Fresh Views of God from Voices of the Past: The Valley of Vision

ValleyofVision-BookcoverThe Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett

“The soul learns to pray by praying; for prayer is communion with a transcendent and immanent God who on the ground of his nature and attributes calls forth all the powers of the redeemed soul in acts of total adoration and dedication.”

The Valley of Vision is a collection of prayers, 195 in all, compiled by Arthur Bennett from various men from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, David Brainerd, Isaac Watts, Augustus Toplady, Philip Doddridge, and Charles Spurgeon, as well as others. These short, devotional, poetic prayers are a wonderful way to start and/or end each day. They would serve well for private, personal devotions and meditation, or for family worship.

The prayers in this collection highlight such doctrinal truths as the roles of the persons of the Trinity, the sovereignty of God in salvation, the importance of mortifying sin, the attributes of God, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

ValleyofVision-QuoteThe poems express thoughts of praise and thanksgiving, encouragement, comfort, humility and repentance. Unlike much of what is written for Christians these days, these passages rightly elevate God’s Word and works and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and keep a proper perspective of man and his dependence on the Lord for all he is and has.

The title of the collection was taken from Isaiah 22 and was the inspiration for this introductory prayer by Bennett:

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox,
+++++that the way down is the way up,
+++++that to be low is to be high,
+++++that the broken heart is the healed heart,
+++++that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
+++++that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
+++++that to have nothing is to possess all,
+++++that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
+++++that to give is to receive,
+++++that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
++++++++thy life in my death,
++++++++thy joy in my sorrow,
++++++++thy grace in my sin,
++++++++thy riches in my poverty,
++++++++thy glory in my valley.

The prayers have been organized topically in sections under the following headings:

  1. Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  2. Redemption and Reconciliation
  3. Penitence and Deprecation
  4. Needs and Devotions
  5. Holy Aspirations
  6. Approach to God
  7. Gifts of Grace
  8. Service and Ministry
  9. Valediction
  10. A Week’s Shared Prayers

While preparing this review, I discovered that Sovereign Grace Music has produced an album of songs inspired by some of the prayers in The Valley of Vision. Regarding the collection they say,

These prayers reveal a personal, humble, passionate relationship with an awesome God, a living Savior, and an active Spirit. Reading their meditations inspires us to pursue the same level of reality as we worship God.

There’s not much else I feel needs to be said about this book; instead I’d just like to share a few of my favorite passages to give you a little sampling of the gems contained in it. Here is one that highlights and praises the mighty works that God can and does accomplish for His people to His own glory:

Let angels sing for
+++++sinners repenting,
+++++prodigals restored,
+++++backsliders reclaimed,
+++++Satan’s captives released,
+++++blind eyes opened,
+++++broken hearts bound up,
+++++the despondent cheered,
+++++the self-righteous stripped,
+++++the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
+++++the ignorant enlightened,
+++++and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.

This next brief excerpt reminds us how the persons of the Trinity work together to bring about salvation, and that it is indeed a miraculous, supernatural work of our God:

No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel…
Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,
Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way,
Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit, for applying this way to my heart.

And of course the work of God doesn’t stop at conversion. The Lord Jesus is with us to provide all that we need as we look to Him daily, as these words of prayer express:

[Father,] Thou hast given me a Saviour, produce in me a faith to live by him, to make him all my desire, all my hope, all my glory.
May I enter him as my refuge,
build on him as my foundation,
walk in him as my way,
follow him as my guide,
conform to him as my example,
receive his instructions as my prophet,
rely on his intercession as my high priest,
obey him as my king.

This next passage serves as a wonderful reminder of why we should never base our assurance of salvation on our feelings:

It is not feeling the Spirit that proves my saved state, but the truth of what Christ did perfectly for me…It is not inner sensation that makes Christ’s death mine, for that may be delusion, being without the Word, but his death apprehended by my faith, and so testified by Word and Spirit.

Finally, this passage reminds us that the values, priorities, and desires of an individual are changed when he is saved, and that nothing this world has to offer can truly satisfy the soul, a fact that only one who is in Christ can really understand.

Most men seem to live for themselves, without much or any regard for thy glory, or for the good of others;

They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue the riches, honours, pleasures of this life, as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment, could make their immortal souls happy;

But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these! And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them, for all our happiness consists in loving thee, and being holy as thou art holy…Help me to know continually that there can be no true happiness, no fulfilling of thy purpose for me, apart from a life lived in and for the Son of thy love.

I could continue to share more beautiful passages from this collection, but instead I would invite you to explore and experience the richness of The Valley of Vision for yourself. Banner of Truth  has made it available on their website, and their daily Valley of Vision devotional (see left side) provides an easy way to go through the work.

 May my religion be always firmly rooted in thy Word,
my understanding divinely informed,
my affections holy and heavenly,
my motives simple and pure,
and my heart never wrong with thee.

Note: I have included The Valley of Vision on my list of non-fiction works I believe every Christian should read.
If you’ve read The Valley of Vision, what did you appreciate most about it?

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5 thoughts on “Fresh Views of God from Voices of the Past: The Valley of Vision

  1. Thanks for your comments, Michele and Steve. I think one of the things I appreciate about this work is that it proves that you can express emotion without throwing theological truth and depth out the window, which is what seems to be happening in evangelical churches these days

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