Book Review: Concerning the Inner Life by Evelyn Underhill

In Concerning the Inner Life, Evelyn Underhill challenges us to invest deeply in our own spiritual lives, for our sake and for the sake of the people to whom we minister. “The servant of God cannot do his best unless he is his best,” she writes. 

She writes extensively on how prayer shapes ministers, different types of prayer and how this life of prayer overflows into the work of ministry. Though Concerning the Inner Life was written in 1926, Underhill’s insights remain deeply relevant to the complex work of spiritual direction.

The idea in the book that most captured my interest was that spiritual ministry requires spiritual health. This isn’t a new idea. I’ve heard it and shared it. But I’ve struggled to live it. 

Underhill summed it up well in this way: “If you, with your special facilities and training, do not manage to do this, it is not particularly likely that anyone else will do it."

Another helpful idea in the book had to do with different types of prayer. Underhill shared several prayer-spectrums throughout the book. The most useful one for me was from Bonaventura: intercessor, theologian, and contemplative. 

I’ve experienced each type of prayer, but I’ve often felt guilt about not spending more time in one of the other of these categories. It was helpful for me to read that the proportion will vary from soul to soul. And I think I would add “from season to season.”

I love classic books and this one with definitely worth checking out.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation for the book.

    It is available online as a free download here:

    I'm looking forward to reading it.

    1. That's awesome, Eric. I didn't know it was free online. Thanks for sharing!