Friday, January 14, 2011

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, by Arthur Bennet (ed.)


Quite possibly the best book I've read all year. These prayers are amazing. In Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner talks about the benefit of a formal prayer book. She notes that her free-form prayers often devolve into narcissism (this has definitely been my experience), but that the formal, written prayers refocus her on God. This book is a great example of the benefit of written prayers. My own free-form prayers often send me down a rabbit hole of my own personal worries and burdens--worries and burdens that I am right to share with God. But I think every one of the prayers in this book contains the Gospel, and when I read them, I am preaching the Gospel to myself. Instead of bringing my problems to God for Him to change, I find my focus shifting to my own sin, God's grace, Christ's sacrifice, and my own undeserved salvation.

Also, written prayers like these are very helpful if you are struggling with prayer. I certainly found it so. The words are true and they say true things about God and Christ and the Gospel. So when I cannot find the words or the heart to pray on my own, I can pray these written prayers. Not that I try to pray them without meaning them. I very much intend to mean them. And even if I do start out not really meaning the prayer, I usually do end up meaning it somewhere along the way. It is surprising how much such prayers can transform the human heart.

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