Devotional writing frustrates me. If I’m going to set aside time every day to read about scripture, I expect more than cute anecdotes and generalized applications. Much of what I’ve read makes me feel like I’ve spent ten minutes in the Hallmark aisle of a drugstore rather than seated before my Creator.
Ponder and Pray is different. Full disclosure: Victor Shepherd was one of my most influential professors during seminary. I started these readings with high expectations and I was not disappointed. Despite being written over 30 years ago (the original copyright date is 1984), the meditations were so rooted in scripture that they were thoroughly relevant.
The meditations are written in two parts. The first half unpacks a scriptural idea such as the cross, repentance, or joy. The second half is a prayer which is as lengthy and important as the prose that precedes it. Shepherd spent as much time preparing the prayers as he did the meditations—and it shows.
I think it would be fitting to close this review with the last lines of the last prayer in the book:
Eternal God, you have quickened our zeal for the day when we shall stand before you without spot or blemish. Then increase or faith, deepen our repentance, magnify our ardour, that our prayer may be the cry of our ancestors, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And unto you we ascribe all glory, honour, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen. (98)
—Victor A. Shepherd, Ponder and Pray: Seven Weeks of Meditations and Prayers for Personal Enrichment During Any Season of the Year (Mississagua, ON: Light and Life Press, 1993).