40 Favorite Hymns of the Christian Faith: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning – Leland Ryken

40 Favorite Hymns of the Christian Faith: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning by Leland Ryken
Also by this author: Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, The Heart in Pilgrimage: A Treasury of Classic Devotionals on the Christian Life, Journey to Bethlehem: A Treasury of Classic Christmas Devotionals
Published by P & R Publishing on April 1, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology, Writing
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Every hymn begins its life as a poem—and we can give our favorite hymns fresh life by returning to their poetic roots. This anthology of several centuries’ worth of great hymns invites us to experience these works as devotional poetry—to slow down and savor their well-turned phrases and evocative language. English professor Leland Ryken provides some historical background for each hymn, but his focus is on literary analysis. Combined with relevant Scripture texts, the result is a wonderfully devotional and poetic study of the Christian faith.

In this devotional collection, Leland Ryken shares his considerable literary expertise to explore Christian hymns as poetry. Each reading begins with the text of the hymn, and then Ryken offers literary analysis, spiritual reflections, and occasional pertinent details about the origins of the hymn. At the end, he always shares a thematically related Bible verse. He encourages his readers to read each hymn again when they reach the end of the reading, so that they can pick up on additional details and nuances, and I found this to be a very rich experience.

As he analyzes each hymn as a poem, Ryken shares helpful insights into how these writers used rhythm, meter, metaphor, and different forms of organization to craft their expression of biblical truth. He repeatedly notes that even though some of these hymns can seem simplistic because they are so familiar or include metaphors about everyday experiences, they express complex ideas in artistic, meaningful ways. However, even though Ryken writes from the perspective of an English professor, he keeps 40 Favorite Hymns of the Christian Faith accessible to general readers. He explains the technical language that he uses, shares a glossary in the back, and shares clear spiritual reflections and life applications related to the content of each song.

40 Favorite Hymns of the Christian Faith: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning is an excellent devotional for people who love hymns, and for those who want to begin exploring their spiritual riches. I would also highly recommend this book to people who are interested in writing praise and worship songs, since the literary analysis in this book can help writers think through how to convey biblical truth through song in a meaningful, artful way that can stand the test of time.