Prayer as Revolt
Prayer as Revolt
This week I read a quote from a favorite theologian, Karl Barth. He said: “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” I would like to unpack what he said, and to refer to some words of Jesus which I think are behind what Dr. Barth wrote. Let me begin with two questions about Professor Barth’s quote. First of all why would he say there is disorder in the world? And secondly, if there is disorder, mustn’t it be God’s will?
Why say there is disorder in the world? God created a perfect and orderly world, but because of human sin and because (as a result) we live in a fallen creation, the world God created is clearly no longer the world we live in. We live in a world where children die, where wars kill, where famine rages, and where some people are still literally enslaved while others live in bondage to fear, hatred, and addiction. In so many other ways the fallenness of the creation and of our lives is evident. Without a doubt, we live in a broken and fallen world.
Second question: Are all these evil things that happen in the world God’s will? Of course not! Why else would Jesus have taught us to pray like this: “Father...Your name be hallowed, Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Clearly Jesus knew that there is a great gap between earth and heaven. On earth, God the Father’s name in not yet honored, His kingdom has not yet come, and His will is not yet done.
But isn’t God sovereign? Couldn’t He destroy evil in a heartbeat? As a patient at a cancer hospital I have noticed that cancer doctors have a problem: They want to kill cancer without killing the patient. Even though He is God, the Lord faces a similar problem—He could destroy sin and evil in a moment, by destroying us, the host. But He desires to destroy the disease of sin while saving us. Apparently this is a process.
God’s Son Jesus began the process of salvation long ago in his atoning death and in his resurrection victory over sin and death. That same Jesus tells us to pray for the full implementation of that victory—for earth to become like heaven. He knew that praying for the coming of His Father’s kingdom is very important. Such prayer is an act of revolt against the sinfulness and fallenness of our world. Such prayer is also an act of loyalty to the Creator/Savior God and to His Eternal Kingdom which is breaking into our world, in which we now live by faith, and which eventually will be the only reality there is.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column first appears in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.