Walter Brueggemann. Oregon: Cascade, 2007.
Owen E. Burkholder, Conference Minister
Virginia Mennonite Conference
In his early years, Brueggemann was, “rightly taught that prayer is ‘the conversation of the heart addressed to God,’ a formula that I believe derives from Augustine.” (xiv) As he has continued his study of the Psalms he has been surprised by the genuinely dialogical character of the interaction between Israel and her God. “I have come to understand…the dialogical quality of faith that leaves our life with God always open and unsettled, and available for new demanding/yielding venture.” (xvi)
The complaint psalms bring ‘the experience of dislocation’ to full voice. “They are willing to articulate this chaos to the very face of the Holy One.” The complaint psalm “is disorientation addressed to God. And in that address, something happens to the disorientation.” (11)
The movement from disorientation to reorientation is also given full voice in the Psalms. In reorientation, the presence of God is seen as transforming the earlier situation, not just restoring a mess to its former state. This evokes the deepest gratitude.
In this fashion, Brueggemann helps us deal with the realism of the Psalms. He holds before us the difficult texts, inviting us to see them first through Jewish eyes. And he finishes with a chapter on ‘Vengeance – human and divine.’
At issue, of course, is the way in which we perceive God to be at work in the world. And that brings the whole question of prayer into clear focus. We bring ourselves to prayer with all of our experiences, and some conception of God. In the authenticity of that interaction we find the possibility of deliverance from the “pit” into the “shelter of safe wings.”