Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Praying with Karl Barth

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Lord, God, Our Father,

We thank you that here with each other we can call on you and listen to you. Before you, we are all equal. You know that life, thoughts, path, and heart of each of us, down to the smallest and most hidden detail, and before your eyes none is righteous, no, not one. But you have not forgotten or rejected, or condemned a single one of us. Quite the opposite: you love each one of us; you know what we need, will grant it to us, will look at nothing but the empty hands that we stretch out to you, in order that they might be filled – not sparingly, but richly. In the suffering and death of Jesus, your dear Son, you were gracious and exceedingly helpful when you took our place, you took our darkness and laments on yourself, and you have made us free to come to your light and rejoice as your children.

In his name, we ask that you now give each of us something of your good Holy Spirit, so that in this hour we may understand you, ourselves, and each other a little better, and that thereby we may be quickened and encouraged to take a step forward along the path that you have set for all of us, whether we know it or not – both then, as Jesus, hanging on the cross, bowed his head and died, and from all eternity. Amen.

From Fifty Prayers by Karl Barth

6 Responses to Praying with Karl Barth

  1. CO Fines says:

    JR, in the little time that I have spent with you I am pleased and encouraged by what seems to catch your eye. I’m surprised that more people don’t seem to stop by. In my view Dream Awakener is a most apt description of what Spirit is about in the world today. I suppose that has always been so, but it seems to me especially so today and I continue to be alert to the possibility that this Awakening is in fact the return of Jesus in a form that most will not recognize, as before, and perhaps the beginning of the Thousand Year Age.

    I am in the middle of exploring Karl Barth and becoming aware of the increasing number of those who are becoming aware of him as the most significant theological voice of the twentieth century. I have no intention of plowing thru the fourteen volumes of his unfinished work since that would use up the rest of my life and take away from what’s in front of us now.

    But I learn a lot from reading what others have to say about notable theologians and I eventually will read Barth’s condensed Dogmatics in Outline. I understand that a reporter asked Barth toward the end of his life and career if he could sum up all that he had learned and written. Barth thought a bit and replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Don’t know if that really happened but I would like to think it did.

    I have some basic quarrels with Reformed theology but it seems necessary to think them out since it exerts such a big influence on the thought and direction of the church, especially in America. I’m still trying to catch up with the Theological Hall of Fame Allstars at the same time, at least to see how they fit into the Tree. And my next project will probably be NT Wright who just may complete the circle back to Paul before the curtain comes down.

    Your prayer by Barth was a pleasant surprise for me. Barth wasn’t just a thinker, he was a believer who seemed to get it. I’m not so sure that Jesus has all that much use for our theology but it seems the church disagrees.

  2. JR Woodward says:


    Hey. Thanks for your encouragement. In regard to people stopping by, sometimes people comment on facebook and sometimes people come by just to read. Some post seem to call people to interact more, but there are a number of regular readers.

    What you have said about what Barth said near the end of his life was something I had heard from Barth scholars, so it may be true.

    N.T. Wright is one of my favorites. I’ve made my way through two of the large volume works and many of his smaller works. He has shaped my thinking quite a bit.

    Who are your top five theologians?

  3. CO Fines says:

    My top 5 theologians? Hmmm, first time I’ve done that. I’ll take theology to mean it’s basic sense of speaking about God. Too much of what we call theology strikes me as actually philosophy.

    1) Jesus. You could get sidetracked here in definition and semantics but Jesus spent three and a half years introducing us to the God we had forgotten. Not confined to the Bible but certainly starting and ending there. Jesus trumps all the other New Testament writers.

    2) John. The heart and true meaning of the Good News. If I had to pick one book of the Bible that would survive all else, it would be John’s Gospel. Almost want to say that his Revelation would be second in the survival kit but I’ll give that to the one we know as Matthew.

    3) Paul. Mixed feelings here. We still haven’t figured Paul out after all this time tho I think we are getting closer. I think his words have hindered as much as they have helped. Can’t help but think that this was intentional at a Higher level, not that this makes sense at the common level.

    4) Origen. The last giant before the church derailed. Not important so much for the specifics of his thought and teaching as for the way he thought and related to God and the Word. There’s the everyday sense of Scripture and then there is the Spirit that underlies it. We have mostly swept that under the rug along with Origen’s reputation which was trashed in a political fight within the church.

    5) I want to keep this spot open for guest speakers. Decidedly NOT giving this place to Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, or Barth. James would beat all six of them put together. The door is always open for those in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Francis Assisi gets a lifetime pass along with a number of what we like to shoebox as mystics. Tom Wright will get to do a stint but no stay. Rob Bell is currently at the podium albeit briefly. God Himself stops by daily tho not in a form or person that you would likely recognize. He’s my favorite.

  4. JR Woodward says:


    That is fascinating and helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share that. What would you say is your top three contemporary theologians or authors? You may have eluded to some in your fifth choice.

  5. CO Fines says:

    There is a place in my mind where theology and history merge. I find it useful to hang out there in trying to figure out how we got into this pickle and maybe how to get back out. Real, professional theology requires a lifetime of dedication which I would regard as setting up your desk on the dock while the ship sails away. If I was going to spend the time, I would spend it in Eastern Orthodox teaching but I don’t think we have that much time.

    Some people who I find helpful in getting overviews and sorting things out would be Roger Olson, J.N.D. Kelly, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Gregory Boyd, and Garry Wills. Wills writes small, easy to read books with titles like What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant. Good for thinking outside the box, tho it’s a Catholic box. Olson and Boyd give fairly evenhanded assessments within the Protestant tradition. Kelly and Von Balthasar are previous generation and learned, not read in an afternoon, but readable. Kelly, an Anglican, is good at seeing the big picture of church history. Von Balthasar, a Catholic, is good at seeing the big picture in theological history and explains Origen and Barth in particular. Others might come to mind on more thought but these are off the top of my head, probably because I have read them in the last year or so. A book you might try is Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer.

    If I was never to cross your path again I would leave you with three names that are not likely to become household names. Brother Lawrence was a kitchen helper in a monastery during the 1600’s. He spent his days in conversation with God while peeling potatoes and washing dishes. The worst parts of his day were when he had to stop the conversation while attending prayers. He left us The Practice of the Presence of God which is considered a classic in Christian writing and is by far the least controversial of my three names. It would be a good introduction to the next two.

    I get a letter every day in my inbox from God. To be more accurate, I get a letter which I believe to be directly from God as if dictated to a secretary. Most Christians do not respond positively to these letters. Some get bent out of shape. God isn’t speaking only to Christians in these letters, He is speaking to everyone and in the process precious church tradition sometimes has its nose tweaked. The common theme is love God, love your neighbor. This is my touchstone now for evaluating any belief, any tradition, any theology, any message, any interpretation. It cuts thru a lot of useless verbiage and argument. Heavenletters.org.

    In the middle of the nineteenth century in a small town in Austria lived a man who made a meager living giving music lessons and died in poverty, all but unknown and an apparent failure in life. His name was Jakob Lorber. I imagine you could ask ten thousand people today and not find one who ever heard of him. He spent twenty-four years patiently and faithfully writing down teachings and stories heard spoken in his heart by someone who identified himself as Jesus. Many of these have been translated into English tho not all. The most important work is called The Great Gospel of John and expands on the Biblical Gospel of John to give the whole story of Jesus’ three and a half year mission here.

    This is where eyes begin to roll and knees begin to jerk and pejorative words start bouncing around. I have been three times thru and not found anything which I considered to conflict with the Bible. There is a lot that conflicts with church doctrine. It is not the kind of thing that you can cite as an authority unless you want to stand a good chance of being considered nuts, a heretic, or both. In my mind it is the most important collection of writings after the Bible. Statistically your mileage is almost certain to vary but you ought to at least be aware of its existence and not pronounce a verdict without an open minded reading. You won’t find these books in your local Christian bookstore and most of them would express horror at the thought. Once more, I find loving God and neighbor over and over and over again as the main theme, just like in the Bible.

    I mentioned Rob Bell previously. As Bell states himself, he isn’t saying anything new but I am amazed at both the negative and positive responses to the basic questions he asks. It is time for those questions to be asked out loud. I believe he may become the poster boy for a major separation going on with the body of Christ today like oil and water settling out, perhaps as big as the Reformation five hundred years ago or even bigger. We’ll see.

  6. JR Woodward says:


    Thanks for your thoughts here. I’m familiar and have read Brother Lawrence, but have not heard of or read Jakob Lorber, so I’ll have to check him out. Thanks for taking the time to share the various people who have shaped you and for the link to heavenletters.org

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