NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 6th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, it’s the first Tuesday of the month, and that means it’s time to welcome reviewer Emily Whitten for her classic book recommendation.
Good morning, Emily!
EMILY WHITTEN, BOOK REVIEWER: Hey, Mary, glad to be here!
REICHARD: I think the book you’ve brought today can help prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. Is that right?
WHITTEN: That’s right. Today I brought along Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision. It’s a short book, but it’s packed full of some of the best poetry I’ve ever read. That might surprise some people, because it’s technically not a book of poetry—it’s a compilation of about 150 prayers and devotions. Thanksgiving is a great time to seek the Lord in prayer and give some thought to God’s many blessings to us this year. The Valley of Vision, like the Psalms in the Bible, helps us do that.
REICHARD: Yes, I agree. That’s sounds helpful.
WHITTEN: I’d like to start by playing a short passage of the book. In this clip, you’ll hear award-winning actor Max McLean read part of the prayer entitled “Praise and Thanksgiving.”
MUSIC: O my God / Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects / My heart admires, adores, loves thee / For my little vessel is as full as it can be. / And I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow. / When I think upon and converse with thee, / Ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up. / Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed / Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart / crowding into every moment of happiness…
WHITTEN: So, Mary, hopefully that gives our listeners a little bit of the flavor of the book.
REICHARD: Yeah, I can definitely hear the poetry there. What else do you like about it?
WHITTEN: Arthur Bennett worked as a vicar in the church of England, but he had a deep interest in the Puritans. And when he pulled together The Valley of Vision in the 1970s, he ended up using material from many Puritan writers. Sometimes Bennett used short passages of their writing, sometimes he just took inspiration from their poetry. But he ended up combining some of the best poems and devotional insights from across the centuries into one book. At this point, I’m going to pull in YouTuber and Presbyterian pastor Matthew Everhard to tell us more about Bennett’s selections:
DEVOTIONAL CLASSICS: THE VALLEY OF VISION: This is my old edition that I’ve gone through and I’ve prayed through every one of these prayers myself. And I know that you will find great benefit if you do. Let’s go ahead and look at the bibliography here. You’re gonna be reading Richard Baxter, David Brainerd, John Bunyan, Philip Doddridge, Charles Spurgeon, Isaac Watts, and so on and so forth. Those are the names of all profound saints, writers, Pilgrims, Puritans from ages gone by.
REICHARD: Bunyan, Spurgeon, Watts, wow! That’s quite a line-up!
WHITTEN: Yeah, these aren’t lightweights! I wish Bennett had given us footnotes about who contributed what, but I still like his presentation. It’s very clean, crisp, and rather than getting bogged down in history, you can pick up this book and just start praying. Here’s what another pastor, Ligon Duncan, said about how he uses the book:
LIGON DUNCAN: The prayers of the valley of vision help get me praying when there’s nothing in my tank. Sometimes, the puritans used to say pray until you pray. And The Valley of Vision helps me pray until I pray. It will bring the truths of the Bible so vividly to life in the form of expression that it drives it into your heart, and then your heart is able to turn that truth back into your own prayer back to God.
WHITTEN: Duncan also points out the book can inform our corporate prayer as well. He says he uses The Valley of Vision to shape his pastoral prayers during Sunday morning worship… And you know, Mary, since we mentioned Thanksgiving, this might be a great resource for families to pull out and pray over some turkey and dressing in a few weeks.
REICHARD: Ah. That’s a good suggestion to spiritually savor the occasion and not just sit down and eat! Emily, one last question: what did Bennett mean by the phrase Valley of Vision?
WHITTEN: Like a lot of Puritan writers and Biblical writers as well, Bennett saw the valleys of life—our times of sorrow and conviction of sin—as the time we see God most clearly. You know, I actually came across an album by Sovereign Grace that put some of the ideas of The Valley of Vision in song form. If you want, I can let you hear that as we close.
REICHARD: We’ll do that. Thanks for the recommendation today, Emily.
WHITTEN: You’re very welcome, Mary.
REICHARD: Our classic book for this month is The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. We also heard an audio clip from Max McLean’s version of the book entitled the Listener’s Valley of Vision. You can find links to some of these resources at our website, worldandeverything.org, and don’t forget to follow Emily on Twitter @emilyawhitten.