Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

An Evening Praise (From the Valley of Vision)

Today, I offer you ‘Evening Praise” from The Valley of Vision. It’s a beautiful and stirring Puritan prayer.

As I often do with my students, I encourage you to read it contemplatively.

First, read it through silently at your regular reading speed.

Take it in, as C.S. Lewis says in “A Preface to Paradise Lost” the way you would a corkscrew or a cathedral:

The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is—what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used. After that has been discovered the temperance reformer may decide that the corkscrew was made for a bad purpose, and the communist may think the same about the cathedral. But such questions come later. The first thing is to understand the object before you: as long as you think the corkscrew was meant for opening tins or the cathedral for entertaining tourists you can say nothing to the purpose about them.


Another day is ended
and I take my place beneath my great Redeemer’s cross,
  where healing stream continually descend,
  where balm is poured into every wound,
  where I wash anew in the all-cleansing blood,
  assured that thou seest in me no spots of sin. 
Yet a little while and I shall go to thy home and be no more seen;
Help me to gird up the loins of my mind,
    to quicken my step, 
      to speed as if each moment were my last, 
         that my life be joy, my death glory.
I thank thee for the temporal blessings of this world–
          the refreshing air,
          the light of the sun,
          the food that renews strength,
          the raiment that clothes,
          the dwelling that shelters,
          the sleep that gives rest,
          the starry canopy of night,
          the summer breeze,
          the flower’s sweetness,
          the music of flowing streams,
          the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends.
Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort.
My cup runs over.
Suffer me not be insensible to these daily mercies.
Thy hand bestows blessings: thy power averts evil.
I bring my tribute of thanks for spiritual graces,
  the full warmth of faith,
  the cheering presence of thy Spirit,
  the strength of thy restraining will,
  thy spiking of hell’s artillery. 
Blessed be my sovereign Lord!  

Next, read it aloud, listening to the rhythm and eloquence of the prose.

Now, read the prayer slowly. Meditate on each line, each phrase, and each word.

Why might the author have chosen one word over another?

What might the structure by communicating?

Finally, read the prayer, prayerfully.

Make the words your words, the petitions and praises your petitions and praises.

What would you add? What would you pray differently? Why?

If you journal, perhaps it is worthy of your written reflection.

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he’ll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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