I’m not sure how I heard about Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald, but however it happened I’m sure glad it did.  I found the book to be very challenging and very helpful.  The premise is basically that Christians need their inner lives in order in order to be effective in life a ministry and work and just the general ‘stuff’ that makes up life.

To order your private world takes a number of steps and it is an ongoing process.  One of the first things that needs to happen says MacDonald is you need to recapture time and let it serve you rather than you serving it.  By that I mean that we have to organise our time to make sure we get the important things done first before we do the many other urgent (but not necessarily important) things that life will throw at us.  The next thing that must happen is a Christian must spend time training their mind.  MacDonald says:
"Some Christians appear to be afraid to think. They mistake the gathering of facts, doctrinal systems, and lists of rules for thinking. They are uneasy when dealing with ambiguity. And they do not see the significance of wrestling with great ideas if they cannot always come up with easily packaged answers. The consequences are a drift towards mediocrity in personal living and mental activity and a loss of much that God meant for His children to enjoy as they walk through creation discovering His handiwork. Life under such circumstances becomes amusement, function without thought.” (p111)
Well said!  And helpfully he lists a few ways we can avoid becoming like this kind of Christian he has just mentioned.

Next he talks about ordering our inner spiritual life, which he calls our inner garden.  I found the garden illustration to be very poiniant because my house is surround by a massive garden which I struggle to keep under control (who am I kidding… it’s never under control!).  Anyway, MacDonald says this should be a place of order, peace and tranquillity, not disorder and weeds!  We need to cultivate our inner Spiritual Garden or else we will lose some of the privileges God has for us.  Those privileges include not learning to enjoy the eternal and infinite perspective on reality that we were created to have, missing out on a vital, life giving friendship with Christ and having little reserve or resolve for crisis moments such as failure, humiliation, suffering, the death of a loved one or loneliness (pp 142-143).

After outlining some of the things that having our inner life in order does for us, MacDonald then goes on to list some of the ways we can cultivate our spiritual garden, or order our private world.  This is done through chapters 11-13.  Here he lists four things that will help us.
1. Silence and Solitude
2. Listening to God (he suggests keeping a journal to help with this)
3. Reflection and Meditation (not in a weird way)
4. Prayer as worship and intercession (here he gives great advice for why we often struggle to pray as well as what and how we should pray – he is descriptive without being prescriptive).

Finally he finishes the book talking about the importance of taking regular Sabbath rest as a Christian.  I found this really good as he outlined some really useful reasons for taking a Sabbath.  The Sabbath MacDonald says is not a luxury but a necessity for those who want to have growth and maturity and it does three things.
1. Closing the Loop – that is it is a time where we look back over our week/month etc. and ask questions about what we’ve done, what we’ve achieved and why we’ve acted.  Rest is about interpreting our work.
2. Returning to the Eternal Truths – Taking a Sabbath allows us to pause to sort out the truths and commitments by which we are living.
3. Defining our Mission – (this was the best reason for a Sabbath I thought and it’s definitely related to the first two).  When we rest in the biblical sense, we affirm our intentions to pursue a Christ-centred tomorrow. We ponder where we are headed in the coming week, month or year. We define our intentions and make our dedications.

And that is the book.  I really enjoyed reading it and was challenged and encouraged to order my private world.  Which honestly I’d say is pretty unordered at the moment.  Throughout the book he often talks of fast-starters.  People who through connections or natural ability start out really well in ministry or life and therefore don’t have the need to order their private world.  These people he says end up failing majorly or burning out.  I really felt convicted by this as I feel a bit like that fast-started who needs to work hard on ordering his private world.  Very humbling and very good to hear now, before it’s too late.

If you struggle with your inner life.  Your private world.  Then I would suggest reading this book.  5 out of 5.