Tag Archives: Prayer

Does God Pray? – Katherine Sonderegger

Last week Katherine Sonderegger came in to deliver a paper to the Analytic Theology Seminary. She put forth the provocative question: Does God Pray? Here are my notes from her talk.

Introduction

  • Does God pray?
    • Answer to this question (exploration of God in prayer) has potential to answer a lot of Trinitarian and Christological questions.
  • Can the Triune God pray?
    • Instinct – We pray, God does not.

The Traditional Account

  • Prayer (tradition says) is a form of lack
    • Human creatures need to pray, their prayer is need.
    • This would make it seem as though God could not pray, b/c God does not lack whatsoever
    • (In one sense prayer can never be answered, our lack – b/c of creaturelyness – will always be)
  • Prayer seeks the unseen (think of it as simply asking)
    • Distinctive part of prayer: seeking out of the unseen
      • What distinguishes prayer from other forms of asking is who it is directed to, prayer stands alone
      • Human act of asking is analogous to prayer
    • Prayer is relation to God, the unseen stands in the realm of eternity, God is the goal of creation
      • To have relation with such reality is to have the formal relation to prayer
    • God’s realation to the creature in prayer is “idea/notional,” ours to God is “real.”
  • It seems we must affirm that prayer belongs to creatures, the Tradition has seemed to define it in such a way that places it in the domain of humanity
    • Places prayer in to the creator/creature distinction
    • Prayer simply marks out that distinct line b/w Creator & Creature

The “Alternative” Account

  • Could it be said that the one almighty God could pray? We are brought to this question through Scripture.
  • Is divine prayer an instance of “accommodation” i.e. of humanizing God, for our sake?
    • The bible does not simply refer, the word of blessing which is just God himself lies within this book.
    • Holy Scripture will convey and contain a teaching about God in human words and for human ears.
  • Romans 8
    • Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words, Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God
    • This is the Spirit who prays with us and for us
    • Language – emphasizes mystery.
    • The characteristic description of the creaturely act here is ascribed to the Holy Spirit
    • Its eschatological
  • What shall we make of this for the doctrine of prayer and for the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • In Romans 8 – Paul has given us a glimpse of the economy
    • This entire section of the letter concerns those who are in Christ Jesus
    • Non condemnation rests on the Father giving the Son for us
    • Christ gives himself for
    • Its anchored in the divine sending and being sent to rescue and redeem
    • This just seems to be the pattern of the divine economy
    • Through Romans 8 – are verb forms which mirror this economy
  • This illuminates how the sending of the Son and Spirit can be a new event in the life of God.
    • Thomas – we should not speak of processions and missions, rather they have eternal and temporal end.
    • According to Scriptural witness something has taken place in the life of God toward us
    • Seems to imply that God experiences something “new” which is only possible with us – God hands himself over to us, undergoes this new even with us.
      • Apart from creation God could not have these events for his very own
    • The temporal missions are the birth of the new for God himself
    • But the Tradition firmly asserts that God is eternal, perfect, complete, does not lack, become, does not undergo something new
  • Consider Jesus at prayer (alongside passages of Spirit praying)
    • Quite striking is Jesus steady rhythm of being at prayer both privately and publically
  • In Scripture – Spirit and Son are wrapped up in seemingly same characteristics of creaturely prayer
  • How does this shed light on the inner life of the Trinity?
  • Might we suggest that the divine processions are prayer?
    • Father “utters the word”
    • Father “breathes, spirates, expresses”
    • This reflects prayer

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Fuller Gets $2 Million grant for Analytic Theology

In case you haven’t already heard…

Fuller Theological Seminary is proud to announce the award of a John Templeton Foundation grant to Professor of Systematic Theology Oliver Crisp. A three-year grant that begins September 1, 2015, the award of $2 million will fund a major undertaking in Analytical Theology research.

Analytic Theology (AT) is an approach to theology that seeks integration between theological investigation, on the one hand, and the methods and results of progressive and truth-oriented disciplines such as the empirical sciences and analytic philosophy, on the other. Dr. Crisp and his team, including colleagues Dr. Justin L. Barrett and Rebecca Sok, will be joined by two postdoctoral research fellows, an administrator, and two doctoral students.

The project, titled Prayer, Love, and Human Nature: Analytic Theology for Theological Formation, hypothesizes that AT supplies an intellectual framework for the training and formation of church leaders. This hypothesis will be tested by working on three topics—prayer, divine love, and theological engagement with the science of human origins—with the tools of AT.

Visiting scholars will be invited to collaborate with the Fuller team on these case studies. By the end of the grant in 2018, Crisp and his colleagues hope to show that AT can make a vital contribution to these three areas in the form of seminars, conferences, seminary curriculum, and published research findings.

Congratulations to Dr. Crisp and the rest of the team on the grant and the work ahead! – See more at: http://fuller.edu/About/News-and-Events/Articles/2015/Oliver-Crisp-Awarded-$2-Million-Grant-for-Analytical-Theology-Research/#sthash.Gf11BaMS.dpuf

(HT: Fuller Seminary)

Regulators! Mount Up! (Or the Regulative Principle of Worship)

Back in 2007 I went to Uganda for the first time. It was a life-changing, vocation shaping trip. On that trip I formed friendships (with my team and with Africans) that have persisted even to this day. It was on that trip that I think I realized for the first time the truly universal nature of the church. The church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Now, I get that more than ever, but on that trip, the weight of that truth struck me for the first time. Worship was quite an experience! It was intense, hands up, people jumping, people dancing, people shouting for joy. I had never seen anything like that (and I grew up in Hispanic churches!) The word was preached differently too – not in the sense that it was unrecognizable, but I had never hear so much feedback and response during a sermon, I had never seen the preacher so fired up. (And I grew up in Hispanic churches!) It all felt so different, yet somehow I felt like I was at my own church. It felt new, but the same. It felt exotic, but somehow familiar.

Trip Lee has recently written something similar on his experiences of worshipping in churches around the world .

He says that,

In many ways, it was different from what I was used to, but it was also strikingly similar. And I suspect it’s similar to your own church services as well. The fact that churches on different sides of the globe are so similar yet so different is what we should expect when the gospel is proclaimed in diverse places. There is a glorious, diverse sameness. And we should be satisfied with nothing less.

He then points us to the “regulative principle.” He reminds us that “The regulative principle is the conviction that everything we do in corporate worship must have warrant in Scripture, either by direct command or implication. As the examples above show us, when we anchor ourselves in God’s revealed truth, there will be a certain sameness to our church gatherings—even when the church is on the other side of the world.”

But doesn’t this principle limit the indigenous nature of the church and the contextual nature of worship? Shouldn’t every church service look the same if this principle is true? By no means!

I recently came across an interesting footnote in Michael Allen & Scott Swain’s Reformed Catholicity regarding the regulative principle. In it they give us the Reformational basis for the regulative principle and the ongoing diversity in the church’s expression of worship despite this principle….

Invariably this principle has always involved the necessity of distinguishing between elements and forms (and sometimes even between forms and circumstances). For instance, while the Bible mandates the element of Scripture readings in worship, it does not mandate the form of that reading (whether one verse or four chapters, from Deuteronomy or from the Gospel according to Matthew, etc.). The “regulative principle” refers to elements, which necessarily take form in various circumstances according to pastoral prudence and Christian wisdom. Hence “biblical worship” in the Reformed tradition is not a homogeneous ideal but a common commitment to worship via Word, Sacrament, and Prayer that can take carious contextual forms as appropriately discerned by ecclesial authorities. (69)

What this means, quite simply, is that “Church” must contain certain elements – like the Word proclaimed (readings, sermons, devotionals, homilies, etc.) & Prayer (corporate prayer, private prayer, prayer through musical worship) – but how those elements are expressed is up to the discernment of the church’s leaders. The leaders must determine what is biblically appropriate for that specific context.

So to all you regulators out there, who are gonna hate on my steez – don’t hate us cuz you aint us! Just kidding. To all you regulators out there, mount up and make sure you are regulating the right things…

The O.G. Regultors - Warren G and Nate Dogg (RIP).
The O.G. Regultors – Warren G and Nate Dogg (RIP).

Top Ten Books of 2014

Christmas is the best time of the year to make lists!

  • Santa Claus is checking his list of kids who were naughty and nice, deciding which kids are going to get presents and which kids are going to get coal.
  • The nice kids are making lists of toys they want. (God bless the greedy little children, every one!)
  • Grown ups are creating Amazon wish lists hoping that somebody will get them something. (Mine is up on Amazon, just in case you want to get me something…)
  • Mom is making a grocery list, outlining all the stuff she needs to buy in order to pull off the perfect Christmas dinner. (I’m okay with just Tamales.)

But maybe most importantly, bloggers are making their “Best Of….” Lists for 2014. So I present to you the most important list you will see this holiday Season….

Chris Woznicki’s Best Books of 2014!!!

Best of 2014

Here are my qualifications to make it on to this list:

  1. Published in 2014
  2. I would give that book to somebody else
  3. I would re-read the book
  4. It is not a crappy book

With that I give you my favorite books of the year across 10 different categories: Biblical Studies, Theology, Mission, Ministry, Biography, Reformed, Charismatic, Devotional, Most Important, and of course Book of the Year.

Biblical Studies – Reading Backwards by Richard Hays

Reading Backwards

There were a lot of good biblical studies books that came out this year, including From Jesus to the Church by Craig Evans & How God Became Jesus by Michael Bird. However, the book that takes the top honor is Richard Hays’ Reading Backwards. In this series of printed lectures, Hays makes a most convincing case that the Gospel writers portraits of Jesus depend on a typological reading of the Old Testament. We have been waiting for this book for years!

Theology – Christ Crucified by Donald Macleod

Christ Crucified

Originally the winner was supposed to be Atonement, Law, and Justice by Adonis Vidu – probably the most important book on atonement theory published in the last 5 years. However another book on the doctrine of atonement snuck its way into my list of books to read in 2014. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m halfway through), but the top honor goes to Donald McLeod’s Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement. Rarely does an academic theology book make me cry because of how it glorifies Christ. This book had me in tears (the good kind) because it helps me see the glorious wonder of the cross and of penal substitution.

Mission – Primal Fire by Neil Cole

Primal Fire

Primal Fire is one of the clearest, most encouraging, and most biblically-theologically based APEST book out there right now. Not to mention, it will also ignite a fire up under you to discover how you can best serve the church to reach the maturity that God has intended for it. You can find my review here. (Honorable mention goes to Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keese – this book will get you pumped on what God is doing in unreached areas.)

Ministry – Slow Church by Christopher Smith & John Pattison

Slow Church

I loved this book! Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus explores what it would look like for the church to embrace the “slow” way of life. Humans can’t thrive and flourish on a fast food diet – neither can the church thrive and flourish with a “fast church” mentality. Change is needed – the church needs to slough off its industrialized and Macdonald-ized approach to church. It needs to embrace a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of life grounded in a grand gospel. Slow Church helps us imagine what it would look like if the church were to do that. You can read my review here. (Also, my review of this book will be published in the next issue of Themlios.)

Biography – Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

Strange Glory

This is an excellent and highly entertaining biography. It is very well written; at times it felt as though I were reading a novel, not a historical biography. But more importantly than that it is comprehensive, it goes beyond merely reporting the standard story, but instead strives to get into Bonhoeffer’s mind.  Marsh understands Bonhoeffer’s theology, and he seems to understand some of the things that really acted as driving forces in Bonhoeffer’s life. I recommended that you read this biography alongside of Eric Metaxas’ biography so that you will be able to form your own picture of who Bonhoeffer really was. You can read a full review here. (Honorable mention goes to Wesley on the Christian Life by Fred Sanders. Sanders’ book helped me to appreciate Wesley as a theologian of love.)

Reformed – Deviant Calvinism by Oliver Crisp

Deviant Calvinism - Crisp

I could not put this book down. I was so enthralled by it and the possibility moving past funadamentlistic neo-Puritianism (i.e. Johnny Mac and his cronies) that I read through it in a day and a half. Not only was it interesting though, it was very well argued. As is well known, Oliver Crisp is at the forefront of Analytic Theology – the theological method which applies the rigor and clarity of analytic philosophy to systematic theology. You can read the full review here.

Charismatic – Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear

Jesus Continued

Should I have categorized this book as being Charismatic? Probably not – but it is about the Holy Spirit! I loved this book so much. In fact I loved it so much that I have given away 15 copies of this book. I gave it to my Life Group leaders and to a few students who really needed it. Honestly this book could not have come at a better time for me. The Lord used it to speak so much truth into my life, truths that I have neglected or forgotten. It also stirred my heart for the possibility of revival. You can read the full review here.

Devotional – Prayer by Tim Keller

Prayer Tim Keller

Anything written by Keller is pure gold. Do you struggle with praying as consistently as you would like to? Would you like to experience God more personally in your quiet time? Do you want to have your heart awakened to the gospel? Are you tired of searching for the latest greatest spiritual discipline? If you answered yes to any of these questions – this book is for you. It grounds the discipline of prayer in the gospel and gives us practical ways to infuse our prayer habits with new life.

Most Important – Reformed Dogmatics Volume 1 by Geerhardus Vos

reformed-dogmatics1

Technically this isn’t a new book. It was published nearly 100 years ago. However this is the first time its been translated into English. Vos is an important figure in Neo-Calvinist theology, right behind Kuyper and Bavinck. I’m so grateful to have his Dogmatic Theology. Also, volume two has come out this year and the rest of the set will come out in the next year or so.

Book of the Year – Visions of Vocation by Steve Garber

Visions of Vocation

What the heck am I supposed to be doing with my life? Weaving together personal stories, literature, film, music, and scripture Garber helps us answer this question. He shows us what vocations are all about. He has written a book that will certainly inspire you to see your place in the world a bit differently. He not only aims at our heads, he aims at our hearts, drawing us into the story of what God is doing in this world. He invites us into the critical task of coming alongside of God as God himself give grace to a world that is broken and falling apart. Answering that invitation is what vocations are all about.

Earlier this year, when I wrote a review (here) I said:

I know its early in the year, but this book is so well written, so theologically powerful, and packs such a powerful devotional punch that it is definitely a frontrunner for my book of the year award.

It turns out that I stuck to my guns. This year was my favorite book of the year. If you buy only one book to read in 2015, buy this book!

Jesus Prays

I recently came across a list of Jesus’ prayers in the book of Luke. Luke includes nine of Jesus’ prayers – more than any other gospel. Seven of these are unique to Luke. If you are interested in seeing how Jesus prays check these out:

  1. During his baptism (Lk 3:21)
  2. Before challenging opponents (Lk 5:15-16)
  3. Before selecting the 12 (Lk 6:12)
  4. Before predicting his crucifixion (Lk 9:18-22)
  5. During his transfiguration (Lk 9:29)
  6. After seventy disciples returned (Lk 10:17-21)
  7. Before teaching the Lord’s prayer (Lk 11:1)
  8. In the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:39-46)
  9. On the cross (Lk 23:34,46)

Martin Luther on Prayer & Meditation

I just finished Tim Keller’s new book on prayer. It is at one theological, practical, and pastoral. Overall it was a great book. However, there were a few chapters that really stuck out to me. One of those chapters was a chapter where Keller covers Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s theology of prayer through the examination of letters that they wrote to laypeople on the nature of prayer.

Martin Luther

Keller tells the story of Luther’s barber, Peter Beskendorf, who asked Luther to give him a simple way to pray. Luther sent him a letter with “rich but practical set of guidelines for prayer.”

First, Luther suggests that one should pray twice a day. Once in the morning, before anything else is accomplished, and once at night. Morning and evening prayer is a discipline that must be cultivated whether we feel like praying or not.

Second, Luther suggests that we should “focus our thoughts and warm our affections for prayer.” In order to do this he suggest contemplation or meditation upon scripture. He advises Peter Beskendorf to begin his prayer by contemplating the word…

I want your heart to be stirred and guided…rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer.

After advising contemplation Luther describes how to do it. He says:

I divide each biblical command into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is I think of each commandment at first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. Second I turn into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.

Keller says that “this turns every biblical text into ‘a school text, a song book, a penitential book, and a prayer book.”

Practically this means that first we must figure out what the text is saying. Second, we must ask how this text leads us to praise and thank God; third we ask God how this text leads us to repent of and confess sin; finally we ask God how this text prompts us to appeal to God in petition and supplication.

So the next time you do your “quiet time” try Luther’s Four – Text method! I would love to hear how it works out!

How Did Tim Keller Learn to Pray?

Prayer is hard. If you struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life you aren’t alone. In fact that is precisely whey famed 17th century poet George Herbert wrote that prayer is a “heart in pilgrimage.” No he wasn’t talking about the pilgrims we celebrate during thanksgiving. He was talking about the pilgrim (much like the one in Pilgrim’s Progress or Canterbury Tales) who engage in a long, difficult, and exhausting journey. Prayer is a lot like that – prayer is a journey that will take our entire lives to grow in.

So when I say that prayer is hard you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that even Tim Keller (my pastoral hero) barely “learned” or as he himself says “discovered” prayer only in the second half of his adult life. Yes he prayed, but even then it was difficult, it was only in the fall of 1999 that he developed a disciplined, consistent, and powerful, intimate prayer life. How did he do it?

How Did Tim Keller Learn to Pray?

In his new book simply titled Prayer, he describes four changes he made to his life that affected his prayer life (pg 17):

  1. He took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
  2. He added a time of meditation as a “transitional discipline” between his Bible reading and his time of prayer.
  3. He began to pray in the morning and the evening instead of just in the morning.
  4. He began to pray with greater expectation.

So those are the four steps that Tim Keller took to grow in his prayer life. What sort of things have you done that have been helpful in your own prayer life? I would love to hear what you did/are doing!