What We Believe
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I Will Lift My Eyes unto the Hills by Walter Kaiser Jr.

Bryan Estelle

I Will Lift My Eyes unto the Hills: Learning from the Great Prayers of the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. Wooster, Ohio: Weaver, 2015, 176 pages, $12.99, paper.

Walter Kaiser has written a book surveying significant prayers made by prominent Old Testament saints. The prayers come from familiar sections of the Hebrew Bible and are offered by significant characters of the Hebrew Bible: Abraham, Moses, Hannah, David, Solomon, Jonah, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Ezra, and Daniel. Kaiser introduces each chapter with a translation of the passage, followed by contextual and historical analysis. At the end of each chapter there is a summary of the points made throughout the exposition followed by a list of discussion questions that may easily be adapted for small group Bible study or Sunday school lessons and probably for family worship in the home as well. In short, Kaiser seeks to derive important lessons from the prayers that can be applied to the New Testament believer.

One of Kaiser’s main goals is to inspire Christians to take up the work of prayer based on the examples of the prominent place of prayer in the lives of Old Testament people. Indeed, it is striking to be reminded of the piety of these Old Testament saints. However, although the author seeks to demonstrate that prayer did hold a prominent place among these notable Old Testament saints, time and time again they failed to act on prayer. This should serve, in Kaiser’s view, as a notable warning for believers today.

One strength of this little book is Kaiser’s sensitive reading of texts. It is obvious that much work in the Hebrew and in the historical background of the passages that contain these prayers informs Kaiser’s discussion. It is also rewarding to see that he takes pains to focus on exalting God’s glory and majesty throughout the book. The publisher, Weaver, has a target audience of lay people in view. Kaiser has admirably written at a level and with clarity that matches this goal. The reviewer found no typos in the book.

There are some weaknesses, however. First, Kaiser uses too many exclamation points for effect. This is distracting. Second, there is a tendency to lift “timeless principles” out of these narratives and seek to apply them concretely in present circumstances within the lives of New Testament saints. This reviewer would have liked to have seen more sensitivity to the so-called principle of periodicity (cf. Geerhardus Vos). That is to say, Kaiser could have been much more helpful to the reader if he had dealt with each of these prayers in its own covenantal context. Let me explain. Take an example from the prayer of Solomon. Kaiser asks in the study questions and discussion starters section at the end of this chapter: “In what sense are your prayers the source of exercising responsibility for securing the blessing and peace of God on the nation to which you belong? Are we in any sense the keepers of our nation?” (85). In the previous chapters there is no discussion of the uniqueness of the theocracy of Israel. Nor is there any lengthy discussion about how the promises of tenure in the land of Canaan or exile from it were unique to God’s people of that age. This would have been a great benefit for Christians reading this book. Surely the Apostle Paul makes clear that we are to pray for our civil leaders and the nations in which God has placed us. But how is this different than the manner in which the Old Testament saints prayed? More explanation on this point would have strengthened the book.

Third, Kaiser opens himself up to another criticism as well. It would be helpful to discuss in the book the prayers of these Old Testament saints in light of the whole canon of Scripture, especially the work, ministry, and role of our Lord Jesus Christ as Mediator (WCF 8). Moreover, discussion about a responsible use of typology (WCF 7.5–6) and Spirit-wrought obedience in the work of prayer among the saints (WCF 16.5–6) would have greatly enriched these meditations. Much of the discussion, but not all, seems to fall within the category of timeless principles being extracted from the Old Testament without due respect for covenantal contexts. This often leads to setting forth these saints and their prayers as mere examples for New Testament saints without duly noting the important ways in which the anticipatory work of Messiah Jesus should inform the instruction.

This does not mean that this work cannot be used profitably within the church. However, a trustworthy guide or leader will be necessary in order to redress the above concerns. Then, this new published study on the great prayers of Old Testament saints may bear profitable fruit in the lives of saints in God’s church today.

Bryan Estelle is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church serving as associate professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. Ordained Servant Online, May 2016.

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Ordained Servant: May 2016

Fishers of Men

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How Vosian Is Van Til? A Review Article

Reflections on Biblical Counseling: A Review Article

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