Monday, March 03, 2014

When Prayer Changed (PrayerLife)

The River Raisin, Monroe County

N.T. Wright, in his new book Paul and the Faithfulness of God states that with Paul, the Jewish idea of prayer and praying changed in a radical Reformation-like way. Ben Witherington notes this and writes:

"As it turns out, the real radical Reformation did not take place shortly after Luther (and in reaction to him). No, it happened in the first century when Paul revamped the whole symbol system of early Judaism. When someone reorients and reinterprets things like Temple, Territory, Torah, Prayer, Family, Battle etc. then they are messing with the vital parts of an ancient religion, not merely its thought world, but its praxis. So Wright correctly points out how different prayer looks in Paul’s letters– its not said to be a set times of day, its not said to involve a particular geographical orientation (pray towards the Temple in Jerusalem where God is said to dwell), it is not said to involve a set or rote prayer. Rather Paul says pray at any time and all the time, pray without ceasing, pray to the Father through the Son, pray at all times through and by means of the Spirit, and so on (p. 365). This entails a major modification of ancient Jewish monotheistic praying, not to mention the modification of the Shema in 1 Cor. 8.4-6 as well."
- "Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God - Part Fourteen"

So prayer...

  • need not be at set times of the day
  • need not have some special body posture or position
  • need not be in some special location
  • does not involve formulaic praying
  • is to be engaged in any time and all the time
  • is addressed to the Father, through the Son
  • is Spirit-enabled
  • and so on...
The historical Jesus-event unleashed prayer and praying into deeper relationship and greater freedom.