Monday, October 14, 2013

Preaching, Praying, and a Postmodern Advent

Looking ahead to Advent, I'm planning (based on input from our congregation on our spiritual needs) to preach a series on prayer. I plan to structure each sermon so there is Christocentric, eschatological proclamation for the day, followed by "activity," prayer practices that connect organically to the preaching and lectionary texts for the day.

Although I don't plan to make this an overt part of the sermon series, it is my "geek pastor" plan to have each sermon topic evoke the way specific philosophers would come at the concept of prayer. For example, John D. Caputo's recent work on a theology of "perhaps" is, according to him, about prayer. Similarly, Derrida emphasized frequently the impossibility of prayer even though it is necessary.

Or, there is D.Z. Philips classic work on prayer from a Wittgensteinian perspective (
D.Z. Philip's The Concept of Prayer
). This and Caputo's books have inspired me to consider the untapped resources for deepening our prayer life based out of the philosophical tradition.

Similarly, I might take Enrique Dussel's Ethics of Liberation as a starting point for proclaiming Mary's song, because of the obvious connections.

I do not plan to offer a series of lectures on postmodern philosophy. That would be pedantic and daunting. Instead, I'm thinking of this as a way to riff off great thinkers in order to make new discoveries re: the very practical implications of prayer.

I think sometimes we approach prayer in too "pat" of a fashion. We think we know what prayer is, then we live into prayer based on what we think it is and signifies. This traps us, and stultifies our prayer. Coming at prayer from these outside resources can help us rediscover prayer as if for the first time, especially deepening our sense of how to "pray without ceasing."

And so on. What I wonder... have you read any books like Philip's that come at prayer from new perspectives? What do you recommend? What are the resources that have nourished your own life of prayer?

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