Audio Book Review: The Life of David Brainerd (5 stars)

I am, by nature, a bookworm. Since I started this blog, I thought it might help others and aid my memory retention to post reviews of books as I finish them. However, I digest books slowly. Occasionally I will pick up a good book that I can’t put down, and finish it in a week or so, but that is not the norm for me. So don’t expect a massive amount of output. I hope these reviews will pique your interest and encourage you to dive into a new book, or perhaps help provide a refresher for you about a book you have enjoyed in the past but don’t have time to read again.

Also, I realize there is a big difference between reading a book and listening to it. I do both, and I think both approaches can develop unique skills. I’d encourage you to do the same. If you have a library card, you can gain access to all sorts of powerful educational tools. I use Hoopla to download almost all of my audio books for free. I prefer to read books in print so I can jot down notes and underline quotes, but sometimes I download and read on a device. In the near future, I plan to do both at the same time (listen to an audio book while reading the text).

Hard to Go Wrong with Autobiography

Any time you can spend reading from the diary of a past spiritual giant is time well-spent. As people, we find the lives of other people inherently fascinating, and David Brainerd is no exception. David Brainerd was an American missionary to the Delaware Indians of New Jersey in the early to mid-1700s. I had heard about his diary several times. I even had a copy given to me as I graduated from high school and headed to Bible college, but I never read it. Why? Because, honestly, he sounded kind of boring. I had never heard much about Brainerd’s life. He seemed dwarfed by his impressive contemporary, Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian in the history of America and a major leader in the Great Awakening.

But I was wrong, very wrong. Think about this fact- Jonathan Edwards compiled and edited David Brainerd’s diary, adding his own additional comments, precisely because Edwards perceived such a work as worthy of his time and beneficial to the glory of God’s kingdom. So, while this book is mainly an autobiography, it is also a biography of sorts (bonus points!). You get to read Brainerd’s own thoughts and the observations of Brainerd’s life from one of the greatest minds of his day. Here is one fascinating connection I never before considered. Brainerd was absorbed throughout his life with prayers for the advancement of God’s kingdom across the globe. And, at the very same time Brainerd persisted in prayer, Edwards was witnessing the Great Awakening spreading like wildfire across America. I cannot deny the clear link between the prayers of David Brainerd and the work of God in the Great Awakening.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Redeeming the Time

A constant theme from the life of David Brainerd was his compulsion to use time well. Brainerd died when he was twenty-nine and a half years old from exhausting his body through the intense physical labors of his early studies at Yale, and later his missionary service to the Delaware Indians. Literally in the prime of his youth, he spent himself for the sake of the gospel. I will be twenty-nine next month. I couldn’t help but marvel at his relentless desire to pray for and pursue the advancement of God’s kingdom with every step, every breath, every thought, every deed. And, as I read his journal entries in the days leading up to his death, I did not find a young man anxious and despairing over having wasted his life. I find a young man at peace, content, and satisfied that he had done all he could, no matter how small it seemed, to advance God’s kingdom. He redeemed the time, and he never once regretted it.

The Necessity of “True Religion”

I also see in Brainerd a life of what Edwards would call “true religion.” Brainerd spent more time in secret prayer with God and pursued personal holiness more devoutly in one day than most of us would in a week or a month. Prayer was the air he breathed, the Word of God the bread he ate. He frequently fasted and, as Edwards notes, enjoyed the spiritual fruits that came from this kind of sincere wrestling with God. I love his early journal entries because they record plainly his struggles with the conscience that so many believers, including me, have faced at different points in their spiritual life. He had an honest, humble relationship with God. And his pursuits were not anchored in some strict regimen of self-improvement; rather, Brainerd points to the doctrines of grace as the source of his joy and the life of his ministry. He worshiped and served a gracious God who was marvelous in his eyes. As a result, he could faithfully minister because he knew the grace of God at work in his own life through prayer, meditation on the Word, and frequent confession of sin.

I heartily recommend this autobiography to you. It is well worth your time.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio book (available on
Listening time: 10 hours

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