The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Poems and Devotions (available in paperback, leather, and audio) is a modern-day spiritual classic.

But few people know who was behind it, where the prayers come from, and how they were collected.

Here is an FAQ, based on what I can gather.

Where does the title come from?

Isaiah 22:1, “The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” (KJV). This is also the title of the first prayer in the book—the best-known entry in the collection—beautifully written by the editor.

Who edited it?

Arthur Bennett (1915-1994), an English-born minister, tutor, and author who loved to study the Puritans. You can read a biographical sketch written by his family here.

When was it compiled?

The research for the volume took years to complete. It seems that the work was done in the mid 1960s through early 1970s.

When was it first published?

The Banner of Truth Trust published it in 1975.

How many copies has it sold?

In the first 20 years (1975-1994), it sold less than 20,000 copies in the U.S. But it has now sold over 337,000 copies worldwide. Noting that Bennett died in 1994, Tony Reinke comments: “Bennett, like so many of the Puritans he drew from, did not live to see the scope of his book’s influence.”

Is the book in the public domain since it collects materials that are no longer under copyright?

No. This is based on a misunderstanding of Bennett’s work and the nature of the material. He did not select completed Puritan poems and simply copy them down, one right after the other. His is essentially an original piece of work, under copyright, representing years of research. Banner of Truth soon plans to publish an eBook version, but if you currently see copies on the web or eBooks being sold by other parties, they are being done so illegally (whether the distributor realizes it or not).

Are there sources in the book indicating where the prayers are from?

No, not for the individual prayers. All we know for certain is that Bennett composed the first prayer himself. Bennett tells us the authors and books he is quoting, but they are not keyed to the actual prayers.

How did Bennett compile the prayers?

He gives us a few clues: 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.”

Has anyone done research to reconstruct where each prayer comes from?

Not to my knowledge. If this changes, feel free to let me know. I suspect it would be a major undertaking, perhaps almost impossible for many of prayers, as it is difficult to know just how much editing and conflating was involved.

Whom does Bennett quote?

Bennett indicates that the prayers are drawn from the works of the following men. I’ve added their dates:

  • Thomas Shepard (1605-1649)
  • Richard Baxter (1615-1691
  • Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)
  • John Bunyan (1628-1688)
  • Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
  • Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)
  • William Romaine (1714-1795)
  • William Williams [of Pontycelyn] (1717-1791)
  • David Brainerd (1718-1747)
  • Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)
  • Christmas Evans (1766-1838)
  • William Jay (1769-1853)
  • Henry Law (1797-1884)
  • Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

The “Puritan” label, and who should receive it, is disputed among historians. It generally refers to several variations of church reformers in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England and America (roughly spanning 1560 to 1660). In the strict sense, “Puritan” should probably be reserved for those operating up until 1689.

That would make only the first four authors above “Puritans proper.” Since the majority of his sources are from the eighteenth century, it seems Bennett is referring to those who carried on the Puritan legacy of theology and piety.  I suspect that someone like Spurgeon is not being quoted himself, but probably used for his quotations of the Puritans and their successors (which often appeared in his sermons).

What books in particular did Bennett use?

He lists the following. I’ve made some edits to his list for the sake of accuracy and sought to provide public-domain links where possible.

If I had to guess (without doing the original research myself), I suspect the works by Jay, Law, Toplady, Watts, and Williams are the most frequently cited, given that those works involve extensive prayers and hymns. But that may be a task for some intrepid researcher to confirm or refute!

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18 thoughts on “Where Do the Prayers Come from in “The Valley of Vision”? And Sundry Questions”

  1. Wesley says:

    Love, love, LOVE this volume and refer to it often both for personal worship/intercession or for opening prayers in our Sunday morning service. A valuable resource on so many levels.

  2. lenna smith says:

    For about 7 days i have not been able to access your daily e-mail.
    Please assist me. i am an elderly gal with no grandchildren close by to help.
    The daily e mail is so valuable.
    thank you .
    lenna Smith
    lennasmith@ausdoctors.net

  3. Trish Carter says:

    I have got to read this book. Thank you.

  4. Excellent book! If you are looking for a great resource to help your prayer life then I highly recommend it.

  5. A few years ago I wrote Banner of Truth asking if there was any chance of a Volume 2, and they sadly said no. Too bad. The only other prayer books I use are Scotty Smith’s and an excellent one, Prayers for Today by Kurt Bjorklund.

  6. Lorraine D. Mersiowsky says:

    I have kept this book on my bedside table along with my Bible for years. I recently purchased a leatherbound copy to replace my worn out paperback copy. It is the first thing I reach for even before I’m fully awake. I often spend days or even weeks on some prayers. Thank you for your research on this book. I have often wondered about where, when and how this book came to be and about the person who compiled it. Great news that it will soon be available on Kindle. Thank you.

  7. Wayne Wilson says:

    A wonderful work. I have found that many of the prayers can be used with great effect as part of the Communion service.

  8. Thom Cole says:

    As to the section about this work being Copywrited. I specifically requested a clarification on this from Banner of Truth when I asked them if I could post some of these prayers on my blog. Here is the response I got:

    ****
    Thank you for your email. Yes, the normal procedure is to just check with us for permission when requesting a prayer or any usage of any of our titles. I do not see a problem with this and linking back to our website will be just fine.

    Sincerely,
    Beth Wiley
    Rights and Permissions
    ****

    I do recommend this book as a wonderful devotional book. It also gives me much insight into the way the puritans prayed and I have commented to many who I recommend this book to that you don’t typically hear prayers today that sound anything like those found in The Valley of Vision.

  9. Dean Taylor says:

    Thank you for this background info. I linked to it at http://www.SpeakingofGod.org.

  10. Ginny says:

    Check out Christine Dente’s CD “Voyage,” which is a compilation of songs based on “The Valley of Vision.” http://www.christinedente.net/

  11. Doc B says:

    Sounds like a project for someone with Logos 5.1 software, since many of the original sources are available as resources in that software and searching can be quite complex and thorough in Logos.

    Particularly, if VV becomes available in Logos, I would guess the research would be greatly simplified.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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