Over coffee this morning, a very prayerful member of the congregation started talking about a little book she uses called Daily Light. It fits in her handbag. It offers readings for morning and night, and often seems to say just what she needs. Then out came a Promise Box, which was new to me: a small box, with 140 tiny scrolls of sentences from scripture, with a handy pair of tweezers for plucking them out.
It made me wonder about how many different forms of daily devotion we use in the church, and how seldom we talk about what they are.
Nowadays, my daily devotions are fairly predictable: set daily prayer, time for silence, a barely articulate prayer that I have said for years before getting out of bed, but which never gets spoken when I am fully awake. But there have been various things along the way.
In my first year or two of exploring faith, it was music that led me on. Recordings of Taize chants, the still beloved The Lover and the Beloved by John Michael Talbott. I didn’t realise at the time how important these things were, but they played pretty regularly in the background, and rose to the surface when needed.
Then one day, I was hiding in a seldom used piano room in my halls of residence for a bit of peace, and I found a tattered copy of a book called God Calling. The book was written by two sisters, if I remember correctly, who said that one day, God came to them in prayer. Started speaking, as if writing a letter. Asked that they write his words down, to share with others. Even then the concept made me cringe. And so did some of the langauge and theology. But there was something there that kept me coming back. Something that kept me reading it, letter by letter, day by day, as I explored what I believed (and didn’t believe) about God. I found the book last month when I was clearing bookshelves in the States. I didn’t dare open it, for I wanted to remember it fondly, and I knew that reading it would not help at all.
After that, I ‘graduated’ to the rhythms of an Ignation retreat in daily life. Then to prayer books and books about prayer. Books about prayer are tricky. They are not in themselves devotional. But I find that reading them before bed sometimes helps sustain silent prayer when everything else seems dry.
The thing I find interesting about devotional books is that their effectiveness seems to be far removed from their objective worth. Sloppy theology? Horrid pictures? Lack of inclusive language? Well, if it’s the right book at the right time, none of it seems to matter.
But maybe that is why we don’t talk about them much. They are not quite ‘good enough’ — too embarrassing to share. But really, how bad can it be? What dark secret could surpass a book of letters by two pietistic sisters, claiming to receive dictation from God? Go on. Tell all. What devotional books have you used over the years?