I am not a systematic theologian…my friends and acquaintances who love all things systematic have heard me make this proclamation over and over again. During the course of my seminary education, my Episcopal friends did, however, open my mind and my heart to the idea that the idea of theology as a way of speaking about God was not inherently evil — although they did not succeed at convincing me that Karl Barth was indeed my friend. As usual, it took the work of an Old Testament scholar to do that.
For the past few weeks, I have been enjoying a class at VTS about the prophetic books of the Hebrew bible, in particular, the book of Ezekiel. To begin each class, we have been invited to pray with Karl Barth. That’s right, there is a published book of Karl Barth’s pastoral prayers — and I like them. Okay, I don’t agree with all the theology therein and there certainly are a couple of prayers that are, shall we say, “of their context” and not really pray-able today, in my own context. Since today is, for me personally, a very prayer-worthy day, I thought that I would share one with you. Yes, that’s right…me, quoting Karl Barth:
[Prayer no. 43, “Because You Are”, published in Fifty Prayers: Karl Barth, translated by David Carl Stassen, published by the Westminster John Knox Press in 1985)
Lord our God, you see and hear us.
You know us, each and every one of us, better than we know ourselves.
You love us, even though we truly have not deserved it.
You have helped us, are helping us, and will continue to help us
when again and again we are about to ruin everything by wanted to be our own help.
You are the judge, but also the Savior of all poor, confused humanity.
We thank you for that. We praise you for that.
And we look forward on that great day to being allowed to see
what we are already allowed to believe,
if you make us free to do so.
Make us free to do so!
Give us an honest, sincere, and active faith in you and in your truth!
Give it to many people, to all people!
Give it to all nations and all governments, to the rich and to the poor,
to the healthy and the sick, to the prisoners and all those who think they are free,
to the old and the young, to the happy and the sad,
to the melancholy and the carefree!
There is no one who does not need to believe,
and there is no one to whom it has not been promised that “even I might believe.”
Say it to them and to us, that you are their gracious God and Father,
and ours as well!
This we pray to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen