Reading is like exploring the mind of the writer. I would liken it to peering into the window of a man's mind and discovering his thoughts or hearing the whispers of his meditations. Good, godly, and sound books are like exhortations to our soul from saints past and present. We should be encouraged when we hear the admonishments of our godly brethren who say follow me as I follow Christ.
We are exhorted to the habit of reading from Paul. In 1 Timothy 4:12 the Apostle Paul directs Timothy to give attention to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine. In Spurgeon's sermon "Paul, His Cloak and Books," he says:
"He [Paul] is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give thyself unto reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’-join in the cry."
Even John MacArthur stated in an interview at a Resolved Conference that he reads to preach, to know and understand. With encouragements like this we should at least endeavor to read good, sound books.
At Beaverton Grace Bible Church we've begun a book club. Currently I am calling this The READeeming Book Club. Here is a review of our first book.
We started January with J.C Ryle's A Call to Prayer. Though the book is short it doesn't lack of heart or content. Ryle starts immediately with a personal question of private behavior. "Do you pray?" Private prayer is completely essential to any person as it is how we are saved. How shall they call upon the Lord if they have not heard or Call upon the name of the Lord and you shall be saved. Without prayer it is impossible to be saved. A chief characteristic of the wicked is that they call not upon the Lord.
Prayer is an absolute essential to the Christian. Ryle even says that "breath is to the body as prayer is to the soul." Ryle also notes that prayer is one of the most neglected duties of a Christian. He says:
"I believe that hundreds of thousands never utter a word of prayer at all. They eat. They drink. They sleep. They rise. They go forth to their work. They return to their homes. They breathe God's air. They travel on God's earth. They enjoy God's mercies. They have dying bodies. They have judgment and eternity before them. But they never speak to God. They live like the animals that perish. They behave like creatures without souls. They have not one word to say to Him in whose hand are their life and breath, and all things, and from whose mouth they must one day receive their everlasting sentence. How dreadful this seems; but if the secrets of people, were daily known, how common."
He later adds that a sure sign that people are not praying is because they don't offer a prayer to God even at their death bed. This kind of neglect in prayer is also depicted in the vast majority who walk on the broad path and plunge into sin. Backsliding is often marked by prayerlessness. I can't help but think of Saul from 1 Samuel who after sinning asked Samuel to pray for him rather than cry to God himself or Simeon who also could not muster a prayer after Peter rebuked him in Acts 8. Ryle says that the lack of prayer is so common that:
"Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows them to have a tremendous fall."
May we not neglect prayer and end up with disillusionment, regret, or an out right denial of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ryle points to prayer as a great encouragement to the saints. He calls out that prayer has great promises with it. Promises like “the effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much” or “if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.” Encouragement to pray goes all the way up to communion with God. We have Jesus himself as an intercessor and the Holy Spirit as our helper. We have a God who hears us and provides for us according to our prayers. We even have examples of time standing still, battles won, people healed, and disasters averted. We have heroes who prayed and communed with God and were no more. The admonishment is heard, let us pray.
Ryle closes with some instruction on how we ought to pray. He encourages that prayer ought to be reverent and humble (Eccles. 5:2),(Rom. 8:24 Jude 1:20),a regular part of the business of life (Dan. 6:10), persevering (Rom 12:12, 1 Thess. 5:17), in earnestness (Hebrews 5:7, Luke 18:1, Jas. 5:16), with faith (James 5:17, Mark 11:24), with boldness (Exod. 32:12, Heb. 4:16), with fullness (Ps. 81:10), particular (Jn. 14:14, 1 Jn. 5:14-15 ), on behalf of others (Phil. 1:3, Eph. 4:12, 2 Thess. 1:11), with thankfulness (Phil. 4:6, Col 4:2).
Truthfully, it was a great read and a great start. Prayer is an essential duty and privilege for every saint. With such great promises there is no need for us not to pray. I hope that I can encourage you to pray and to read. Just as Spurgeon said it so shall I. Bring the books!
Thank you Brother Derek. J.C. Ryle's book on prayer was a real eye-opener. Thanks for encouraging us to get back to reading great books. I'm going to shut this computer off now and get back to reading!