Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.
- Kathleen Norris
It’s been awhile since I’ve written in this space—there have been a number of transitions among us Attaways in the past couple of months, and I’ll be offering you some reflections in the weeks to come on the place of transitions in our personal, family and devotional lives. But now, I’d like to get back to the subject of devotional reading, and present the next two entries (numbers 8 and 9) in my top ten list.
8. William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
Since its first publication in the early 18th century, William Law’s book has had a deep and abiding influence on the devotional life of the English-speaking world, second only to Pilgrim’s Progress. It was life-changing reading for people as different as the Anglican Samuel Johnson, the writer and lexicographer, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and John Henry Newman, the recently beatified leader of the Oxford Movement and convert to Catholicism.
In plain but vigorous prose, Law sets out the necessity of living a life centered on and directed to God, provides practical suggestions for making such a life a reality, and illustrates his points with vivid character studies of different kinds of Christians. Whenever (and, alas, it’s more often than I’d wish) I feel my heart growing cold and my walk slowing down, I reach for this book for a push in the right direction.
7. Martin Luther, The Shorter Catechism
I’m not a Lutheran, but there’s something about Martin Luther’s writing that takes me to the absolute center of the life of faith. Without flinching, Luther puts the emphasis where it ought to be—on the Cross of Christ. When I’m feeling too full of myself, too satisfied with my own achievements, I’ve only to read Luther to see myself as I really am, with nothing to bring to my encounter with God but the One Who has given His life for me.
This convenient paperback collects a variety of writings by the Reformer, including generous extracts from his sermons. In his pastoral writing, as opposed to his sharp polemics, there’s rarely a page that doesn’t prompt me to stop reading and start praying.
Please let me know what you like to read during your devotions. Next, week, I’ll share my numbers six and five.
Andrew Attaway is a Senior Editor at GuidepostsBooks, where he has edited and written for the annual devotional Daily Guideposts since 1995. His more than thirty years in publishing have included stints at Simon and Schuster, Oxford University Press, G.P. Putnam, and Macmillan. A native New Yorker, Andrew attended Columbia University and the City University of New York. He lives in northern Manhattan with his wife Julia, also a Daily Guideposts contributor, and their five children.