Wednesday, October 3, 2012

what the word "answer" means

Karl Barth
Someone sent this little snippet to me the other day.  It seems to intuit the profoundly intimate and deeply mysterious way in which our own lives are united with, and even mutually dependent, upon God.  (Although I'm sure that there are plenty of theologians who would insist that God does not need us in order to be God.  I'm not so sure.)

Let us approach the subject of prayer from the given fact that God answers.

God is not deaf, but listens; more than that, he acts.

God does not act in the same way whether we pray or not.

Prayer exerts an influence upon God's action, even upon his existence.

This is what the word 'answer' means.

- Karl Barth
From Prayer


  1. This is fascinating, Beth.

    And your own musing on the mutuality of our need and God's somehow ties in with the utter vulnerability of Christ in His passion..

  2. The thing that I like about the Karl Barth quote, J, is the way it cuts clean through the "cliche of prayer" - using prayer as comfort food, and a way to lull oneself back to sleep - and wakes one up to the rather stunning possibilities of what it means to live and be alive. You're right, the role of utter vulnerability as exemplified by the passion of Christ, is integral.

    1. You're right: instead of lulling us to sleep, real prayer wakes us up! In other faith-traditions, especially Zen Buddhism, meditation serves the same purpose. Prayer and meditation enables us to wake up to our true nature (a theme, by the way, which, to my mind, runs through Merton's writings) - to realize who we truly are.

      That's the easy part. The challenge is to manifest what we've realized in the ordinary events of day-to-day living. (This, by the way, is the purpose of continuous koan practice in Zen, that is, to enable the Zen practitioner to integrate his enlightenment experience in his daily life). If we can do this, then we will know what it means to live life to the full...


  3. My 2 cents ________________________________

    my my
    i just dont buy it- the prayer god thing
    it may be that we should listen to our
    own prayer and then answer them,
    bad prayer bad answer, good prayer good answer
    and what if god says no - bad god bad god
    what has happened to my comfort food,
    as you say -
    there is suffering in the world !
    if wishes were horses, beggars would ride -

    blessings _____________________________

  4. i've always found this confusing: my sister, for example, said her prayers healed my mother; does this mean that my mother might have croaked if my sister hadn't prayed?

    i also agree with mr. barth as well

    maybe our view is too puny to get it

  5. Fascinating Beth. Thanks for this . Prayer Mmmm It's still a huge mystery to me. God seems to like that for some reason and I've never been able to really get why that is the case.

  6. "God does not act in the same way whether we pray or not." :-)

  7. If prayer is relationship then surely there is always movement - from both sides