Prayer : the chief exercise of faith : the centrality of prayer in faith and obedience according to Karl Barth

Van Zyl, Marthinus Stephanus (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation is an attempt to show the centrality of prayer in the Christian life, in faith and obedience, according to Karl Barth. It is argued that the Christian life was not the focus of Barth’s theology. The focus of his theology was the divine reality upon which the Christian life is grounded and in which it continually finds its own reality. In its correspondence to and dependence upon God’s reality, God’s Word and work, the Christian life is for Barth both faith and obedience, and at the core of faith and obedience, it is prayer. The inseparable relationship between faith, obedience and prayer, is not due to the nature of humanity, the Christian, or even the Christian life as such, but due to the divine reality which gives faith, obedience and prayer its reality. Faith and obedience are inseparably related. Both are equally impossible for humanity by its own power and capacity. It is only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that humanity is justified and sanctified, thus turning its unbelief into faith and its disobedience into obedience. The unity of faith and obedience lies therein that they both form part of the one event of the reconciliation between God and humanity, which is accomplished in Jesus Christ. Both form part of the Self-revelation of this reconciliation by God’s Word. The reconciliation between God and humanity, revealed by the Word of God, does not depend on faith and obedience, but is effective by its own power and grace, which brings both faith and obedience simultaneously into existence. The reality of faith and obedience is a hidden reality, a divine reality, an eschatological reality, which is not externally observable, but can only be believed in faith, to which we are moving in obedience, and which we ask for in prayer. Faith and prayer are also inseparably related. Faith, knowledge of God, is a personal response to God’s gracious and miraculous Self-revelation, which humanity cannot produce by its own power. And therefore faith is to pray. Faith is always praying, for God’s Self-revelation never becomes the possession of the believer, but is always given anew, thus necessitating faith to always ask anew for God’s Self-revelation. Faith knows God in personal response, knows God in asking always anew, and therefore knows God in prayer. Faith only has knowledge of God by talking to God, by responding in prayer to God’s prior Self-revelation to faith, and by asking for God to reveal God-self always anew. Obedience and prayer are also inseparably related. Both obedience and prayer exist in the freedom of being bound unconditionally to God’s action and Word. Freedom is not freedom from obligation, but the freedom of living within the claim of God’s lordship over our lives. The freedom of obedience is the freedom to act in reaction to the action of God. It is the liberation from pondering over different possibilities, and the freedom for living in the one and only path laid before it, the path of obedience. The freedom of prayer is the freedom to respond in correspondence to the Word of God, by which it is addressed and claimed. It is the liberation from all other voices and claims, and the freedom to give witness to the one and only voice which claims its life in totality. Faith, prayer and obedience are inseparably related. All three form part of the one Christian life lived under the Lord, who is Lord over the whole of creation, and who is Lord over the whole of the Christian life. In faith, obedience and prayer the Christian lives in correspondence to God’s lordship over the world, the church and the individual. Becoming a Christian, means believing in Jesus Christ. It means continually looking away from oneself, to Jesus Christ, who justifies humanity despite its unbelief, despite its pride, despite its faith in itself. Faith discards trust in itself, and trusts Jesus Christ completely. Being a Christian, means obeying Jesus Christ. It means to surrender to Jesus Christ as the only Lord whom one is to obey in life and in death. As Jesus Christ sanctifies disobedient and slothful humanity, obedience is the freedom to rise and follow Jesus. Acting as a Christian, means praying with Jesus Christ. It means to ask in the Name of Jesus Christ, in the power and presence of Jesus Christ, in the grace and lordship of Jesus Christ, that we will be able to believe what we cannot believe by our own power, and that we will be able to obey what we cannot obey by our own power.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif is ‘n poging om aan te dui dat gebed in die hart staan van die Christelike lewe, in beide geloof en gehoorsaamheid, volgens die teologie van Karl Barth. In hierdie studie word aangevoer dat die Christelike lewe nie die fokus van Barth se teologie was nie. Die fokus van sy teologie was die Goddelike werklikheid waarop die Christelike lewe gegrond is en vanwaar dit voortdurend ‘n eie werklikheid ontvang. In ooreenstemming met en in afhanklikheid van God se werklikheid, God se Woord en werk, is die Christelike lewe volgens Barth gelyktydig geloof en gehoorsaamheid, en in die kern van geloof en gehoorsaamheid, staan gebed. Die onskeibare verhouding tussen geloof, gehoorsaamheid en gebed, is nie vanweë die aard van die mens, die Christen, of selfs die Christelike lewe in sigself nie, maar vanweë die Goddelike realiteit wat aan geloof, gehoorsaamheid en gebed hul werklikheid skenk. Geloof en gehoorsaamheid staan in ‘n onskeibare verband tot mekaar. Beide is ewe onmoontlik vir mense in hul eie krag and vermoë. Dit is net deur die genade van God in Jesus Christus, deur die krag van die Heilige Gees, dat die mensdom geregverdig en geheilig word, waardeur ongeloof in geloof, en ongehoorsaamheid in gehoorsaamheid verander word. Die eenheid van geloof en gehoorsaamheid lê daarin dat beide deel uitmaak van die een gebeurtenis van versoening tussen God en mens, wat in Jesus Christus plaasvind. Beide maak deel uit van die Self-openbaring van hierdie versoening deur God se Woord. Die versoening tussen God en mens, wat die Woord van God openbaar, is nie afhanklik van geloof en gehoorsaamheid nie, maar is effektief in eie krag, deur genade, en dit bring beide geloof en gehoorsaamheid tot stand. Die werklikheid van geloof en gehoorsaamheid is ‘n verborge werklikheid, ‘n Goddelike werklikheid, ‘n eskatologiese werklikheid, wat nie van buite waarneembaar is nie, maar wat slegs in geloof geglo kan word, waarnatoe ons beweeg in gehoorsaamheid, en waarvoor ons vra in gebed. Geloof en gebed staan ook in ‘n onskeibare verband tot mekaar. Geloof, kennis van God, is ‘n persoonlike antwoord op God se genadige en wonderbaarlike Self-openbaring, wat die mens nie in eie krag kan skep nie. En daarom is geloof om te bid. Geloof bid voortdurend, want God se Self-openbaring raak nooit die besitting van die gelowige nie, maar word altyd opnuut gegee, wat dit noodsaaklik maak vir geloof om altyd opnuut te vra vir God se Self-openbaring. Geloof ken God deur ‘n persoonlike antwoord, deur altyd opnuut te vra, en daarom ken geloof vir God in gebed. Geloof het slegs kennis van God deur met God te praat, deur in gebed te antwoord op Gods voorafgaande Self-openbaring aan geloof, en deur vir God te vra om Godself altyd opnuut te openbaar. Gehoorsaamheid en gebed staan ook in ‘n onskeibare verband tot mekaar. Beide gehoorsaamheid en gebed bestaan in die vryheid om onvoorwaardelik gebonde te wees aan God se Woord en werk. Vryheid is nie vryheid van verpligtinge nie, maar die vryheid om te leef binne die aanspraak van God se heerskappy oor ons lewens. Die vryheid van gehoorsaamheid is die vryheid om aktief op te tree in reaksie op die aksie van God. Dit is om bevry te word van bepeinsing oor verskillende moontlikhede, en die vryheid om te leef vir die een en enigste pad wat voor sigself lê, die pad van gehoorsaamheid. Die vryheid van gebed is die vryheid om te antwoord in ooreenstemming met die Woord van God, waardeur die mens aangespreek word en in beslag geneem word. Dit is die bevryding van alle ander stemme en aansprake, en die vryheid om te getuig van die een en enigste stem wat die lewe in totaliteit in beslag neem. Geloof, gehoorsaamheid en gebed is in ‘n onskeibare verband tot mekaar. Al drie maak deel uit van die een Christelike lewe wat geleef word onder die Heer, wat Heer is oor die hele skepping en ook oor die Christelike lewe. In geloof, gehoorsaamheid en gebed leef die Christen in ooreenstemming met God se heerskappy oor die wêreld, die kerk en die individu. Om ‘n Christen te word, beteken om te glo. Dit beteken om voortdurend weg te kyk van sigself, na Jesus Christus, wat die mensdom regverdig ten spyte van hul ongeloof, ten spyte van hul trots, ten spyte van hul geloof in hulself. Geloof vertrou nie op sigself nie, maar vertrou Jesus Christus volledig. Om ‘n Christen te wees, beteken om Jesus Christus te gehoorsaam. Dit beteken om sigself oor te gee aan Jesus Christus as die enigste Heer wat gehoorsaam moet word in lewe en in sterwe. Jesus Christus heilig die ongehoorsame en trae mensdom, wat aan die mens die vryheid gee om op te staan en Jesus te volg in gehoorsaamheid. Om op te tree as ‘n Christen, beteken om te bid saam met Jesus Christus. Dit beteken om in die Naam van Jesus Christus, in die krag en teenwoordigheid van Jesus Christus, in die genade en heerskappy van Jesus Christus, te vra dat ons in staat sal wees om te glo wat ons nie self kan glo nie, en dat ons in staat sal wees om te gehoorsaam wat ons nie self kan gehoorsaam nie.

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