Liturgy, Personal Devotions, and Jonathan Gibson

A Review of Jonathan Gibson's "Be Thou My Vision"

If you’ve ever found your personal devotions feeling repetitive and dull, you’re in a similar situation to Jonathan Gibson during the 2020 lockdowns. In an effort to refresh his devotional time, he put together a daily liturgy to follow for 31 days, and then to repeat as you like. Be Thou My Vision has been a wonderful aid in stimulating our morning devotional time as a family.

We spent fifteen minutes each day through the month of March. The liturgy follows a gospel arc as you begin with a call to worship and adoration, followed by a reading of the law (swapping between Old and New Testament passages), confession, and assurance of pardon. You read a creed, sing a song, and do a catechism question. After praying for illumination you read the next passage in your daily Bible reading plan, and finish with prayers of petition and the Lord’s Prayer. All designed for fifteen to twenty minutes.

By far the most wonderful segment of the liturgy has been hearing how God forgives us. Each day we read a passage that assured us God hears our confession and our sins are fully pardoned because of God’s grace toward us in Christ. This reminder of God’s pardon then allows us to boldly approach him through his Word and with our cries for help. Meditate on this passage, for example:

The LORD, the LORD, [is] a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. (Exod 34:6-7)

It is a truly wonderful way to start the day—assured afresh of my status before God. Although I encountered sin, sadness, criticism, and frustrations within myself, I could lean on these words of comfort from God.

Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship

Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship

Crossway. 352 PAGES.

Every Christian knows the importance of a daily quiet time with the Lord. But anyone who’s been a believer long enough has likely experienced seasons that feel more mundane or routine, leading to aimlessly skimming a couple of Bible verses or praying the same prayer over and over.

In Be Thou My Vision, Jonathan Gibson has created a 31-day liturgical guide designed to provide structure to the daily worship of individuals and families.

Crossway. 352 PAGES.

The liturgy is very structured. This suits me well, as I thrive within order and routine. It also helps for memorisation—by day 14, our four-year-old had memorised the Lord’s Prayer and significant portions of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. While the daily repetition may not suit everyone, if you find it stifling, there are plenty of spaces to fill things in with your own prayers and readings.

Although I encountered sin, sadness, criticism, and frustrations within myself, I could lean on these words of comfort from God.

The liturgy uses prayers from church history. There are a lot of moments for prayer, including adoration, confession, illumination and petitions. All of these prayers are stimulating and most of them are helpful. That being said, they usually include difficult old English language and concepts. This would be my number one quibble with the book.

Although much of the liturgy and Scripture references are in modern English, the prayers are hard work. They are not impossible, but they would be really difficult for someone not familiar with the old language. My husband and I are both native English speakers with theology degrees, and we still had to pause during some of the prayers to ask, “what does that mean?” Gibson would have done an incredible service to the wider Christian church had he modernised or even adapted the archaic language.

For those that appreciate beautiful books, the format and design of Be Thou My Vision is simply stunning. The structure and format are very readable too. The book begins with an introduction to the place of private worship and an explanation of the segments. Then it has the 31 days of liturgy. At the back are the catechisms, Bible reading plan, and other resources. They have cleverly included three ribbon bookmarks so you can keep your place in all three segments without flicking around. Well done, Crossway! A book commendable in substance and form.