The Forgotten Essentials of Doing Theology: Prayer

theologyIt is extremely easy to make the discipline of doing theology all about us. We can rob God of the glory in theological study by doing it in such away that ignores actual interaction with him. Kelly Kapic reminds us that God is not merely an object of study but the Lord that we worship (A Little Book for New Theologians, 64). To keep this right perspective it is important, then, that we see prayer as necessary part of our theological study. Prayer keeps our theology from becoming a stale academic discipline.

It’s important that we understand what prayer is. Prayer is communion with God, but we ought to see at as more than just a literal folding of the hands and bowing of the head. Kapic speaks of it as a way of living. He writes:

We are concerned not only to have a few minutes a day set apart for God, but also to have a constant communion with him (1 Thess. 5:17; cf. Jn 15:1-17)). Whether eating, drinking, laughing or working, all that we do is done before the face of God. This is what undergirded the Reformation slogan coram Deo – living before God in all areas of life. This especially applies to our theological studies. Here we are on holy ground, and thus our attitude must be an attitude of prayer. If we are to be faithful, we must always be aware of his presence. (67)

We are doing theology as worship, in humility, before God, in Hi very presence. We are not merely studying him, we are communing with Him. That ought to change everything about our theological work.

It is important too that we do our theology as a dialogue with God. We are not coming to conclusions on our own. As we studying God’s Word we are asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, to give us wisdom to discern truth, and eyes to see it, and hearts to accept it. If theology doesn’t affect our lives it is not usually because of intellectual failures, but rather heart refusals. Vern Poythress keenly writes:

…Our deepest difficulties cannot be resolved merely on a narrowly intellectual plane. Our deepest difficulty is sin, rebellion against God. We have desires in our hearts that resist the Bible’s views and what God has to say. We want to be our own master. (Inerrancy and Worldview, 16)

This means we need to continually do theology as part of a conversation with God. We must prayerfully seek the truth if we are to find the truth. Certainly this means staying grounded in the Word of God, but even here we are seeking divine aid in understanding (Eph. 1:16-17; Col. 1:9). As Anselm of Canterbury wrote, “A theological thought can breathe only in the atmosphere of dialogue with God” (Proslogion).

Theology done without prayer is a great way to turn what should be an act of worship into a cold academic discipline. It is a great way to make theology “something we discuss rather than something that moves us” (Kapic, 64). As we do theology we are to do it in communion with God, both for His glory and for our good. Prayer is a necessary part of our theological work.

I hope that throughout this short series we are seeing that theology is very practical and that they way we approach the discipline itself matters. Doing theology does not just mean reading some books and writing some papers. It means living before God, it means serving others, it means expressing humility before God himself. Theology is a part of the believer’s life. I pray that we might all be better theologians as we seek to live for God’s glory.

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