It is for your life- John Wesley on Reading

John Wesley read loads of books riding horseback. 250,000 miles.* Imagine the hours spent in solitary (and bumpy) reading and prayer. My back hurts just thinking about it.

Why all the effort? Wesley explained in a letter to a pastor why he should be reading more and how he could do it:

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading.

I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps by neglecting it you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.

Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant.

Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross, and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular Yours, &c.

~ John Wesley in a letter to John Tremboth, August 17th, 1760

Wesley explains why he should read- who wants to be pretty and superficial? He also shows how to get there- meditation and daily prayer.

Your reading will stick with you if you think and pray over it. Sticky reading reciprocally makes you a better reader and a clear-headed thinker. Do that twenty minutes every day for three years and you’ll be a different person. Reading is the gateway to mental depth and focus that we all wish for in our age of distraction. Read to learn, read to think, read to pray- it is for your life!

*Oakes, Edward T. (2004). “John Wesley: A Biography”. First Things.


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