Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book review: Don't like devotionals? Then I have THE one for you, The Valley of Vision

Christians often speak of "Devotions" or of doing a "devotional."

CARM.org defines devotions this way:
Devotions are times when you focus on the person of God in prayer and/or the Bible and set your heart and mind on his divine truth. Devotions are quiet times of reflection, confession, examination, and worship. Our devotions must be Christ centered and seek to move us into a more intimate and personal relationship with our Lord.
GotQuestions defines devotions:
Daily devotions” is a phrase used to describe the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading can take the form of a structured study using a devotional or simply reading through certain passages or perhaps reading through the Bible in a year. Prayer can include any or all of the different prayers—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and/or intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions.
There are lots and lots and lots and lots of devotion books out there. Some are good, some are great, and some are bad-to-demonic. Jesus Calling is at the top of the bestseller lists but falls under the umbrella of "imperiling your soul" category.

Excellent devotionals would be,

Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest
John MacArthur's Drawing Near (or any of his others)
Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening series or Faith's Check-book
We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon's Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

They can be found online for free as well as in hard copy.

I own or owned all of the above. Yet I have never been able to get on the devotional bandwagon. I read the bible and pray, listen to sermons and read theology books, but I've never consistently been able to devote myself to a devotional.

Until I found The Valley of Vision.

This is a collection of anonymous devotional prayers written by Puritans. The book description says,
The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature. Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order and definiteness. The reason for this lies partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to ‘supply’ prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before.
Yet the book really defies description. Just as John Bunyan's 1678 publication of Pilgrim's Progress is thought to be "as important as the Bible as a Christian document", and "one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written," The Valley of Vision remains one of the most important and influential prayer books ever penned and published.

Testimony after testimony speak to the book's moving language, the convicting attitude, the poetic yet humble manner in which the words both pierce and comfort.

A Reviewer at Banner of Truth said,
In the mornings when I endeavor to set my heart on God, it is often difficult to awaken my mind and heart when still shaking off the lingering effects of a night spent sleeping. After a brief prayer, I have found the prayers in the book kindle the flame in my heart to seek His face anew. Often, after I’ve read through a prayer, slowly and deliberately, I’m left with tears standing in my eyes, and an “Amen” whispering from my lips. In my heart I say to the Lord, “Yes. Make that my prayer too, Lord.” When you have difficulty finding the words to pray, this book can be used of the Spirit to bring them out for you. I thank God for these prayers. They are timeless, and a means of grace to me.
Or this testimonial,
The prayers in this book just touch my soul and enrich my spirit every morning. This is a must have for those who are truly born again.
Or this one,
"I cannot commend enough The Valley of Vision, which is a compilation of over two-hundred pages of Puritan prayers (each of which are one page in length). I pray through one of these prayers every day. Sometimes the prayers are so meaningful and relevant that I will pray through the same prayer for days. This is a wonderful aid to supplement one's own prayers. Indeed, these prayers will also teach one how to pray, and, at the same time, they teach theological truth. I cannot think of any Christian who would not benefit from these prayers." - G. K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary
Here is but one sentence to give you a taste:
Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.
Uniformly, the reviews and comments on The Valley of Vision contain effusive praise for the theology, the writing, and the simply beautiful devotion each author had for our tremendous Savior. The prayer devotionals are sophisticated yet accessible, timeless and powerful. I add my commendation to the chorus of praise echoing through the centuries, and urge any and all who truly want a deep, moving, and powerful devotional to purchase The Valley of Vision today.

The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Available through Banner of Truth Trust, Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore, and Amazon.com

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Further Reading:

Appreciating the Genius of Puritanism

7 comments :

  1. Gave my leather bound copy to a friend. They are pretty expensive now but got a really good coupon and ordered one. So excited to get it again. Been doing the devotional online at Banner of Truth until it comes in.
    This has been my summer of reading Puritan books and listened to don kirstner's series on the Puritans. It was really good!!
    Been very blessed by all of it! Enjoyed reading along with Challies too!
    Pam

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    1. Yay, good for you, Pam! The Puritans sure were a solid bunch. I love their works. I bought a copy for a friend for Christmas because he likes the Puritans, and he got so excited over it (because he'd given his own copy away) that I got interested and bought one for myself, and began reading. Now I can't stop. AND I understand his joy over receiving a copy!

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  2. Two years ago friends gave me a leather-bound version for my birthday. I've posted several on my blog, and will post many more.

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  3. I, too, have been reading The Valley of Vision for about 6 months and love the depth of each prayer. Perhaps my favorite prayer is "The Deeps" under Penitence and Deprecation. Once a week I also add a selection from either "The Pastor in Prayer" by Charles Spurgeon, or "A Year of Prayer" by John MacArthur. But over all, I agree with your assessment of the Puritans being solid in their prayer life.
    Sandy

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  4. Yes, but the "Valley of Vision" should not replace God's Word, and its writers (Puritans or not), should not be elevated and treated as though they were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the same way those who wrote the Bible had been; they were not.

    Caren W. Rutherford

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  5. Hi Caren W. Rutherford

    You are absolutely right. I think all of us understand the Bible is primary and no one but Jesus should be elevated. Thanks for the reminder. But Valley of Vision as a secondary source of theological inspiration, it's a corker!

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  6. A friend of mine got this this year/last year, and kept sending me quotes from it. Some of them are saved in my phone; they were really relevant, despite the gulf of time.

    Good theology always is.

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