Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

I was doing some further reading in Barth for a paper I’m writing on Tom Wright (makes perfect sense doesn’t it???) and happened upon this gem that was related to the topic I was researching in a round-about-manner.  I’m researching Wright’s view of justification and the relation to the “cry of the Spirit” (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6) and how this works out into a fuller pneumatological doctrine of justification.   I’m working on this project because it seems that too often the Spirit has been relegated to a second-tier role (at best) in justification, but Wright suggests this should be otherwise and I believe he suggests this correctly and pursue this idea further (hopefully beneficially).  Anyways here the quote:

It is not a twofold but a single fact that both Jesus Christ with His prayer and also the Holy Spirit with ‘unutterable groanings’ is our Mediator and Intercessor. This can and must be said both of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and in both cases it concerns the one event of laying a foundation for prayer, i.e. for the cry, Abba, Father. It is He—Jesus Christ through the Spirit, the Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus Christ—who makes good that which we of ourselves cannot make good, who brings our prayer before God and therefore makes it possible as prayer, and who in so doing makes it necessary for us. For Jesus Christ is in us through His Spirit, so that for His sake, praying after Him as the one who leads us in prayer, we for our part may and must pray, calling upon God as our Father. And the Spirit who frees us for this and incites us to the power in which we are with Him the children of God and are addressed as such, so that irrespective of what we ourselves can offer and perform we can call God our Father and go to Him with our requests. (CD III.4.pg.94)


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The real basis of prayer is man’s freedom before God, the God-given permission to pray which, because it is given by God, becomes a command and order and therefore a necessity.  As he is created free before God, man is simply placed under the superior, majestic and clear will of God.  He is not, therefore, asked about his power or impotence, worthiness or unworthiness, disposition or indisposition, desire or lack of desire for prayer, but only whether it can be otherwise than that God’s will shall be done by him and in him, and therefore whether he has not to pray irrespective of all possible objections and considerations.  What God wills of him is simply that he shall pray to Him, that he shall come to Him with his requests.  He wills this just because it is a realisation of the natural relationship between them both, between God and man.  This is true as seen from man’s side.  As the creature of God he can only come to God and speak with Him as a suppliant, and he is directed to do so.  But it is also true as seen from God’s side.  For He is the God who lets man come to Him with his requests, and hears and answers them.  He is God in the fact that He lets man apply to Him in this way, and will that this should be the case.  Here, then, we stand before the innermost centre of the covenant between God and man which is the meaning and inner basis of creation, God’s gracious will.  It is so superior, so majestic, so clear that it makes man’s prayer immediately necessary.  It is the basis, permission and necessity of prayer, the basis which the man who is free before Him cannot escape.  It is here an imperative command and a strict order. (Barth CD III.4, pp.92- 93)

How should we understand the “freedom to pray” as the “imperative command” of God…as both “permission” and “necessity”?  This is certainly the marvel of God’s compelling grace (at least from a Reformed theological perspective).  His will is life itself and freedom.  “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all” (Isaac Watts).

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