Friday 28 February 2014

Interpretation 68, 1 (2014) on Prayer, Power, and Politics

The main essays in the January 2014 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, are devoted to the theme of ‘Prayer, Power, and Politics’.

Rodney A. Werline
Prayer, Politics, and Power in the Hebrew Bible
This essay applies current anthropological methods to selected texts in the Hebrew Bible in order to investigate the place of prayer within relationships of power. Power does not simply exist as an ideal, but in the ability of humans to influence the actions of other humans. Ritual theorists have recently argued that, in part, ritual functions as a way that people negotiate, mediate and enact power within these relationships. A reading of prayer texts from the Hebrew Bible from this perspective casts new light on the role of prayer in the micro-politics of everyday life and reveals the way in which biblical authors attempted to tie this to Israel’s larger story.

Reuven Kimelman
Prophecy as Arguing with God and the Ideal of Justice
Biblical prophecy seeks both to reconcile people to God and to reconcile God with people. Close examination of the roles of Abraham (Genesis 18), Moses (Exodus 32) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) demonstrates that prophets must always bear this dual responsibility, especially in arguing with God, lest they be unworthy of their loyalty both to the people and to God.

Michael Joseph Brown
The Lure of a Proposition: The Erotic Nature of the Lord’s Prayer as a Contradiction to Coercive Power
The vision of the kingdom of God (basileia) outlined in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is a proposition meant to lure us into greater relationship and more harmonious feeling. The Christian idea that God is love must move beyond simple agapic language and embrace an erotic understanding as well. The desire to be in deeper relationship – the core of erōs – is at the core of the Christian message.

Mun’im Sirry and A. Rashied Omar
Muslim Prayer and Public Spheres: An Interpretation of the Qurɔānic Verse 29:45
This essay examines the various meanings and efficacies attributed to the Muslim prayer (ṣalāt) by its practitioners as well as by observers. The key questions that form the main concern of this article are: How is the ritual of prayer brought to life by its practitioners? What constitutes an efficacious prayer? What meanings do observers draw from the practice of prayer among Muslims in diverse localities as well as from their interpretive discourses? The essay brings together ethnographic studies on Muslim practices of prayer and exegetical discourses on what prayer should contribute to the ethical conduct of Muslims in public spheres.

Nico Koopman
Prayer and the Transformation of Public Life in South Africa
This essay discusses the meaning of prayer, worship, and liturgy for the transformation and renewal of public life. As a crucial practice of the church, prayer creates, enhances, and nurtures a vision of a new society of holiness and justice. Prayer fosters courageous criticism of individuals and institutions where this vision is betrayed. Prayer thirdly forms and transforms humans into people of virtue and character who seek the good society through concrete obedience, quests for solidarity and justice, as well as practices of suffering and active and hopeful waiting upon God. I investigate the role that prayer played in the resistance against the apartheid regime, and spell out some implications of this threefold task of prayer for contemporary South Africa.

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