Review: Ordering Your Private World

Gordon MacDonald, Thomas Nelson, 2003. 330 pages, Three of Five stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 3.55.00 PMGordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World is a book for undisciplined and disorganized people. That this book was a national bestseller with over one million copies sold tells us that most of us fit into these two categories.

This book on spiritual disciplines is for pastors, but applicable for everyone—one reason being the host of excellent illustrations.

The “private world” includes the aspects of our lives that are invisible to those around us. It is spiritual. It is vital. Indeed, it is private. MacDonald balks at the clichés used today to describe the private world, “quiet time” being one of them. A person’s “quiet time” is too easily measured; it is too rigid. Our private world encompasses everything we are before God. Unless a person is militant in managing this aspect of his life, he eventually will “hit the wall”, which is the title of MacDonald’s first chapter.

All 14 chapters begin with the phrase “Memo to the disorganized: If my private world is in order, it will be because…” Here, he lists 15 ways that organized people order their private world. MacDonald more broadly outlines the book into five sections (or sectors). They are: 1) motivation 2) use of time 3) wisdom and knowledge 4) spiritual strength 5) restoration.


  • “My observation is that somewhere in his early thirties, indications of possible trouble will begin to show in the life of the naturally talented fast starter. There may be the first hints that the rest of the race in life will have to be run on endurance and discipline and not talent. And like the runner from Poly Prep, he may start to see that the slower but better-conditioned runners are beginning to catch up.”
  • “Some Christians appear to be afraid to think. And they do not see the significance of wrestling with great ideas if they cannot always come up with easily packaged answers.”
  • “I hate to meet a man whom I have met ten years ago and find that he is at precisely the same point, neither moderated nor quickened nor experienced but simply stiffened.” From Oswald Chambers

In conclusion, this book on discipline does not set itself apart from the many in print. Some of MacDonald’s outlining methods are annoying. Still, I enjoyed the book for three reasons: I can relate with MacDonald’s personality, he is very well read, and he deals with an intriguing and attractive topic.

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