I don’t know if you ever notice this, but there are some books that repeatedly come up as quoted in other books. When I notice that, (usually third time’s the charm) I have my curiosity peaked enough to pick up the quoted book. I’m currently savoring, and I do mean savoring, The Valley of Vison by Arthur Bennett. Over the years, I have read quotes from this book so often I began to wonder if I had actually read it in its entirety by now!
I’m doing the NLT Chronological One Year Bible [affiliate link] for my devotional reading this year, and it’s a fascinating way to see the way the prophetic books weave together with the historical books. I love it! Right now I’m meandering along through the dark time of the exile described in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the like. Heavy stuff, rightly so, and it’s really stirring me to prayer for people I know, for the nations, for Israel. I came across a quote from Valley of Vision in another book and thought this would be a good time dive into it. So very glad I took plunge.
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers is just that-a collection of short prayers organized into topical sections by Arthur Bennett, an English clergyman. According to the editor, “This book is not intended to be read as a prayer manual. The soul learns to pray by praying…The prayers should therefore be used as aspiration units, the several parts of which could become springboards for the individual’s own prayer subjects.” (Preface)
The preface contains a list of all the writers of the prayers, some you may recognize would be Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd and Charles Spurgeon. The writing in this book is amazing-achingly beautiful in its poetic language. While I don’t read poetry regularly, the loveliness of the writers call to God draws the words around us like a gentle cord that finds our hearts yoked with theirs. I loved this:
“May I always be subordinate to thee, be dependent upon thee,
And found in the path where thou dost walk, and where thy Spirit moves,
take heed of estrangement from thee, and becoming insensible to thy love…
Grant me to attain this haven and be done with sailing, and may the gales of thy mercy blow me safely into harbor.
Let thy love draw me nearer to thyself, wean me from sin, mortify me to this world, and make me ready for my departure hence.
Secure me by thy grace as I sail across this stormy sea.” From “The Mover”
What surprised me most about these prayers is how they changed my very ignorant perspective of the Puritans. The transparent supplication, the thirst for and dependence on the Holy Spirit for daily life, the deep desire to glorify God through doing good to others was strikingly relevant in its application for today. Thinking of Puritans and frowning legalists concerned only with good behavior for good behaviors sake was certainly shortsighted on my part (where did I ever come up with that impression anyway? Too many Pilgrim movies?) These prayers were often the expression of the weight on my heart, words I couldn’t form but certainly my hearts cry to God.
Short, poignant, inspiring, these prayers truly are a springboard for your own prayers and a worthy companion for your devotional reading. If you don’t purchase on line through our affiliate link here, be careful to choose the Banner of Truth edition edited by Arthur Bennett, I came upon several books of the same title we would never recommend!
Read well, friends!