Top 50+ Christian Devotional Books: Reading Classic Devotionals

Reading classic Christian devotional books is a powerful spiritual discipline that can renew your intimacy with Jesus and foster emotional-relational health. Second to the Bible, these old spiritual books and spiritual biographies of the saints, provide the richest source of whole-hearted discipleship to Jesus.

In this blog you will learn¬†the value of reading classic Christian devotional books. Then you’ll find a list of the top Christian classics to further your devotion to Jesus Christ.

Why Read the Classics?

When you go back in time to read a classic book you step outside the limitations and errors of our own culture to glean God’s wisdom that has survived the test of time.¬†C.S. Lewis explains:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. . . ¬†The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books (‚ÄúOn the Reading of Old Books,‚Ä̬†God in the Dock, p. 202).

Lewis believed it was so important to read the old spiritual books that he recommended everyone read two classics for every one new book they read.

Jesus’ Example

At Jesus’ transfiguration he talked with Moses and Elijah, who miraculously returned from heaven to visit him before he went to the cross. As Jesus engaged in deep conversation with these two great prophets from the Old Testament the bright cloud of God’s presence enveloped them (Matthew 17:1-5).

On the Mount of Transfiguration our Lord learned from these two great saints that had gone before him. Similarly, he often read and quoted the writers of the Old Testament like David, Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel.

If Jesus found it important to be drawn closer to God by learning from the lives of exemplary men and women of the past how much more do we need to do this?!

Christian History

Jesus’ Apostles followed the Lord’s example, befriending the Old Testament saints.

In the history of the Church, great men and women of God have the same testimony: reading the lives of saints who have gone before them has drawn them into greater intimacy with Jesus, soul care, and love for other people.

A.W. Tozer was perhaps the greatest Evangelical Pastor of 20th Century. He wrote¬†The Pursuit of God, a¬†favorite Christian devotional book. He wrote: ‚ÄúCome near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God‚ÄĚ (p. 15). He says, ‚ÄúThe whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing church‚ÄĚ leads us into living by an ‚Äúexperiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints‚ÄĚ (Tozer, pp. 16-17).

How to Read Christian Devotionals

I was so moved reading A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly that I was literally brought to my knees and stayed there. I kneeled at my tear-stained ancient wooden prayer bench and prayed for three hours. I did not get up until I had prayerfully read through the entire book!

After befriending Thomas Kelly through his book, Richard Foster remarked, ‚ÄúEach time I leaf through the pages of this book, I know I am in the presence of a giant soul‚ÄĚ (from the Introduction).

Take Heart for Devotion to Jesus

In the pages of the classics, we meet holy men and woman who see God and life with him differently than we do today.  They offer an ancient wisdom that we need. They open their heart to us and their holy desire for God is a fire that warms our hearts and draws us closer to Christ.

So in the words of David and our Lord Jesus Christ himself, you can “take heart” from these saints (Psalm 27:14, 31:24; Matthew 9:2, 22; John 16:33). To take heart is to absorb devotion to Jesus from others and make it your own.

William Law was a Protestant mystic of the 18th Century. His famous work,¬†A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, is on the short list of the great classics of Christian devotion.¬†John Wesley called it one of three books which accounted for his first ‚Äúexplicit resolve to be all devoted to God.‚ÄĚ Law wrote about a woman who grew in holiness and love by reading old spiritual books:

Of all human writings the lives of devout persons and eminent saints are [Miranda‚Äôs] greatest delight. In these she searches as for hidden treasure ‚Äď hoping to find some secret of holy living which she may make her own. By this means Miranda has her head and her heart so stored with all the principles of wisdom and holiness that if you are in her company you must be made wiser and better (p. 56).

Four Steps for Devotional Books

Thomas Kelly was a Quaker writer and missionary, a great Christian leader, who was transformed for Christ by reading from ancient spiritual treasures. He experienced a tremendous spiritual renewal through gathering with friends to read devotional classics. In his words these classic devotional books, ‚Äúspeak the language of the souls who live at the Center‚ÄĚ (A Testament of Devotion, p. 55). His weekly meetings with sacred companions and anointed devotional books featured four steps:

  1. Reading out loud
  2. Silent reflection
  3. Conversation with soul friends
  4. Prayer

Their cell group was like a ‚Äúlittle religious order‚ÄĚ that became a spiritual dynamo for revitalizing their lives and ministries to others (Douglass Steere, A Biographical Memoir of Thomas Kelly). This small group stirred the ‚ÄúShekinah of the Soul‚ÄĚ in Kelly and ultimately led to his writings in¬†A Testament of Devotion, which became one of the most compelling writings of devotion to Christ in history.

List of Top Christian Devotional Books

Here are my favorite classic Christian devotional books that I’ve read. Millions of people over the centuries have found spiritual nourishment from these great books. Ironically, many of them weren’t even published as books originally, but were letters or testimonies of others that later became published.

For each book I’ve included the title, author, and original date of publication. (The titles in blue include a link to purchase the book on Amazon. A portion of the sales will support Soul Shepherding’s ministry to pastors and missionaries.)

  • The Original Gospel of Matthew: The Final Reconstruction of the Earliest Matthew (1st Century) by Standford Rives, ¬© 2014. 102 pages.
  • Going to Church in the First Century by Robert Banks, ¬© 1980. 48 pages.
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria, ¬© 319. 88 pages.
  • Athanasius: The Life of Antony¬†by St. Athanasius, ¬©¬†356. 166 pages.
  • The Life of Moses¬†by¬†Gregory of Nyssa, ¬©¬†390. 208 pages.
  • Confessions¬†by St Augustine, ¬©¬†397. 311 pages.¬†
  • The Wisdom of the Desert¬†(Sayings of the Desert Fathers from the 4th Century) Collected by Thomas Merton. 191 pages.
  • Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart¬†by the¬†Eastern Church Fathers,¬†¬©¬†4th to 15th Cent. 420 pages.
  • The Rule¬†by¬†St. Benedict¬†¬©¬†530. 101 pages. (See also¬†The Rule of Benedict¬†and¬†Wisdom Distilled from the Daily¬†by Joan Chittister.)
  • Spiritual Friendship¬†by Aelred of Rievaulx¬†¬©¬†1160. 136 pages.¬†
  • The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi ¬©¬†1250-1261. 120 pages. ¬†
  • St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton ¬© 1924/2008. 135 pages.
  • Revelations of Divine Love¬†by Julian of Norwich¬†¬© 1373-1413. 189 pages.
  • The Cloud of Unknowing by Anonymous ¬© 14th Century/1981. 148 pages.
  • The Imitation of Christ¬†by Thomas √° Kempis, ¬©¬†1486. 256 pages.¬†
  • The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius¬†by Saint Ignatius¬†¬©¬†1521. 232 pages.¬†
  • A Simple Way to Pray¬†by Martin Luther, ¬© 1535.¬†62 pages.
  • Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life by John Calvin (1509-1564) ¬© 1952. 95 pages.
  • The Essential Writings of John of the Cross¬†(Selections from¬†The Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle,¬†and¬†The Living Flame of Love)¬†by¬†St. John of the Cross, ¬©¬†1579-1585. 144 pages.¬†
  • Interior Castle, by¬†Teresa of Avila ¬©¬†1580. 241 pages.
  • Introduction to the Devout Life¬†by St Francis de Sales, ¬©¬†1609. 246 pages.
  • The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter,¬†¬© 1656. 256 pages. (See “Serve What You’re Cooking.”)
  • The Life of God in the Soul of Man¬†by¬†Henry Scougal, ¬©¬†1677. 138 pages.
  • Pilgrim‚Äôs Progress, John Bunyan ¬©¬†1678. 191 pages.
  • Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ¬†by Jeanne Guyon, ¬©¬†1685. 160 pages.¬†
  • Madame Jeanne Guyon: Her Autobiography Condensed and Modernized by Jan Johnson, ¬© 1998. 138 pages.
  • Practicing the Presence of God¬†by Brother Lawrence, ¬©¬†1692. (See also Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach.)
  • The Essence of George Fox’s Journal¬†by George Fox,¬†¬© 1694/2012. 253 pages.
  • The Complete F√©nelon¬†(The Royal Way of the Cross, Talking With God, Meditations on the Heart of God, and God of My Heart) by Francois F√©nelon (1651-1715). 312 pages.
  • A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life¬†by William Law, ¬©¬†1728. 158 pages.¬†
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence¬†by¬†Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), ¬©¬†1741/1921. 114 pages.
  • The Sacrament of the Present Moment by¬†Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), ¬©¬†1741/1966. 103 pages.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd (1718-1747) by Jonathan Edwards, ¬© 1749. 256 pages.
  • A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists by John Wesley (ECCO Print Edition),¬†¬© 1749. 34 pages.
  • How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer¬†by John Wesley (1703-1791),¬†¬© 2007. 96 pages.
  • The Journal of John Woolman by John Woolman (1720-1772), ¬© 1772/2001. 192 pages.
  • John Woolman: A Study for Young Men by Thomas Green, ¬© 1885. 130 pages.
  • John Woolman: Quintessential Quaker by David Sox ¬© 1999. 147 pages.¬†
  • Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee¬†by Jarena Lee¬†¬© 1836. 130 pages.
  • The Way of a Pilgrim¬†and¬†The Pilgrim continues his way, by¬†an Anonymous Russian Pilgrim, ¬©¬†1858. 242 pages.¬†
  • The Hound of Heaven and Other Poems by Francis Thompson (1859-1907), ¬© 1859/1893. 64 pages.
  • The Hound of Heaven: A Contemporary Translation by Gordon MacDonald, ¬© 1859/1997. 80 pages.
  • Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman¬†(1823-1913) by Sarah Bradford, ¬© 1869. 132 pages.
  • The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce, ¬© 1871/2010. 398 pages.
  • The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911), ¬© 1875/1998. 236 pages.
  • The Deeper Life¬†by Robert Murray McCheyne¬†(Excerpts of¬†The Memoir and Remains of the Reverend Robert Murray McCheyne¬†¬© 1881). 78 pages.
  • Bright Days & Dark Nights with Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)by Elisabeth Ruth Skoglund ¬© 2000. 222 pages.
  • Answers to Prayer (from George Mueller’s Narratives) by George Mueller,¬†¬© 1896. 125 pages.
  • The Secret of Guidance¬†by F. B. Meyer,¬†¬© 1896. 124 pages.
  • Humility: The Beauty of Holiness¬†by Andrew Murray,¬†¬© 1896. 75 pages. Also:¬†Abide in Christ¬†by Andrew Murray, ¬©¬†1897. 204 pages.
  • The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower¬†by Th√©r√®se of Lisieux, ¬© 1899/2010. 175 pages.
  • Th√©r√®se of Lisieux (1873-1897) by Michael Hollings ¬© 1991. 63 pages.
  • Samuel Morris: A Spirit-Filled Life¬†(Kaboo; 1873-1893) by D.E. Reed, ¬© 1908. 29 pages.
  • At the Master’s Feet by Sadhu Sundar Singh, ¬© 1922. 98 pages.
  • Streams in the Desert¬†by L.B. Cowman, ¬©¬†1925. 509 pages.
  • Letters by a Modern Mystic¬†by Frank Laubach (1884-1970), ¬©¬†1932/2007. 121 pages.¬†
  • Frank C. Laubach: One Burning Heart (biography) by Karen A. Norton, ¬© 1990. 47 pages.
  • God Calling by The Two Listeners (Anonymous), ¬© 1933.
  • My Utmost for His Highest¬†by Oswald Chambers, ¬©¬†1935. 278 pages.
  • A Testament of Devotion¬†by Thomas R. Kelly (1893-1941), ¬©¬†1941. 127 pages.
  • The Eternal Promise by Thomas Kelly, ¬© 1966. 106 pages.
  • Thomas Kelly: A Biography by Richard M. Kelly, ¬© 1966. 125 pages.
  • The Prince of Colored Preachers: Charles Albert Tindley¬†(1851-1933) by E. T. Tindley, ¬© 1942. 36 pages.
  • Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold (biography; 1902-1945) by Janet & Geoff Benge, ¬© 1998. 199 pages.
  • The Healing Light¬†by¬†Agnes Sanford,¬†¬©¬†1947. 173 pages.
  • The Pursuit of God¬†by A.W. Tozer, ¬©¬†1948. 128 pages.
  • Life Together¬†by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ¬©¬†1954. 122 pages.
  • The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee (1903-1972), ¬© 1957. 254 pages.
Selected Devotional Readings to Get Started

As always, in the spiritual life it’s important that we begin from where we are and take a small step. In “My Top 5 Classics of Christian Devotion” I preview five of the books listed above. Perhaps one of these is the place to start for you.

Another great way to start into the Christian spiritual writers and heroes of the past is with devotional books that feature selected short readings. Here are my favorites:

To purchase the books above from Amazon at their best price click on their blue highlighted links. A portion of the sale will go back to the nonprofit ministry of Soul Shepherding.

Contemporary Christian Book Lists

We also have five lists of contemporary Christian books related to the four weeks in our Soul Shepherding Institute training and our two-year certificate in spiritual direction:

  1. Spiritual Formation
  2. Spiritual and Psychological Development
  3. Soul Care Ministry
  4. Relationally Healthy Leadership
  5. Spiritual Direction

You can find these books in our Soul Shepherding Institute Certificate Reading List.

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