During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns, Jonathan Gibson became dissatisfied with the “content and structure” of his devotional routine. He described that routine as “reading and petitioning, with a few praise points thrown in.” He decided to experiment by incorporating elements of a corporate liturgy into his devotions—a “mini church service,” as it were.
Be Thou My Vision is the result of those experiments. It is a 31-day devotional structured around the following elements: call to worship, adoration, reading of the Law (by which Gibson means divine commandments generally, not Torah specifically), confession of sin, assurance of pardon, creed, praise, catechism, prayer for illumination, Scripture reading, prayer of intercession, and Lord’s Prayer.
The elements of the resulting “liturgy for daily worship” (in the words of the book’s subtitle) draw heavily on Scripture and Christian tradition.
Gibson takes the texts of the call to worship, reading of the Law, assurance of pardon, Scripture reading, and Lord’s Prayer from the English Standard Version. The call to worship consists of 31 readings from both Old and New Testament that are repeated monthly. The reading of the Law is a weekly cycle of seven passages. And the Scripture reading follows the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, which requires reader to peruse chapters in four different books of the Bible every day.
The Christian tradition provides texts for the elements of adoration, confession of sin, creed, praise, catechism, prayer for illumination, and prayers of intercession. The catechism element uses the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and readers recite the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed on a weekly basis. An appendix includes collects from the 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, though language (basically, “thees” and “thous” and verbs that end in “-th”) have been updated.
“The fixed order of the elements is to aid concentration,” Gibson writes, “while the variety of content in the elements is to avoid boredom. The repetition of Scripture readings, prayers, creeds, praises … encourages familiarity and memorization.”
Be Thou My Vision is printed beautifully and durably. My copy is hardcover in a slipcase with three ribbons to make place. I used theme to mark the day, the catechetical question, and the M’Cheyne Bible reading. I wish more Christian publishers would follow Crossway’s lead in producing aesthetically pleasing books.
On the whole, I found Gibson’s order of worship helpful. Like him, my quiet time mostly consisted of Bible reading and petitionary prayer. Organizing devotions like a “mini church service” was an improvement.
The repetition also helped. The reading of the Law—Matthew 22:37–40, Deuteronomy 6:4–9; Matthew 5:3–10; John 15:9–12; Matthew 5:20, 48; 6:1, 33; 7:12; Exodus 20:1–17; 1 John 4:7–11 repeated every seven days—reminded me how central love is to the Christian ethic. And the weekly recitation of the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds drilled home the Trinitarian character of Christian doctrine. In light of recent evangelical wrangling over the so-called eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, repeated readings of the Athanasian Creed, which repudiates any such subordination in strong terms—was a tonic.
That said, I don’t think I will continue using Be Thou My Vision in my daily quiet times. The biggest reason is that I am Arminian, while this book—especially in its use of the Heidelberg and Westminster catechisms—is most definitely Reformed (i.e., Calvinist). Also, while I can appreciate many aspects of the English Standard Version, the Bible translation underlying all of the book’s Scripture quotations, the ESV is not my go-to translation. I’m a long-time New International Version reader, and I don’t plan to jump ship for the ESV any time soon.
Even so, I have learned much from Gibson’s private daily liturgy. It is helpful to structure one’s devotions and draw on the Christian tradition even as you center your private worship around the proclamation of Scripture. That is what I will take from my month-long use of Be Thou My Vision.
Jonathan Gibson, ed., Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021).
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