Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kierkegaard: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”


Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian, focused much of his work on religious themes such as faith in God and the institution of the Christian Church. The Lutheran Church was though an institution he strongly criticised for what he saw as the ‘empty formalities’ of the Church of Denmark. Kierkegaard, whose surname translates as ‘the church garden’, advocated instead that each person tremble seeking and working out their own salvation.

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul, the church’s greatest missionary and principal author of the New Testament wrote to the Christ followers in Philippi; “What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning…. redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”

Our seeking will naturally lead us to pray…. Kierkegaard: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

‘Lord Jesus Christ, it was not to torment us human beings but to save us that you said the words, “No one can serve two masters.” Would that we might be willing to comply with them by doing accordingly–that is, by following you! Help us all, each one of us, you who both will and can, you who are both the prototype and the Redeemer, and in turn both the Redeemer and the prototype, so that when the striving one droops under the prototype, crushed, almost despairing, the Redeemer raises him up again; but at the same moment you are again the prototype so that he may be kept in the striving. O Redeemer, by your holy suffering and death you have made satisfaction for everyone and everything; no eternal salvation either can or shall be earned–it has been earned. Yet you left your footprints, you, the holy prototype for the human race and for every individual, so that by your Atonement the saved might at every moment find the confidence and boldness to want to strive to follow you.

Kierkegaard’s understanding of grace is that it is intrinsically motivating, that the faith that responds to grace is inherently “restless,” and that Christ draws us into action in the world and thereby sets up confrontation with abuses of grace and injustices that occur through the powers and principalities.

St. Augustine expressed it in a way that speaks directly to our spirits: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Sven Ljungholm
Birkenhead UK


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