

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

Text First Published December 1992 · Last Featured on November 2023