Great Prayers of The Old Testament

Broueggemann, Walter
Westminster John Knox Press (2008)
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Walter Broueggemann is one of our greatest contemporary Old Testament scholars and he uses all his critical acumen in this beautiful lucid book, combining a penetrating critical introduction, commentaries on 12 prayers and ending with a masterful theological summary.

His starting point is that the contemporary Christian attitude to prayer is largely philosophical rather than primitive; it might make us feel good when we pray but our act has very little to do with an ultimate being. He characterises the prayer of the Old Testament as "primitive" in that it is: "... the human reach towards holy mystery and holy ultimacy, an acknowledgment that human persons and human community are penultimate and stand in response to one who is scarcely accessible but who, in any case, will be addressed ... In the Hebrew Bible it is a frequent assertion - so frequent as to deserve the label axiomatic - that God is by nature compassionate (khannun). Indeed, this word, along with its frequent partner, 'merciful' (rahum) is specifically reserved for God alone" This is contrasted with: "Rational philosophical thought (which) destroys the essential presuppositions of a simple prayer".

Although he rightly acknowledges that the great prayers of the Old Testament are contained in the Psalms, he says that the insertion of prayer in narrative text shows that it is an inseparable part of Jewish consciousness.

The prayers he considers are:

Among other things, Broueggemann says that YHWH might be standing suppliant before Abraham rather than the other way round; that Hannah's prayer is probably Davidic; that Daniel's prayer is from the 2nd Century BCE as a response to Syrian/Hellenism; and that Job 42:6 might better be translated to show that Job rejects self-abnegation.

A fascinating and refreshing read.