September 25, 2020

Recommended: A Diary of Private Prayer

John Baillie was a leading Scottish churchman of the twentieth century. Professor of divinity at Edinburgh University from 1934 to 1956, he has been considered a “mediating” theologian, one who tried to take the best of Protestant Orthodoxy and liberal theology and combine them. He was a prolific writer, but is best known for two devotional works, A Diary of Private Prayer (1937), and A Diary of Readings (1955).

Baillie’s prayer book is considered a devotional classic, and for good reason. It combines intellectual depth, profound piety, and language that leaves an indelible impression in a small volume that provides a lasting tool for daily conversation with God.

Its format is simple. A Diary of Private Prayer is meant to be used over the course of a month. There are thirty-one sets of morning and evening prayers for each day of the month, and a separate morning and evening set for Sunday.

Today is June 28th, and here is the Morning Prayer for the twenty-eighth day of the month:

Let me now go forth, O Lord, my God, to the work of another day, still surrounded by Thy wonderful lovingkindnesses, still pledged to Thy loyal service, still standing in Thy strength and not my own.

  • Let me to-day be a Christian not only in my words but also in my deeds:
  • Let me follow bravely in the footsteps of my Master, wherever they may lead:
  • Let me be hard and stern with myself:
  • Let there be no self-pity or self-indulgence in my life to-day:
  • Let my thinking be keen, my speech frank and open, and my action courageous and decisive.

I would pray, O Lord, not only for myself but for all the household to which I belong, for all my friends and all my fellow workers, beseeching Thee to include them in all Thy fatherly regard. I pray also —

  • for all who will to-day be faced by any great decision:
  • for all who will today be engaged in settling affairs of moment in the lives of men and nations:
  • for all who are moulding public opinion in our time:
  • for all who write what other people read:
  • for all who are holding aloft the lamp of truth in a world of ignorance and sin:
  • for all whose hands are worn with too much toil, and for the unemployed whose hands today fall idle:
  • for those who have not where to lay their head.

O Christ my Lord, who for my sake and my brethren’s didst forgo all earthly comfort and fullness, forbid that I should ever again live unto myself. Amen.

I read words like that, contemplate them, turn them into prayer, and humbly cry out to God, “Lord, teach me to pray!” 


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Its format is simple. A Diary of Private Prayer is meant to be used over the course of a month. There are thirty-one sets of morning and evening prayers for each day of the month, and a separate morning and evening set for Sunday.

    Sounds like a Breviary to me.

  2. I use this as well. You will read sentences that you will ponder the rest of the day. Highly recommend.

  3. I’ve used this as well – it is quiet, slow, prayerful reading. I’m not big on devotional books of any type – but this one I love. Seeing this book recommended here confirms for me that I not only like this website; I just might love it. I’ve only been visiting here (silently for the most part) for a few months, and already I feel like I’ve found an online home of sorts. So much to learn, so much that resonates with my wondering, wandering soul.

    • Adrienne says

      Jill ~ beautiful words with which I so relate. This site is my spiritual life-line. It has lead me through my own journey over these past couple of years and has helped me to understand that I am not alone. I live in a very, very conservative area where thinking and reading anything other than Scripture is suspect. So it is a lonely place to be and how grateful I am for this site. I’m glad you’re here to journey with us.

  4. The prayer book is a book I picked up a few years ago. I’ve never gone through it completely in a month, but I’ve used it for a week or two at a time. I agree: these are meaty theological prayers that will leave you thinking and praying the rest of the day.

  5. So glad to see this prayer book recommended here at iMonk. A Canadian friend introduced me to it some time ago. My husband and I have used it for our devotions for years. It’s a wonderful tool for centering one’s mind on Christ morning and evening.

  6. Never heard of the man……..until I woke up in the middle of the night, last night. I picked up a book that had been on the shelf, never opened, that had him in it. Here’s a quote:
    “Where deed of mine can help to make this world a better place to live in, where word of mine can cheer a despondent heart or brace a weak will, where prayer of mine can serve the extension of Christ’s kingdom, there let me do and speak and pray.”.

  7. This the first time I have heard of this book. I am definately going to purchase a copy.

    Another book of prayers I have found to be of gereat help and encouragement when my own prayer life has become a bit routine and dry is “The Valley of Vision.” This is a book of prayers from the Puritans who often practiced writing their prayers as a way of thoughtfully opening their hearts and minds to the Lord. hen I read selections from kit the depth of their heart’s cry to God and their fervent worship of Him makes me feel as though I have never really prayed, not really, in all my life. It always helps me reconnect with my Abba who loves me but who is also the sovreign ruler of heaven and earth. I highly commend this little volume to all whose hearts hunger for the Lord or who want their hearts to.

  8. Great article.