In 1975, a modern classic was published called The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotionals. (You’ve seen me recommend it both for the topic of recommended books on prayer and as a one of the best devotional books.)
10 Things to Know about The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett
1. Who is Arthur Bennett? A minister of English descent who loved the Puritans. He lived from 1915—1994.
2. Why Puritan prayers? Bennett comments in the preface, “The strength of Puritan character and life lay in the practice of prayer and meditation. Many of those who held the doctrines of grace wrote down a record of God’s intimate dealings with their souls, not with an eye to publication, but, as in David Brainerd’s case, to test their spiritual growth, and to encourage themselves by their re-perusal in times of low spiritual fervor.”
3. The preface’s description of the collection’s purpose: “The prayers should therefore be used as aspiration units, the several parts of which could become springboards for the individual’s own prayer subjects.”
4. The compiled prayers are from the works of Thomas Shepherd, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, William Williams, Philip Doddridge, William Romaine, David Brainerd, Augustus Toplady, Christmas Evans, William Jay, Henry Law, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
5. Iain Murray of The Banner of Truth Trust, known for his biographies of Charles Spurgeon, Martyn-Lloyd Jones, and Jonathan Edwards, encouraged Arthur Bennett to compile and publish The Valley of Vision.
6. The title of the book comes from Isaiah 22:1, which influenced the first prayer in the book that shares the following words:
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.
7. The Valley of Vision was not a runaway success when it first came out: it sold less than 20,000 copies in the US by the time of Bennett’s death in 1994. Since then, it has gone on to sell over 337,000 copies worldwide (statistics from 2013).
8. The prayers were compiled and stylized by Arthur Bennett from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Justin Taylor shares:
“…they are “drawn from the largely forgotten deposit of Puritan spiritual exercises, meditations and aspirations.” He writes, “A number of prayers were originally spiritual experiences, as in the case of Thomas Shepard, and some others are conflations from different sources to bind together a given theme.” Further, “A poetic form has been adopted throughout as an aid to easier comprehension and utterance.””
9. Sovereign Grace Music released an album several years ago inspired by the book of prayers.
Here’s their description from SovereignGraceMusic.org:
Someone might ask, “Why produce an album inspired by the prayers of a bunch of dead guys?” That’s an easy one. Puritans like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, and Isaac Watts knew their hearts, their Bibles, and their God much better than we do.
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.
Valley of Vision includes twelve songs that draw from these prayers at various levels and in various ways. Some use a few phrases from a specific prayer, others develop a particular idea, and a few try to capture the original flow of thought, using many of the original words.
10. You can now read the Valley of Vision for online free of charge, courtesy of The Banner of Truth.
Bonus Resources for The Valley of Vision:
- Joe Thorn’s Walking Through The Valley of Vision (a reading plan)
- Where Do The Prayers in the Valley of Vision Come from? Justin Taylor
- Paradoxes: A Sample Prayer from The Valley of Vision Audiobook