Review of Prayer in the Hebrew Bible, Part Two

Chapter 2 – The Method

In this chapter, Balentine lays out the method of his approach. Since studies on prayer in the Hebrew Bible tend to focus on Israelite liturgy, predominantly (though not exclusively) on the Psalms, Balentine chooses to explore the prose prayers of the Hebrew Bible. His study is to be largely synchronic, and as such he is not providing a history of prayer. He does aim to provide observations regarding the function of prayers in narrative texts, how these prayers portray God, and the ideological portrayal of both God and the human partner. Balentine briefly addresses how one might define prayer, and he chooses to follow E. Staudt who sees prayer as “explicit,” or as Balentine tweaks it, “intentional” communication with God. He locates intentionality in prayer through both prayer vocabulary and simply dialogue.

Chapter 3 – In The Beginning God

Beginning with the observation that God himself is the most basic confession of all prayers (whether lament or praise), Balentine moves to reflect on the most basic characteristic of God implied by human prayer–“What is it in the nature and character of God that both summons forth and enables the response to prayer?” (34). Reserving a future chapter for discussing how God is characterized in prayers, this chapter discusses how God is characterized by prayer as a religious phenomenon. The language of prayer is immersed in anthropomorphic metaphor for God. Such language underscores God’s own relatedness to the world, particularly to humanity.Some of this language is characteristically monarchical–God as King and humanity as his subjects–while other language is convenantal. Either way, the language serves to emphasize that God is “powerful to effect change in the world and accessible within the world to personal appeal” (47).

Links to the other posts in which I review this book can be found here.

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