From The Valley of Vision

I’m not sure what might come to your mind when you hear someone talk about Puritans… Maybe you think of a severely strict, outdated type of religion. The word puritanical is used mostly in a derogatory way these days. If someone suggests you are puritanical they might think you are uptight, legalistic and a prude. Even evangelicals sometimes try to distance themselves from the idea of being like a puritan because of the misconceptions of others.

You probably know that the Puritan Movement was a religious movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries whose influence has continued to this day. According to the foreword in The Valley of Vision… “the strength of the Puritan character and life lay in the practice of prayer and meditation.” This statement indicates that the puritans were actually opposite of legalists.

Prayer and meditation, unless performed like a Pharisee, are private acts of worship. In prayer and meditation we are most honest and sincere – laid bare. If we have no desire for prayer and meditation, there is a serious problem with our spiritual life that will eventually be exposed in our acts of more public worship and christian living. Legalism – Outwardly living a life that is a pretense of spirituality and yet dead inside.

I am thankful for The Valley of Vision which is a testimony to the richness of the spiritual life of the puritan men and women of the past. The following is an example of the humility and concern for ‘heart-work’ in the life of the believer. It is a transparent prayer that is full of humble confession and desire for a sincere, grace-given love.

It is thy will that I should love thee
with heart, soul, mind, strength,
and my neighbor as myself.

But I am not sufficient for these things.
There is by nature no pure love in my soul;
Every affection in me is turned from thee;
I cannot love thee, lovely as thou art,
until thou dost set me free.

By grace I am thy freeman and would serve thee,
for I believe thou art my God in Jesus,
and that through him I am redeemed,
and my sins are forgiven.

With this freedom I would always obey thee,
but I cannot walk in liberty,
any more than I could first attain it, of myself.
May thy Spirit draw me nearer to thee and thy ways.

Thou art the end of all means,
for if they lead me not to thee,
I go away empty.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse with thee.
may I grow in thy love and manifest it to mankind.

Spirit of love, make me love like the loving Jesus;
give me his benevolent temper,
his beneficient actions,
that I may shine before men to thy glory.

The more thou doest in love in me and by me,
humble me the more;
keep me meek, lowly,
and always ready to give thee honour.

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