This past week, I attended a Christian conference in downtown Indianapolis. While I was there, I picked up a classic book I’ve never read before, but have had my eye on for quite some time. The book is called The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.
The term “Puritan” is often used as an insult these days, directed at those our culture might label “holier than thou”. The insult could be applied like this:
“Who are you to tell me what I’m doing is wrong?!? You’re such a Puritan.”
“Since when did you care so much about morality? Why do you insist on being so straight-laced? You’d fit in well with the Puritans.”
Its true that the Puritans sometimes went too far in their moral stringency, causing harm to those around them, and their own historical reputation. They were children of their times – with sins, weaknesses, and blind spots. However, modern Christians can still learn much from the prayers and practices of the Puritans – hence the publishing of The Valley of Vision.
Consider the beauty and wisdom of the introduction:
LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see 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 the 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.
There are 193 prayers/reflections in the book, broken up into ten categories. These categories include “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, “Redemption and Reconciliation”, “Approach to God”, and “Service and Ministry”, just to name a few. The prayers/reflections are excerpts from the writings of well known Puritans such as Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, and David Brainerd.
I’ll be reading one of these prayers/reflection per day for the rest of 2017. If you’d like to join in, contact me. The book is easy to find, and very affordable – and if you can’t find or afford it, I’d be happy to help.