The Valley of Vision is a collection of prayers turned-devotional that were written by pastors, hymn writers, and theologians from the Puritan Movement. The book was compiled into a devotional by Arthur Bennett (1915–1994), Canon of St. Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire, England and tutor of Biblical Theology and Christian Doctrine at All Nations Christian College. Though Canon Bennett never attributed which author wrote which prayer in the book, the authors that are acknowledged are some of the greatest leaders and thinkers of all of church history such as Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd, and Augustus Toplady.
There is a massive amount of history that comes with The Valley of Vision, but the purpose of this post, more than anything, is to enrich your communion and devotion to Christ. Our church body, The Avenue Church, has been working through a sermon series based off of The Valley of Vision, that we paired with a musical project created by our church’s worship collective. One of the first sermons in the series is based off one of the first prayers that appears in the book:
“The Valley of Vision”
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
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
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 title of this prayer comes from the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 22. Isaiah felt sweeping sorrow as he experienced the fall of Jerusalem––a people who’s delights were stirred not in the goodness and character of God, rather, they were moved by a false relishing of their pretend gods; their empty idols; their hedonism; their own goals (12-13). Isaiah refuses to be comforted (v. 4):
Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
Isaiah understood the patience and holiness of God. He felt the stubbornness of the people and the radical carelessness that they had towards repentance. But not Isaiah. No. He lived in the all-consuming gloriousness of God. He wept bitterly for Jerusalem’s misplaced joy. He’s the person that passersby dismiss as the guy who is missing it and missing out. The lunatic. The uncanny part was he was the one who got it.
The contrite heart is not one that chooses to get humble, but becomes humbled by the active work of the Holy Spirit. The brokenhearted receive healing because true transformation happens by the sorrow we live and the grace we behold. It comes by seeing ourselves for what we really are in stages. Compromised.
It is humorous, but also despairing, how we are so similar to the the fallen people of Jerusalem. Our pleasures are lacking. The weakness in what we enjoy isn’t whispy due to taking to enjoyment in what is too fervent. Quite the contrary. They are [our pleasures]—as C. S. Lewis told us—“too weak.”
What sits at the throne of your heart? What is your idol? Are you willing to place it upon the altar as an offering to the Savior? The pleasures that God gives us are a means to an end, and that end is what the Reformation confessions call ‘the chief end of man.’ Man’s beginning and end is rooted in the God of the gospel.
Do not be fooled––though He promises not to break His bruised reeds (Isaiah 42:3), He makes no promises in snuffing out the pleasures he has kindly lavished upon them. Jesus will not settle for a few scattered touch-ups put upon our souls: He will have all of us through our being renovated. “Let me learn by paradox…” Are you willing to be made low to soar to the heights of true life in Christ?
A firm foundation is not recognized in a fleeting seventh heaven. It’s seen in the crucible. Search our hearts, O God, and know them.
Bennett, Arthur. The Valley of Vision. Banner of Truth. 2003. Print.
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