Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 3 (Part II)


This post and the one succeeding it are going to seem oddly out of place on Jeremy’s blog. This post will deal with Pannenberg’s discussion of prayer, while the next will deal with the status of the real presence in the Eucharist, both of which make up the larger portion on ecclesiology in Pannenberg’s dogmatics.

– Pannenberg begins his discussion on prayer by noting that it has no fixed or traditional place in dogmatics. Indeed, if any doctrine could be considered an appendage or addendum, or even an afterthought, it is prayer. But prayer in dogmatics is not simply an expression of religious piety but, as Pannenberg observes, a fruitful discussion of religious epistemology and pneumatology. Prayer presupposes both God and knowledge of God (202). For Pannenberg, prayer should therefore immediately proceed yet remain closely tied to pneumatology because, “the spirit alone enables us to pray and gives us strength to do so” (203).  In keeping with this, Pannenberg again nuances whether prayer should be oriented within the larger context of the cultic or religious community, as it was in world religions and ancient Israel, or whether prayer in a dogmatic context should focus on the prayer in the life of individual. Given Jesus’ pronouncements on prayer, Pannenberg sides with the latter, while noting that one can only pray alone in the Christian ecclesia when one prays together with the church, e.g. in the Lord’s Prayer.

– Pannenberg orientates prayer also within his section on love. Prayer is therefore not merely a response on the love for ones neighbour, but also love for God.

With participation in the filial relation they receive their own subjectivity before God that expresses itself as spontaneity in relation to the Father and hence also to all creaturely reality. Prayer is a particularly suitable form by which to express this divinely generated spontaneity. In it addressing God as Father stands closely related to intercession for others, so that the link between love of God and love of neighbour finds concrete manifestation in Christian prayer (205).

This again ties in to Pannenberg’s anthropological digression to the root of prayer in human history, where it probably arose among ancient tribal people as petitionary prayer in response to some emergency which exposed both humanity’s impotence relative to the powers of nature and the vicissitudes of history, as well as his awareness of this and full dependence on higher transcendent powers to which he could not obviously control but which he thought at least he could petition or at the very least satiate.

– Pannenberg writes of the conditions that Jesus attaches to having one’s prayers heard, for example, forgiveness, because for Pannenberg, “Those who will not forgive others have fallen out of the dynamic of the divine love for the world and thus have no more right confidently to invoke the Father ‘in the name of Jesus’” (209). Finally, he deals with the understanding prayer coterminous, perhaps, with the doctrine of divine providence that asks whether prayer is ultimately superfluous.  To this Pannenberg sides with the Christian tradition and says that, of course, it is not superfluous. The Kingdom, Pannenberg observes, does not come into this world like fate, unalterably fixed in every detail from the very beginning (209).

Only in the future of consummation will eternity have come fully and totally into time and taken up time into itself. But the path to this point is by no means determined in every detail. Openness to the future relative to each finite present is real, not illusory. Hence believers are summoned to cooperate with God on his way to the future of his kingdom by their actions and prayers (209-210).



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