When I was young I was completely infatuated with my dad’s library of Banner of Truth books. One of my favorite books he owned was The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. He has a beautiful leather bound copy now, and I own his tattered and worn copy published November 1, 1975, the month and year of my birth. The top, bottom and side pages are stamped with his name in elegant script. All his books were marked in this way. The Valley of Vision was my first introduction to prayer as poetry which has become a very important part of my spiritual walk. I now have an entire shelf of books that are written prayers. Many of my personal journal entries and very old blog posts end with my own heart cries. Even during the years I spent far from God I kept this book with me. Imagine the prodigal daughter moving from place to place with whatever I could fit in my powder blue, two door, 1992 Chevy Cavalier with dancing bears on the back windshield and a pack of Camels in the center console. In a milk crate of books on the passenger side, in between Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation, was this touchstone of faith. After the Bible it is the single most influential book in my life.
On Ash Wednesday I began my Lenten journey by reading the prayer titled “The Grace of the Cross” from page 172. I copied it and put it in my Bible to pray through daily during these 40 days. Monday I didn’t look at it at all as I forced my way through the motions of devotions and prayer. Yesterday I didn’t even open my Bible. This morning, after my family left for work and school, I sat here in my nest chair with my coffee and reached for the photocopy sticking out of my Bible. I only had words of lament in my mind and heart, but I knew it was time for this prayer:
O MY SAVIOUR,
I thank thee from the depths of my being
for thy wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,
as the brazen serpent that calls forth
the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;
Make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties,
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
And by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.
O MY LORD AND SAVIOUR,
Thou hast also appointed a cross for me
to take up and carry,
a cross before thou givest me a crown.
Thou hast appointed it to be my portion,
but self-love hates it,
carnal reason is unreconciled to it;
without the grace of patience I cannot bear it,
walk with it, profit by it.
O blessed cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee!
Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will,
heavy because I shirk thy load.
Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour,
that with my cross thou sendest promised grace
so that I may bear it patiently,
that my cross is thy yoke which is easy,
and thy burden which is light.
The past two days I have been buried in the self love and the carnal reason. I have turned my mind and heart away from the Grace that brings the patience to bear this pain, walk this pain and even profit from this pain again. Knowing what He suffered for me how can I shirk this load?
Today I am taking up my cross, my appointed portion in this life, and carrying it through His amazing love and sacrifice for me. This is easy. This is light. This is GRACE. This is the essence of my “religion.”
May I rest in ceaseless praise for the minutes, the hours, the days and even weeks God gave me a higher view, a healing view, a hopeful view of where I’d been living.
May I rest in ceaseless praise for this return to the “Valley of Vision.”
(If you’ve never heard Sovereign Grace’s album of songs taken from this book you must find time to download it and add it to your playlists. This is the beautiful song taken from the title prayer. It is on repeat today.)
Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.