Tag Archives: Jürgen Moltmann

Prayer – Don’t you Worry Child…

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 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Mr WorryAre you a worrier? Don’t despair, worry can be a great springboard into prayer. When you worry you are demonstrating a willingness to take responsibility for something. You are carrying a burden. This is a great beginning, but you need to focus on the “positive possibility” by taking worry into prayer.

“What anxiety and hope actually have in common is a sense of what is possible. In anxiety we anticipate possible danger. In hope we anticipate possible deliverance.” Juergen Moltmann

The Greek word for anxiety is merimnaó which carries a sense of literally “being torn apart.” We all know that feeling of being torn apart, churned up on the inside, as our anxious thoughts prophetically run wild and predict the worst possible scenarios for the burdens we carry. These burdens may be about “anything” – big or small, but all our anythings and “everythings”  can be transformed by a simple step.

We need to change trains.

Leave the train of anxiety which is heading to a painful dead-end and catch the new train of prayer which will take you to the place of wholeness, peace and “shalom.” Instead of having a torn heart and a spinning mind, you can find the place of harmony and togetherness, shielded by hope in, and intimacy with Christ. There are three important stops on this prayer train:

Proseuché

This is literally the “place” of prayer. In a world which had no room for the Messiah at Christmas, we often find “no place” for prayer in our lives. We need to make space for God, give a place to the supernatural act of talking to heaven. Having a physical place to go to can be a great help in developing this discipline of space making. The original Greek word also means “to wish towards.” Wishing heavenwards – a great definition of prayer. Wishing to the little gods of money and power will never bring the deliverance hoped for and will inevitably put us back onto the train of worry. However, those who have found the space to wish beyond the earth to a benevolent, redeeming God will be rolling along on the tracks of peace.

Deésis – Petition/Supplication

This was often seen as an entreaty addressed to a King. the Greek word means “being in lack”, and true prayer uncovers the bounty of the giver but the sheer dependence of the petitioner. The great Chinese pastor Watchman Nee put it this way.

“True prayer uncovers the emptiness in the petitioner but the fullness in the Petitioned”

It is in this place of supplication that the groanings of the previous post, find their expression. It is in the place of petition that we are thrown into seasons of fasting and tearful entreaty.

Eucharistia – Thanksgiving/Grace in actioneucharist

This last station is by far the most beautiful. It is finding the place of thanks and gratitude. An attitude of gratitude is the key to successful praying and a life of shalom. It is no surprise that the Greek word gives us the same word for the thanksgiving meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. We are called to bring every person and situation to that place of thankful grace. By prayer, it is as if we can pass on the piece of sacrificial bread to the prayer subject and say “The Body of Christ keep you in eternal life.” Thank you Lord for this person, thank you for this situation. Thank you for taking me to this place and time in my life. Linger long at the station of thanksgiving, as it will truly deliver you from the pagan prayer of worry and accusation.

The Pagan prayer

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8

 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Matthieu 6:31-32

The pagan prayer is a man centred, works orientated (many words) religious duty. It wants things in return for works. It seeks the gift rather than the giver. It prefers food to the Father. It will take you onto the tracks of worry.

Seek a King not a thing!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

Seek the giver, seek the Father. You don’t have to pray for stuff. Forget about it! Seek first, prioritize a living, intimate relationship with your Father King and all the blessings of life will follow.

From this place of relationship, provision, peace and security, you will have space to pray for the really important stuff…

Are you on the Shalom train?

 

 

 

 

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From Apathy to Sympathy

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Icon of Jesus Christ

 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 5:15

 The ancient Greeks highly valued the quality of being beyond the reach of pain. “Patheo”, suffering, was a too earthly ignoble thing. They worshipped a God beyond “patheo”, an apathetic God.

It is often said that we are what we worship. A God with no “passion”, no vulnerability produces a people immune to genuine human experience. On the one hand we see hard faced hordes addicted to busyness and decadence in order to escape the glance into the abyss, and on the other, prostrate practitioners bereft of feeling, willing to cause untold misery in the name of religion.

Some argue that without an “apathetic” God we have no sense of Sovereignty. God, indeed does not change, no-one can force God to suffer or impose suffering upon Him from outside of His own being.

However it may be worth considering two other possibilities.

  1.  God is free to change Himself.
  2. He is free to allow Himself to be changed by others and to allow them to make Him suffer.

God’s suffering is not suffering imposed on Him from the outside because of some weakness in Himself, but the suffering of love, an active, chosen, dynamic suffering.

Jesus’ words in John 10:18 hint at this principle of the sovereign choice of suffering.

 “No one takes it from me, but I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 In Revelation 5:6, expecting to see the triumphant Lion of Judah, we see instead a “Lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.”

 At the very heart of God’s sovereign rule we find vulnerability and chosen suffering.

Even the very foundations of creation and history are imbued with the overflow of God’s intentional love and suffering in the Agnus Dei, “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8

 The early Rabbis translated Psalm 18:35 (NIV – “you stoop down to make me great.”)

“You show to me your greatness through your self-humiliation.”

 God’s true greatness lies in His chosen self humiliation in Christ.

Rabbi Hershel saw in the Old Testament prophets a theology of “Pathos”. He saw their cries reflecting the wounded heart of God for His people. His wrath, a fiery curative expression of His own passion. Wrath and apathy never mix. So, far from being distantly apathetic, God is passionately caught up in human existence. He sympathises with us. He shares our very sufferings.

In the Trinity we see a sacrificing Father, an abandoned Son in the power of holy sacrifice called Spirit. This event explodes into the world bringing healing, hope, reconciliation and resurrection.

As the “apathy” of  ordinary Western life calls us away from the true “sympathy” of the Christ life  event when God stepped down into the world as a tender babe, let us turn away from our tearless idols, let our hearts be softened and let us sympathise with our fellow-men.

Handel’s Messiah begins with the description from Isaiah 40:11 of a shepherd God, gently leading His people.

 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

 Let the Lord carry you close to His heart this day.

Being close to God’s heart is the very opposite of apathy. It may well lead us into suffering, echoing the Lord’s words to the “chosen instrument” Paul in Acts 9:16.

 “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 The theologian Jurgen Moltmann liberates us from a purely negative, fearful view of suffering.

“How is this to be understood? The person who suffers does not only protest against his fate. Indeed, he suffers because he lives, and he is full of life because he has an interest in life and because he loves. He who no longer loves becomes apathetic and no longer even suffers. Life and death are for him a matter of indifference. The more one loves, however, the more vulnerable one becomes. The more one becomes capable of suffering, the more one becomes capable of happiness. The reverse is also true. The more one is capable of joy, the greater one’s capacity for sorrow. This could be called the dialectic of human life. Love gives vitality to living, but it also makes man mortal. The vitality of life and the deadliness of death are experienced at one and the same time through that interest in life we call love.”

May you indeed  know that “interest in life” we call love.

That love that shone out from the face of Jesus – Godhead veiled in humble flesh. Pure Sovereignty stooping down into the mess of this world to make us great…but more indeed to show His greatness.

 

Moravian Seal, or Agnus Dei, stained glass win...