Hallowed: Echoes of the Psalms in the Lord’s Prayer

Written by Reuben Bredenhof Reviewed By Peter C. W. Ho

Could Jesus have used the famous Old Testament prayer book—the Psalms—as his basis for teaching the Lord’s Prayer? In this short volume, Bredenhof surmises that the Lord’s Prayer “wasn’t a new-fangled invention of Jesus, but each petition echoes the ancient prayers recorded in the Psalms” (p. 19).

Bredenhof divides the Lord’s Prayer into nine thematic sections, one for each chapter in the book, and views them through one or more psalms. In each chapter, he identifies a theme of the Prayer and uses it as the point of departure to one (or more) select psalm(s). Once that connection has been established, Bredenhof spends substantial space discussing the theme and helping his readers relate it to their lives. This book is easy to read and suitable for a wide range of readers. Its message is highly relevant and will be especially helpful to those who want to deepen their prayer life.

The first chapter begins with the theme of how one is to call out to God in prayer. Bredenhof connects this theme with Psalm 86 and highlights how David addressed the Lord with a spirit of affection and humility, and at the same time, with assured confidence in God. In the second chapter, Bredenhof connects the phrase, “Our Father,” to Psalm 103. This psalm magnifies God as the heavenly king who establishes his throne over the earth. The psalm also presents God as the Father who shows compassion to those who fear him (Ps 103:13; p. 22). Chapter 3 focuses on the phrase, “hallowed be your name.” Here, Bredenhof points out that the praise of the Father ought to be an unfettered expression of all nature, nations, and heavenly beings as seen in Psalm 29.

In chapter 4, the petition for “God’s kingdom come” is connected to Psalm 72. This psalm looks forward to a better king and that petition is answered in the coming of Jesus Christ (p. 44), who ultimately brings about God’s kingdom on earth. Chapter 5 examines the petition for God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Bredenhof adapts Psalm 25 to this theme. The desire to know God’s ways and follow his ways characterizes this psalm. The Lord will also make his covenant known to all who fear him (Ps 25:12–14; p. 60). The petition for “our daily bread” finds its expression in Psalm 65. Here, we see God caring for the earth like the gardener who tends his garden (p. 67). Bredenhof exhorts that “every gift and opportunity and success are from God—so we thank him today, and we trust him for tomorrow” (p. 72).

The petition for God to “forgive our trespasses” in chapter 7 is connected to both Psalms 51 and 32. Although Psalm 51 is well-known, the context behind the psalm was David’s adultery with Bathsheba, making it less applicable to the reader as compared to Psalm 32 which is more generic in nature. The focus of chapter 8 is to escape temptation and be delivered from evil. Here, Bredenhof wants us to see the “war prayer” of Psalm 35 where David requested God to fight his battles against his enemies and foes. Likewise, our battles belong to the Lord! The final chapter returns to the praise of God’s “kingdom, power, and glory.” Many psalms relate to the praise of God (e.g., Pss 41; 146–150), and Bredenhof rightly points out that praises are a good “corrective to [our] self-absorption” in prayers. And the final “Amen” in the Lord’s Prayer, also seen in Psalm 41:13, is an important expression of our confidence in God through Christ.

This book is valuable in three ways. First, by reading the Lord’s Prayer with the Old Testament Psalms, Bredenhof helps readers see a more holistic and integrated Bible. Readers can see a specific theme of the Prayer in action historically in the Old Testament and then learn how that theme is understood and applied in the New Testament. Second, this volume speaks with a winning pastoral voice that is undergirded with academic rigour. Without allowing the latter to get in the way, Bredenhof writes in a conversational style, peppering the volume with many anecdotes and personal stories. Readers will find a light-hearted and relevant read. Third, Bredenhof provides several helpful questions for further reflection at the end of each chapter. These questions are intended for deeper engagement and praxis on the content and are carefully crafted so that readers can take time to pause, muse, and pray.

Yet, I wonder how Bredenhof’s choice of the psalms can be identified by the readers themselves. Methodologically, this part of the work is obscure. It is unclear how, for instance, the idea of kingship needs to be connected to Psalm 72 since the motif of kingship occurs in many psalms (e.g., Pss 2, 45, 110) and in the rest of the Old Testament. Of course, Bredenhof did not mention that these are the only psalms with such themes, but it raises questions about how his message will change when these other texts/psalms are identified instead. Perhaps Bredenhof could also have written a similar volume that is based on Isaiah to the same effect. Readers should also note that Bredenhof is mostly working with thematic connections; he does not provide a full interpretation of the psalm that he has linked to the Prayer. However, reading the theme in the context of the entire psalm would help the reader better appreciate the psalm.

A final note: because of the digestible size of the book, it can be easily adopted for small groups to read and pray together. Ultimately, this book is designed for the deepening of prayer life—the intangible and invaluable goal that is offered to all who would read it.

Peter C. W. Ho

Peter C. W. Ho
Singapore Bible College
Republic of Singapore

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