Students and friends often ask me what books I would recommend for devotional reading. I admit I am not entirely sure what sort of book they are looking for. If by devotional they mean a book they can read a few pages each morning that will provide spiritual reflection throughout the day, then nearly anything can be a devotional!
One thing I have found helpful for devotional reading is Prayer Books, such as the classic Book of Common Prayer. Such books provide prayers to read each morning, noon and night as well as scripture. Or you can just use the prayers and then read whatever scripture you like. Recently I’ve been using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Rather than reading the suggested scriptures, I’m reading my own bible passages of choice (two chapters of Exodus and one of the Gospels right now, if you’re curious. Another prayer book I’ve appreciated is Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours.
If you want to go a different direction, in the last year or so I discovered a whole series of devotional books that come from the work of some of the best spiritual writers throughout the history of the church. All the books in the series are “Praying With…” someone and I’ve prayed with the likes of Julian of Norwich, Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi. I’ve long liked reading history and these sorts of works. These books are nice because they give good background on each author as well as commentary on their work. Each day includes scriptures, prayers and questions you can journal about or think on during the day. Plus, you can get them used quite cheap!
Ultimately, this series points me to the best of what “devotional” literature can be. It does not replace reading scripture; engaging with scripture should always be a part of our spiritual practice. Yet we recognize that we are influenced by our own culture and experience, so we look to spiritual guides from past places and times in whom the Spirit has worked. Sitting at their feet, reading their words, helps us to grow.
Finally, if you aren’t sold on that series, I can think of lots of books that have been helpful to read a page or two a day. Basically, a list of some of my favorite books!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Cost of Discipleship
Philip Yancey – What’s So Amazing About Grace
Richard Rohr – The Naked Now
Barbara Brown Taylor – An Altar in the World
Thomas a Kempis – Imitation of Christ
CS Lewis – Mere Christianity