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Friday, July 29, 2016

"The Christian Book of Mystical Verse" (A.W. Tozer)

TITLE: The Christian Book of Mystical Verse: A Collection of Poems, Hymns, and Prayers for Devotional Reading
AUTHOR: Collected by A.W. Tozer
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (176 pages).

The late A.W. Tozer is well known for many of his insightful and challenging books about Christian living and faith. Some of his most popular books are the Pursuit of God; The Knowledge of the Holy; Man the Dwelling Place of God; The Root of the Righteous; and many more. In fact, so powerful are his writings that books have been written based on compilation of the best of his insights. Not as many people know that the former Chicago pastor is also a deep reader. According to the publisher, Tozer has intentionally put together poems, hymns, prayers, and spiritual writings from across the spectrum of Christian writers and evangelicals through the ages. Meant more for the worshiper rather than a student, this book arranges the works in theological themes.

  • Adoration of the Godhead (God and Trinity)
  • Devotional Meditations on the Cross of Christ (Atonement)
  • Penitential Reflections on Our Sins (Compunction)
  • Rejoicing in Forgiveness and Justification (Repentance)
  • Yearning for Purity of Heart (Sanctification)
  • Aspirations After God (Spirituality)
  • Delighting in God's Presence (God's Omnipresence)
  • The Raptures of Divine Love
  • The Rest of Faith 
  • Spiritual Warfare
  • Victory Through Praise
  • The Prayer of Quiet
  • The Bliss of Communion
  • Joyous Anticipation of Christ's Return
  • Immortality and the World to Come
Such spiritual treasures are described as "mystical verse" to remind us that it is a book for us to use to worship God and not another book to be analyzed and studied. It is not mystical in a sense that they are written by mystics. Instead, it is about entering into the realm of worship that is beyond mere intellectual exercises. Tozer explains the reasons for the way he arranges the themes. First, he avoids all sentimental verses that tend to tug at the heart-strings more than the soul. Second, he is bold to exclude certain 'classics' if they do not contribute to his themes. Third, all the works are to be theologically sound. Put together for private devotion, the book can be used for singing, for praying, for meditating, and for personal spiritual journaling. I find several works to be freshly unfamiliar, causing me to slow down and to ponder at the sense of newness. There and then I am reminded of how easy it is to gravitate to set themes and personal inclinations when we read familiar material. For example, if we see a familiar hymn or a famous poem, we are easily tempted to draw on our past knowledge and not learn anything new. Slow reading is preferred. Pauses are helpful. Pacing our reading with our inner responses is good soul exercise. Praying is expected. 

Here is a suggestion for devotional reading. Following Guigo's Ladder of Monks, there are four different levels of reading, with each level a deeper engagement with the texts. The first level is plain reading, which is essentially for beginners. The second level is meditation which is a deeper level for the advanced reader, the more proficient. The third level is prayer, where one interacts personally with the text and how the texts lead one toward worshiping God. The fourth level is contemplation, which is the highest level that the heavenly creatures are in. This book is geared toward those reading levels two and above.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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