Cover Image: Acting in the Wake

Acting in the Wake

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The prayers included in Walter Brueggemann's Acting in the Wake are inspiring and challenging. They will bring readers comfort and make them squirm. Thank you to the author, Westminster John Knox Press, and NetGalley for the eARC.

If my reading is any indication, 2024 is going to be the year of the prayerbook. I have read four outstanding prayer collections, all due to be published soon. And there are even more on my TBR. I am not sure what is in the air, or water, or publishing zeitgeist but I am 100% on board with this trend.

Brueggemann's words are both particular to a specific setting and time, and universal in the needs and frustrations and hope they express. There are words of condemnation, words to tear down systems, and words to build communities. The book advertises itself as a collection of prayers and that is exactly what it is which means I might be wrong in wanting more. I want to keep everything currently in the book, and also would have liked a bit more scaffolding. Perhaps an essay or response written by hearers of the original prayers. Not all of them, but a few scattered throughout the book would have been lovely. Or a few sentences about the original context of some of the prayers. I guess what I am wishing for is a way to ground the prayers, give them a hook for my mind to hang them on. I want to keep everything as it is, just add a bit more. That said, the collection, as is, is definitely worth picking up, pouring over, highlighting, annotating, rewriting, and using in both personal and communal settings.

Was this review helpful?

Dr. Walter Brueggemann is a gift to the world. Not only is he a superb scholar of the Hebrew Bible, but he is also a compassionate human being that offers all of his wisdom freely with his students and readers. This collection of Brueggemann's prayers is rich resource for both private devotion and public worship. I use his work in all of my classes and recommend his writings to everyone.

Was this review helpful?

We pray with our hearts awake for God, for as Augustine teaches, "Prayer is the conversation of the heart addressed to God." Who is this God? In his preface to this book, author and prayer-writer Walter Brueggemann sees God as righteous, just, steadfast in love, merciful, and faithful. Based on these attributes from Hosea 2:19-20, we can pray with clear minds and open hearts. Most people would understand God as Omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Brueggemann takes us deeper into God's character, by paying special attention to the Old Testament use of prayers. The German Theologian, Karl Barth once said: "Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible." Brueggemann not only does that, but he also takes Barth's triad of "faith, obedience, and prayer" as instructive for this book. He also borrows from Anne Lamott's three moments of prayer as per her book title, "Help, Thanks, Wow." He notes that the Bible has a particular interest in the plight of the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. "Restorative socioeconomic and political justice" are things that God cares deeply about. We ought to learn to pray as taught by the Scriptures and also to be able to connect existing needs in our prayers. He divides the prayers into "We-Prayers" and "Thou-Prayers." The latter pleads with God to act on the injustice while the former prayers for God to use us as He deems fit. Taken from his public prayers from the 80s to the present, this book is a unique collection of such "We-Prayers" and "Thou-Prayers." The theme of justice flows throughout the prayers.

Part One about "We-Prayers" or "We Justice" contains plenty of confessions that admit our misgivings, weaknesses, and all manner of neighborliness in the world. We learn to shout out prayers to God for deliverance from the big bullies of this world. The coverage is quite wide. From the world at large, we look at how nations war against nations, violence begets violence, and about society spinning out of control. The author laments actual events such as the world wars, the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings, and the various social oppressions and injustice happening all over the world. There is gun violence, economic disparity, commercial greed, covetousness, and all kinds of evil. The many prayers move from external events to internal matters of the heart. They are connected. Human evil grows from the inside out. Healing must thus begin there. Humanly speaking, without God, we can do nothing. That's the premise of the prayers.

Part Two then declares the power and grace of God who can heal the land. Nothing can ever be hidden from the All-Seeing, All-Knowing, All-Present God. The prayers enable us to humble ourselves before God, to seek His Face, and to turn away from our wicked ways, God will hear us. For a world in disarray where lives are constantly broken, killed, or harmed, only God can do something.

My Thoughts
These prayers come across like a modern rendition of Lamentations. Brueggemann brilliantly captures the observation about the ills of the world and compares them with the sins laid out in the Old Testament. It shows us that our world is not too different from the ancient near east. Just like the people of Israel, we too have rebelled against God by not loving our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, many of the troubles of this age come from the ills of covetousness, greed, politics, power, pride, selfishness, and all the consequences of sin. These are the same kinds of ills that destroyed the ancient people. Are we repeating the same mistakes of yesterday? It seems like it. The contexts may have changed but the human heart is very much unchanged. These prayers recognize the problems of the world and attribute them to the fundamental sins that begin in the heart.

This is not some how-to book. It has powerful sets of prayers to show us how the Old Testament prophets, priests, and people sought out God earnestly for help. Brueggemann uses the same principles to help us pray the same for our modern world. There is much evil then and there is also great evil now. Only God can save the world. This premise helps us draw closer to God and to increase our trust that God can intervene and God will save us in His good time. I like the way the prayers are arranged to stress various themes. Not only does it make it easier to read, it helps us pause to pray it ourselves. There is no need to rush through the prayers. As our eyes read the prayers, let the words help us identify with the observation of the world, and to slowly turn our eyes upon Jesus. With one hand on the troubles of the world, and the other hand that grasps the Word of God, we offer up our prayers, our desires, and our yearnings to God.

This prayer book is perfect for any forms of lamentation that we might have from time to time. It is a valuable resource to keep us anchored in hope even as the world unravels more and more.

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, he is the author of dozens of books, including Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, A Gospel of Hope, and Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press via NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Was this review helpful?

The robust resolve on our part for justice is matched by the robust confidence in the authority and capacity of the holy God to whom we pray. The God to whom we pray for justice is no "nice God" who readily fits into our preferred comfort zones. Rather, this God is an active agent who works for God's own holy purpose for the full restoration of creation in all its fruitful splendor. It is the work of our thou-prayers to urge, move and mobilize God to actions that authorize and cohere with our own faithful actions for justice.

A collection of prayers for justice. It is a resource to get us on the move to not be thinking about ourselves but about others. I wrestle with how does God view justice? Why does he allow for injustice for the unborn, for the poor? Sin is why we have injustice which was not adequately addressed. I believe our awareness of who God is and sin will open our dependency on God and not on what we need to change. So much injustice now seems to stem from trying to fix social issues.

Some of the prayers were very helpful to me others were not. God have mercy on us is my prayer.

A special thank you to Westminster John Knox Press and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Acting in the Wake by Walter Brueggemann is a master work on prayer that works on many levels.

First, with background the author presents a summary about prayers and how they pertain to the theme of Justice as desired by God. The remainder of the book is presented in two sections; “We” and “Thou” justice prayers. The reader gains much insight through this collection created by one of our top modern theological scholars.

Second, this prayers themselves offer the reader a walk through history and how Brueggemann applied prayer to different situations (9/11) and commemorations (MlK). Reading how he prayerful responded to topics via prayer is yet another entry into the author himself.

Finally, this refreshing collection of prayers offers the discerning reader the dual gift of perhaps lifting one of these for their own purposes, or better yet, how to create their own has opportunity arise for us readers to present prayers of justice in situations that arise.

This read can be done quickly, however I found a slow savory immersion helped to make these a part of my daily rule of life for a while. For any of these reasons, if you are a person of faith, who strives for Justice, Acting in the Wake by Walter Brueggemann will offer insight, and inspiration.

Was this review helpful?