Skip to content ↓

Piercing Heaven: A Prayer Book You’ll Actually Use

piercing heaven

I once met a prominent Christian—a Reformed Baptist theologian, even—who admitted something to me that sounded almost scandalous: He doesn’t care for The Pilgrim’s Progress. He read it as a student, he re-read it as an adult, and it just didn’t do much for him. And with that in view, here’s a confession of my own: I don’t really care for The Valley of Vision, that collection of Puritan prayers collected by Arthur Bennett. There are undoubtedly a few jewels in the collection, but most of the prayers just haven’t resonated with me. I set aside the book years ago and have only rarely returned to it.

It is probably for that reason that I approached Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans with a bit of skepticism. This collection was assembled by Robert Elmer and is similar in that it brings together edited prayers from various Puritan authors. But to my mind, these prayers are often far superior to the ones in The Valley of Vision. Why? I don’t think I can quite say, except that they are less poetic and, therefore, perhaps a little more “normal” or accessible. These are prayers that I can comfortably pray privately or publicly without them sounding too poetic or too dated.

So what does it mean to pray like a Puritan? This is the subject of the book’s introduction and Elmer answers by saying that their aim was “neither casual nor perfunctory prayer. The prayers of the Puritans shook lives to the core, pled with a sovereign God for mercy, and praised him in the brightest sunshine of grace.” They learned and practiced “the great open secret of prayer: the value of praying God’s words back to him. Over and over throughout their prayers, the Puritans make allusion to the Bible. It suffuses their devotion, keeping it from morphing into mysticism. It also makes them accessible to today’s Christians—because the Bible is something we surely share.” The purpose of his book is to recover some such prayers and to make them accessible to twenty-first century believers.

To do that he has drawn prayers from sermons and original languages and, when necessary, updated the language and illustrations. He has also at some points turned the words from third-person to second-person to use the form of personal address. Put together, he has assembled a great collection of extremely helpful prayers. They range in length from a few sentences to several paragraphs are divided into a number of categories: Asking God for help, suffering and sickness, resting in God’s love, preparation for the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper, forgiveness, evangelism, beginning and ending the day, and so on. There must be a couple hundred all-told. Here are a few examples:

Piercing Heaven has quickly become a favorite book and one I keep near me for when I pray—and especially for when I don’t know what or how to pray. It’s a wonderful resource and one I highly recommend.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 16)

    A La Carte: When intrusive thoughts come / How a horse saved orthodoxy / The brevity of life / Bad therapy / Acts of kindness aren’t random / Does John’s Last Supper chronology differ from the other gospels? / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 15)

    A La Carte: My pastor made me wait to enter ministry and I’m grateful / How could a good God… / How should a wife respond to her husband’s bad authority? / Sing your heart out, Christian / Does Jesus’ view of grace offend you? / Preaching the Psalms as a book / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 14)

    A La Carte: When God takes his time / Biblical priorities / God is doing something / Broken pieces / Loosening my grip / Since God’s call is effectual, how can someone be a false convert? / and more.

  • Parents Need to Act Now

    This week the blog is sponsored by Harvest USA. Today, more than ever, parents need to take a proactive approach in preparing their children for a world bombarding them with false messages about sex, gender, and identity. If parents abdicate their God-given responsibility to equip and train their children with a biblical foundation for understanding…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 13)

    A La Carte: Without this, your marriage won’t make it / God moves behind the scenes / Why are there so many denominations? / No suffering is unseen / when self-centeredness sets in / Our skewed view of wealth / Kindle deals / and more.

  • God Sets the Terms and Conditions

    God Sets the Terms and Conditions

    God initiates his grace in our lives by his Holy Spirit and invites us to cooperate with it as we grow in our relationship with him. But what is that grace meant to accomplish in our lives? And how do we sustain a relationship with a Being we cannot see and with whom we cannot…