Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is This a Theology of Glory?

This document from the Northwest District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod starts out:

The word Synod, means “walking together.” The congregations of the Northwest District LCMS are Synod in this geographic location. We believe that Prayer Vigils throughout the district will bring deeper relationships with Christ and one another as we emphasize “walking together” by joining hands and hearts in the unity of prayer. Consider making dedicated time and space at your locations for active prayer as one body in Christ – filling each day with prayer vigils in congregations throughout the Northwest District.

Later on in the document, the following statement is made:

The Lord uses our prayers in acting as He desires. (does this express the meaning here?) In Ezekiel 22:23-31 (especially verse 30), prayer is absolutely necessary for the Lord to work. In the Scriptures, no phrase identifies intercessory prayer better than this phrase: “stand before me…on behalf of…” An intercessor stands before the Lord on behalf of other people. In these verses of Ezekiel, the Lord did not want to destroy His people and was looking for someone to intercede for them. But, He could find no one. So, “I have poured out my indignation on them…” Would Israel’s history have been different if the Lord had found an intercessor? What about the church today? Our local congregations? Our Northwest District? In Psalm 8, our Lord makes us partners with Him (Psalm 8:6). The Lord asks us to pray, not because He can’t rule without our prayers. He asks us to pray because in His grace and His sovereign nature, he determined that He will rule through our partnership in prayer. He has chosen to partner with us in order to accomplish His purposes in the Church and the world.

Is prayer absolutely necessary for the Lord to work?

HT: Suzee

photo credit: 217church

8 comments:

morningstar said...

Ahhhhh......does this help?

Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean?
Answer: The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself. But we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

Luther's Small Catechism

Matt said...

My handy Lutheran Study Bible points us to the Large Catechism:

"Such prayer then, is to be our protection and defense now. It is to repel and put down all that the devil, pope, bishops, tyrants, and heretics can do against our Gospel. Let them all rage and attempt their utmost and deliberate and resolve how they may suppress and exterminate us, so that their will and counsel may prevail. Over and against this one or two Christians with this petition alone shall be our wall, against which they shall run and dash themselves to pieces."

Conclusion: intercessory prayer can be a powerful means through which God protects His people.

However, I see nothing in Ezekiel or anywhere else that says that prayer is absolutely necessary for the Lord to work. Furthermore, the emphasis seems to be that unity in the church can be built through the act of praying together; I see nothing here about unity of confession or doctrine. I get the sense that that such unity is not highly valued by the people organizing this.

Matt said...

Also,

The context of this Large Catechism quote would indicate that Luther sees intercessory prayer as a means for Christians to seek protection against false teachers (heretics). Somehow, I doubt that false doctrine is not what the organizers will be asking God to protect Christians from.

Josh Schroeder said...

Don't you believe in the power of prayer? (And yes, I worded my question that way intentionally).

Martin Diers said...

"The Lord asks us to pray, not because He can’t rule without our prayers. He asks us to pray because in His grace and His sovereign nature, he determined that He will rule through our partnership in prayer. He has chosen to partner with us in order to accomplish His purposes in the Church and the world."

Do you know that feeling you get when you are walking on a path that is almost, but not-quite level in the side-to-side dimension? That's the feeling I get while reading this.

The problem is the word "partnership", or the idea that God can "partner with us" to accomplish anything at all. It removes the works which we do from the category of thoughtless love and gratitude, and places them in the category of merit. It leaves us saying, "God did this with my help. I had a part in this good work." Rather: "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say,`We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'" (Luk 17:10 NKJ)

With all due respect to Matt, Intercessory prayer is neither powerful nor not powerful as a means itself. Prayer is not a means of grace. Rather when we pray we are trusting God to do the entire work of protecting us from the devil and the world by the power of His Word. It is the Word which holds back heretics and the devil. We stand in that word, also in prayer, and thus are defended by Christ. It is a dangerous thing to think of God empowering us. He does no such thing. Even the faith in which we stand is not upheld through an exercise of God's almighty power, but by His grace, namely, the objective forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament. It is this undeserved love which we claim as our own, also in prayer, when we say, "Deliver us from evil", and thus trust God to slay the devil with His absolution of our sins, even as He has promised.

Scott Diekmann said...

My thought mirrors Pastor Diers' comment. The whole thrust of the NOW prayer vigil seems to place the emphasis on us and what we're doing, not on Christ and what He has done and continues to do. It's Ablaze!! Since I'm in the NOW District, I see this emphasis often in other aspects of what we're doing as a District as well, such as Tracking the Spirit:
http://stand-firm.blogspot.com/2008/11/spirit-tracker.html. Certainly prayer is an important aspects of a Christian's life, but it is not a power that we wield which then causes God to act. Synod-wide, there seems to be a creeping emphasis on praying in ways that Scripture doesn't command us to pray. You can see what Frank has to say about that:
http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

"An intercessor stands before the Lord on behalf of other people. In these verses of Ezekiel, the Lord did not want to destroy His people and was looking for someone to intercede for them."

I'll say this: when I think of this statement, I think of Jesus "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

Dennis Peskey said...

How many of us prayed for the Christ to be crucified?
"Wir sind Bettler, Hoc est verum!"