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John Webster Prayer

Freedom and Prayer

I’m just parking this Webster quotation here; no further comment is necessary.

Evangelical freedom, emerging from our being put to death and made alive in Christ and the Spirit, is thus freedom from the care of self which so harasses and afflicts the lost creatures of God. My freedom is in part my freedom from final responsibility for maintaining myself, a freedom which is the fruit of my having been liberated from the anxious toil of having to be my own creator and preserver…

A particular mode of this freedom is the freedom to pray. Prayer is an act of evangelical freedom because in it is expressed our liberation from anxiety and self-responsibility, and our freedom to live on the basis of fellowship with God and trust in the divine promise. Prayer thus expresses the fact that, as we have been set free by God, so we have had taken from us the evil custody of ourselves which we thought ensured our safety but which in fact fastened us to sin and death. Prayer, indeed is at the centre of the fellowship with God which is determinative of whatever is authentically humane.

John Webster, ‘Evangelical Freedom’, in Confessing God, 225-26.

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John Webster Pastoralia Prayer

Grace in a Time of Coronavirus

In our current trials, painful as they are, we are being given a gift—a gift as Christians, a gift as pastors, a gift as churches and a gift as nations, if only we will take it. This time of losses, restrictions, anxieties and griefs, it also a matchless opportunity for grace.

In The Culture of Theology, John Webster invites us to take our own existence, and the situation in which we are placed, with full seriousness. He asks, ‘In what sense can theological existence be cultivated?’, and answers, ‘The first thing to say is that it can’t.’1 Although he is writing about the ‘anatomy of a theologian’, what Webster says here applies equally to our understanding of all human existence in the light of the gospel. This seems more obvious now than at any time in my lifetime. If we believed it, how refreshing it would be! It would calm our bubbling anxieties, cool our frenzied conversations, soothe our restless fears.

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Prayer

Anselm’s Prayer to God

Anselm’s “Prayer to God” is a beautiful model prayer, which aims “to stir up the mind of the reader to love or fear of God, or to self-examination.”

Although he is best known for his ontological argument for the existence of God in the Proslogion, and for his classic articulation of the satisfaction view of the atonement in Cur Deus Homo, Anselm also left a rich legacy of prayers, written to help “ordinary” Christians pray.

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Prayer

Learn to Pray by praying

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

How can we learn how to pray? Not think about prayer. Not talk about prayer. Not theologise about prayer. But actually pray.