Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prayer and Theology

The fourth century theologian Evagrius, in his Chapters on Prayer, claims "If you are a theologian you truly pray. If you truly pray you are a theologian" (chapter 60). In some ways, this is a more important center for the work of liturgical theology than the often misused axiom lex orandi lex credendi (the law of prayer establishes the law of belief). Ian Curran develops this claim about the interaction between theology and prayer by way of a conversation with Barth in the recent issue of Liturgy on liturgy and spiritual disciplines (vol. 26.1, January-March 2011). In his article "Theology as a Spiritual Discipline," Curran makes four claims:

1. "Theology is performed within the context of a living relationship that God has established with the church, and with the theologian in question. It takes place within a realm whose windows are necessarily open to God's gracious self-disclosure...intellectual movement toward God in theological reflection is...inseparable from the contemplative movement toward God in prayer."

2. "God is the object of theology not as an object among other objects in the world, but as a transcendent, personal reality.... Theological discourse is less speech about God than it is speech directed to God."

3. "Authentic theology emerges from a sense of gratitude for God's free gift of grace...Theology, like the offertory in the worship service, is both a response to God's gift of self to us and a gift of ourselves back to God in return."

4. "The dialogical form of theological inquiry forms our desires so that we cannot help seeking God in the effort to understand matters of faith.... The work of seeking and finding in theology is an implicit petition for God to be disclosed to [us]."

Curran argues that through "prayer and worship, good reading, writing and reflection on scripture and the Christian tradition" we learn to worship in "spirit and truth." He concludes his article this way: "Both the Sunday school classroom and the sanctuary are open windows to heaven in the house of God. Why should those who speak God's name pay so little attention to the source of their speech?"

As I think about our earlier discussion of emerging worship, I find it striking how little of the conversation is attentive to the questions Curran asks here. What would emerge in and from the Christian community if we gave closer attention to these questions?

Ron Anderson is Styberg Associate Professor of Worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and president of The Liturgical Conference. Ian Curran is Visiting Assistance Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Young Harris College, in Young Harris, Georgia.

No comments:

Post a Comment