Book Review: Piercing Heaven (Robert Elmer, Editor)

Book Review by Joel Radford

Joel Radford has served as the preaching elder of Drummoyne Baptist Church since 2009.

If you're like me, we do not always know what we ought to pray for, whether in private or even from the pulpit. Which is why the prayers, poetry and songs that others have written can be so helpful. The prayers of others can teach us the kinds of things we can pray to God and are often given so we can use them to speak directly to God. There is even a Biblical precedent for such collections in the book of Psalms.

But outside the Scriptures, the prayers and songs of others can be questionable and even downright heretical. Which is why it is good to have the prayers of godly men and women who have gone before us.

Many lovers of the Puritans have appreciated the collection of their prayers in the book, Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. And now another collection of Puritan prayers is available in 'Piercing Heaven' edited by Robert Elmer. 

There are prayers from the most popular Puritans like John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Joseph Alleine, Stephen Charnock, Jeremiah Burroughs, John Owen and Richard Sibbes. But in saying that, I should note that by far the majority of prayers are from those who would not technically be classified as 'Puritans', particularly Philip Doddridge and Robert Hawker. The editor defends such prayers as they are written in the 'Puritan spirit. But it does mean this collection of prayers is not quite a 'Valley of vision 2.0'.

Mini biographies of the author are included at the end of the book for those who may be unfamiliar with them, along with references to their works for further reading.

The prayers are organised into sixteen sections that teach the reader to pray for help in different areas, from doubts to suffering to preparation for worship. The sections on temptation, unbelief, confession, consecration and thanksgiving were my favourites. But gems are found in all sections. For example, consider this one from Robert Parker:

'Remind me that the fashions of the world pass away, and their momentary glory will vanish into emptiness and nothing. Draw my heart to you and set my mind on things that will last forever.
Help me love you fiercely, and cleave to you with a perfect heart. May nothing here satisfy my soul.'

All prayers are 'slightly modernized both for spelling and vocabulary' and contemporary pronouns replace the old 'Thee' and 'Ye' which makes the prayers much more user friendly for today's readers. The book is a nice hardcover that will withstand regular (even daily) use.

Don't just read this book, pray this book.


Piercing Heaven

Piercing Heaven

Prayers of the Puritans

Edited by Robert Elmer