Gibson, Jonathan. Be Thou My Vision: a liturgy for Daily Worship. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois. 2021.
If you, like me, have struggled with focus, freshness, and a framework in your private time of prayer and Bible-reading (or quiet time) then “Be Thou My Vision - A Liturgy For Daily Worship” by Jonathan Gibson may be just the tool you are looking for.
“Be Thou My Vision” is essentially 31 days of gospel-shaped liturgy borrowing heavily from the gospel structure of the services in the Book of Common Prayer 1552 … but with a wonderful variation. The variation is that most of the prayers don’t come from BCP but from a great variety of writers from church history.
The ‘contributors’ to “Be Thou My Vision” include saints the likes of: à Kempis, Ambrose, Anselm, Augustine, Baxter, Bucer, Calvin, Chrysostom, Edwards, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Great, Luther, and Patrick; as well as Church of England saints, such as: Cranmer, Herbert, Johnson, Taylor, Toplady, Wesley, and Wilberforce.
The author, Gibson, a Presbyterian pastor and Cambridge PhD, was struggling with his private worship during the COVID-19 lockdowns. An Anglican Australian friend recommended he apply himself to compiling a resource that others could use, and the product of that is “Be Thou My Vision”.
The basic structure of each daily liturgy is: call to worship, adoration, reading of the law, confession of sin, assurance of pardon, creed, praise, catechism, prayer for illumination, Scripture reading, prayer of intercession, petitions, the Lord’s Prayer.
There are also a treasure trove of appendices which provide: musical tunes for the doxology and Gloria Patri; the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism; the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan; the collects from BCP 1552 (many of which date back to the early church); and an author and liturgy index.
“Be Thou My Vision” is a feast of spiritual feeding as the different contributions are not only theologically profound but they are also thoughtfully, creatively, and sensitively combined. It is considerately prepared so that each daily liturgy is able to be completed in approximately 20 minutes (even the Athanasian Creed is wisely broken up across three consecutive days). In addition it is beautifully presented in a box with a cloth-bound hard cover and three differently coloured bookmarks.
“Be Thou My Vision” does, however, have a few ‘weaknesses’. For example, the language used is the original English or English translation, which can be hard going for some, yet with American spelling. The variety of authors from different church ages means that the expression is quite a mix of quaint and sophisticated, of dense and pithy. I also occasionally find myself distracted by a minor theological quibble, such as the beatitudes being presented as law or encountering descended “into hell” - rather than “to the dead” - in the Apostles’ Creed.
“Be Thou My Vision” is an enormously helpful resource for private worship which could well revolutionise your quiet time or, at least, breathe new life into your time alone with God. Although the book is presented as a resource for personal or family worship, I would only recommend it to adults and especially to theologically mature readers.
Hilton Jordan is Senior Pastor of RAFT Anglican Church in Rowville, Victoria.