Can Theology Help Your Prayers?
by Dr Stephen Spence
Prayer is speaking with God. This suggests to me that before we speak our prayers we must have some sense of who we speak our prayers to.
For this reason, Christian prayers are not prayers spoken by Christians but prayers spoken in response to the God who has revealed himself distinctively through Jesus of Nazareth. This is not to say that God does not hear the prayers of those who speak their prayers to a misconceived god; rather, it is to suggest that our prayer will be more truly a speaking with God when we speak in response to the God who has first spoken in self-revelation to us.
Seeking to listen to God describe himself is the first task of theology. And, therefore, I would argue, that studying theology is a necessary precursor to praying. I know this will be considered by some to be the self-justifying ravings of a theology lecturer (my current ministry) but I offer it to you for consideration in my first role as a pastor. Many Christians have become bored with their prayers, which seem to be an ever expanding list of wants rather than a time of genuine spiritual communion. The cure for this is not to focus inward in order to manipulate our emotions to a more felt depth of piety. Rather, we need to focus upon the majesty of a God who exists beyond our limited and limiting understanding of who he is. We must first listen to him as he reveals himself to us – prayer begins when God speaks not when we first speak. And then we must speak in response to this God. These prayers – spoken in response to a deeper sense of God – cannot help but draw us into a deeper communion with God.
The prayers I will post (one per week, starting next week) are examples of trying to pray in response to insights gained from listening to God reveal himself. I have attempted to hear God speak by studying theology as an act of worship rather than as merely an academic discipline. I don’t claim that they are more spiritual that any other person’s prayers. They are just some examples of prayers inspired by studying theology.
(Perhaps you might like to have a try writing your own theology-inspired prayer before I post mine on The Triune God. You could try starting with the first line, “Triune God, eternally mutually indwelling Father, Son, Spirit…”)