This is the third in a new series of book reviews Cornerstone is publishing on our WordPress site. This week’s review is on The Valley of Vision compiled by Arthur Bennett. The idea is to encourage our readers to soak themselves in Gospel-centered literature this summer. Let the break from school not be a break from our Father in Heaven.
The burden of the valley of vision. (Isaiah 22:1, KJV)
Personally, I find that my prayers often stray to one of two extremes: structured and repetitive, or sparse and irregular. Even when I intentionally pray for different categories daily and follow some models like the Lord’s Prayer and ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), my prayers can sometime feel very programmatic and just checking off a list of boxes. This is why starting my daily devotional time with a prayer from the Valley of Vision has been extremely helpful in orientating myself at the start of the day towards God.
Unlike most of the books previously reviewed, The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Compiled by Arthur Bennett in 1994, the book contains writings of many famous Puritans, including John Bunyan, Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon. The work is divided into ten different sections, where prayers meditating on concepts such as the Trinity, Redemption, Sin, and Ministry are grouped together. While heavy, each prayer is intentionally written to bring the reader closer to God. The “Thou”s and “Thee”s may be unfamiliar and awkward to navigate at first, but getting over that brings the reader to a precious repository of godly prayers.
One key distinctive of The Valley of Vision is that while its prayers are clearly steeped in Scripture, they never conform to a set structure or formula. Even within each of the aforementioned sections, each prayer is fresh and elucidates a different aspect of our relationship with God. They are also short enough (two pages) for a quick devotion, but I often find myself pondering over the concept, meditating on it, and even praying alongside it again. The Valley of Vision is an excellent resource to teach Christians how to pray alongside others by example.
The Puritans had their shortcomings, but they were uniquely strong in their prayers and devotions. If you have found your spiritual journey dry, prayers empty, and God distant, I strongly recommend using The Valley of Vision as a devotional reading. God knows that the Holy Spirit has used it many a time to bring living water to my dry heart. Allow me to end this review with one of these prayers from the section, “Penitence and Deprecation,” titled, “Yet I Sin.”
Thou art good beyond all thought,
But I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind;
My lips are ready to confess,
but my heart is slow to feel,
and my ways reluctant to amend.
I bring my soul to thee;
break it, wound it, bend it, mould it.
Unmask to me sin’s deformity,
that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it.
My faculties have been a weapon of revolt
as a rebel I have misused my strength,
and served the foul adversary of thy kingdom.
Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly,
Grant me to know that the way of transgressors
that evil paths are wretched paths,
that to depart from thee is to lose all good.
I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law,
the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns,
the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls,
yet I daily violate and contemn its precepts.
Thy loving Spirit strives within me,
brings me Scripture warnings,
speaks in startling providences,
allures by secret whispers,
yet I choose devices and desires to my own hurt,
impiously resent, grieve,
and provoke him to abandon me.
All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them
Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of a godly grief
that trembles and fears,
yet ever trusts and loves,
which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant that through the tears of repentance
I may see more clearly the brightness
and glories of the saving cross.
The Valley of Vision is available in most Christian bookstores and online at https://banneroftruth.org/us/store/devotionalsdaily-readings/the-valley-of-vision/