first review for “Praying in God’s Theater”

For the most part, you can find other articles on this book here.

Praying in God's Theater
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Geoffrey Kruse-Safford writes,

Joel Watts invites readers in to the world of Revelation in exciting, intriguing, and enlightening ways. Cutting the cord tying St. John’s vision both to history and “prophecy”, Watts reads Revelation with commentators crossing the vast spectrum of Christian history and confession, asking only that we indulge the possibility that there are layers upon layers of possibility within this much-contested text. Placing the text firmly within the liturgical and eucharistic practices of the early church, Watts makes each scene come alive as an opportunity to see what St. John saw – that our worship and song and praise, understood in the fullness of eschatological possibility, takes place both here and now and in the Heavenly Temple before the Throne of the Triune God. The prayers offered up draw on the full range of Biblical texts as Watts makes Heilsgeschichte come alive through the words of Scripture. This is more than an offering of a new way to read, and pray, the Scriptures, something for which I’ve long sought. This is a deeply spiritual, deeply faithful rendering of a text, letting the Spirit bring to life the dead words on the page in a new way.

Among the constant conversation partners most present is St. John of the Cross, whose vision of the “Dark Night Of The Soul” brings out the ways Revelation can guide the weary pilgrim through the hazards of a deepening faith to the table that is set before us and for us. In this way Watts also sheds light on that misunderstood word, “mysticism”. Nothing airy or dreamy here, playing the words of Scripture off the words of the beloved Spanish poet, Watts shows that the mystics presented the full struggle for salvation and perfection of all creation in the drama of their own lives. The proper resting place, both in Scripture, and through Scripture for the great teachers of the church, for that struggle is worship, specifically the Eucharist, at which and through which the drama of salvation is not only reenacted but offered to all, both here and above. Reading and praying Revelation in this way offers readers the possibility of seeing their lives as an important part of the whole story of Redemption. This drama – personal, communal, cosmological – is united in and through the body and blood of the crucified and risen Son of God.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is more than an excellent study of Revelation. The prayers, especially the responsive ones, would fit in any long liturgical study of Revelation, or equally well in small group settings. This is a book not so much to be read as to be thankful for; someone has made the vision of St. John come alive in ways that leave behind both the popular silliness too long associated with the book as well as reducing the text to its final, victorious vision.

This review is greatly appreciated. Geoffrey has updated this view on his blog.

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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