The Christology of Prayer

He is our mouth by which we speak to the Father; our eye by which we see the Father; our right hand by which we offer ourselves to the Father. Save by his intercession neither we nor any saints have any intercourse with God.

Ambrose, On Isaac or the Soul, 8.75

It is one Savior of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us. He prays for us, as our Priest; He prays in us, as our Head; He is prayed to by us, as our God. Let us therefore recognize in Him our words, and His words in us.

Augustine

Because He prays, we pray too. … We do this because we are partakers of His life: ‘Christ is our life;’ ‘No longer I, but Christ liveth in me.’ The life in Him and in us is identical, one and the same. His life in us is an ever-praying life. When it descends and takes possession of us, it does not lose its character; in us too it is the ever-praying life—a life that without ceasing asks and receives from God. And this not as if there were two separate currents of prayer rising upwards, one from Him, and one from His people. No, but the substantial life-union is also prayer-union: what He prays passes through us, what we pray passes through Him. He is the angel with the golden censer: ‘UNTO HIM there was given much incense,’ the secret of acceptable prayer, ‘that He should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar.’ We live, we abide in Him, the Interceding One.

Andrew Murray

Let us not forget this—and Luther was right when he said it—it is Jesus Christ who prays, and we join in his intercession. It is he whom God hears, and his prayer is heard since the beginning of the world, from eternity to eternity.

Karl Barth, Prayer, 51

If he takes us with him in his prayer, if we are privileged to pray along with him, if he lets us accompany him on his way to God and teaches us to pray, then we are free from the agony of prayerlessness. … Only in Jesus Christ are we able to pray, and with him we also know that we shall be heard.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, ch. 1

Prayer is God’s communion with God.

It is God who prays. Not just God who answers prayer but God who prays in us in the first place. In prayer we become the locus of the divine dialogue between Father and Son.

Herbert McCabe, “Praying as We Ought” in God Still Matters, 217; and “Prayer,” in God Matters, 221

All Christian prayer is first the prayer of Jesus Christ, then the prayer of the community, and last of all our own individual prayer.

Deborah Hunsinger, Pray without Ceasing (2006), 15.

So, for the Christian, to pray—before all else—is to let Jesus’ prayer happen in you. … That, in a nutshell, is prayer—letting Jesus pray in you.

Rowan Williams, “Prayer” in Being Christian (2014), 62-3.

the real agent in all true worship is Jesus Christ. He is our great high priest and ascended Lord, the one true worshipper who unites us to himself by the Spirit in an act of memory and in a life of communion, as he lifts us up by word and sacrament into the very triune life of God.

James Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (1996), 17.

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What it’s about is Jesus Himself

Herbert McCabe

Jesus did not offer a new social theory, or a new religion, he did not offer even a full analysis of the contradictions of his society, he did not provide an ideal for a new kind of human community. He offered himself.

Austin Farrer

God does not give us explanations; we do not comprehend the world, and we are not going to. It is, and it remains for us, a confused mystery of bright and dark. God does not give us explanations; he gives up a Son.

David Yeago, unpublished notes

for Luther and other early Lutherans, it is not quite adequate to say that Christ lived, suffered and died long ago so that we might be saved now. It would be more precise to say that Christ lived, suffered, died, and rose again so that fellowship with him might be salvation. What he has done and suffered renders him the present saving person, or salvation in person.

Bruck McCormack, personal lecture notes

The theme of the Bible is not a doctrine but a person.

Gregory Clark, The Nature of Confession (1996), 217

Worldview philosophy brings its practitioners out of fideism and naiveté, while Scripture points us to One who can bring us out of death, darkness, unbelief and falsity.

Deborah Hunsinger, Pray without Ceasing (2006), 51, quoting Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology (2004), xviii.

All ministry is Christ’s ministry, in which the church is privileged to participate. As Andrew Purves explains, “Pastoral theology is understood properly first of all as a theology of the care of God for us in, through, and as Jesus Christ. …Only secondarily, derivatively, and above all, participatively…is pastoral theology an account of the pastoral work of the church.”

Telford Work

the bedrock of our tradition is not some mystical experience, archetypical figure, or compelling idea, but simply the apostles’ testimony to Jesus’ death and resurrection and the powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit.

On the possibility of conversation between distinct discourses

  • Robert Jenson

Do I then say that “E=mc²” and “The Son proceeds from the Father” work just the same way? I do not think I do. But I do say that insofar as either “E=mc²” or “The Son proceeds from the Father” is true, insofar as either has any purchase on something other than itself, they depend for this purchase on their situation in one total human cognitive discourse, which has no clear internal epistemological boundaries. To put it from the side that will make the point most offensively plain: if science does not belong to the same discourse as does theology, then science is a play of fictions.

I do say that no subregion of human discourse can be a normative paradigm of any other, not because they are so discrete but because their mutual boundaries are so blessedly ill-defined.

from Essays in the Theology of Culture (Eerdmans, 1995), 223-224.

  • Stephen Mulhall (drawing on Rush Rhees)

the image of a conversation suggests an account of any given mode of human discourse in terms of its own dialogical unity — with the multiple bearings of each branch of that discourse on other branches giving substance to the thought that each individual branch gets a purchase on reality by showing how the purchase it offers hangs together with (that is, is fruitfully intelligible to, and can itself render fruitfully intelligible) the purchase offered by other branches. And the same kind of account can then be given of the relations between these modes of discourse: their various ways of interlocking with one another substantiate the claims of each to register some aspect of the reality of things.

from The Conversation of Humanity (Univ VA Pr., 2007), 38.

Helmut Thielicke on the Hallowing of God’s Name

[48] My friends, doesn’t it strike you as it does me, that in the Lord’s Prayer there is not a single petition that asks God to make me a sanctified, devout, and stoutly believing man, not a single petition that asks him to help me make progress in ‘sanctification’?

In making this observation I am not venturing to say that we may not pray for these things. Nevertheless it is striking that a petition that relates to the growth of the inner man and spiritual progress is simply missing.

Expressed in other words, whereas we would think that the Prayer could say, and quite rightly say: “Lord, lead me to further sanctification of my life,” Jesus turns our attention away from ourselves, even from our pious selves, and concentrates it upon the Father. The prayer is not “May I be hallowed” but “thy name be hallowed.” What does he mean by this?

[49] Quite simply, he means to say that if I want to become a new man, I should not begin with myself, with my good intentions and my moral endeavors. This can only come to nothing, even though it is recommended by the philosophers, the moralists, and other honest people. …

[51] If Jesus does not teach us to pray, “Make me a consecrated, holy person,” but rather teaches us to say, “Hallowed be thy name,” what he is saying is this: “It doesn’t depend at all on your own exertions and your own inner progress; you can never set yourself up as your own goal. Everything depends on your being willing to honor God and let [52] him work in your life, simply to stand still and let him be the ‘holy one’ who will actually have first place in your life, above all men and all things. Then the other will come of itself. …

Again we say, the solution to the problem of our life (the problem of how we can become new men) lies not in ourselves but outside of ourselves, in the fellowship which we have or do not have with God.

from The Prayer that Spans the World