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Intercessory Prayer: Modern Theology, Biblical Teaching and Philosophical Thought

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Why is it necessary to ask for God's gifts? Intercessory Prayer attempts to provide answers to questions about the nature of intercessory prayer. Critically examining biblical teaching and modern theological and philosophical thinking, this book shows how intercessory prayer may be seen as one of the means by which God enlists the freely-given cooperation of human persons in the realisation of the divine purpose.

Clements-Jewery adopts a process view of the universe to show how intercession both makes certain possibilities greater and strengthens the likelihood of response, so that people who pray may have every confidence that their prayers will make a difference to the world through the God who both influences and is influenced by the creation.

Reviews ' This book on intercessory prayer presents both a good survey of thinking on the subject within Protestant theologies and an interesting theological theory that is the author's own As a work of process thought, the book is coherently and cogently developed, and the questions are well worth pondering.

Share this Title. Why is it necessary to pray? Is God capable of answering prayer? Why did she bother to tell God her will in the first place, if she wants to ask him something else, that is: not her will, but God's own will to be done? Heinemann concludes: '[T ]he outlook which is expressed in the prayers of Jesus reduces the very possibility of prayer to absurdity and is not shared by Rabbinic Judaism'. To pray 'Thy will be done' is absurd, and renders petitionary prayer useless.

John White , in a book on prayer, reaches a similar conclusion:. The phrase 'if it be thy will' is more often than not a cop-out.

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It means I don't have to come to grips with God. Theologians like Heinemann and White regard 'Thy will be done' as absurd, as a cop-out, rendering prayer useless. Can 'Thy will be done' be anything else than a lazy, aimless absurdity which renders petitionary prayer useless? The petitioner asks for something and then retracts is, so why did he or she ask something in the first place?

This line of reasoning would apply to any use of the phrase 'But thy will not mine be done', not just in prayer. However, there are quite a lot of occasions in human intercourse in which something similar seems to be expressed. The words 'But thy will not mine be done' are maybe too archaic to be actually used, but they would fit some other ordinary situations.

The Psychology of Prayer: A Review of Empirical Research

Applying Wittgenstein's ordinary language approach, I will present a number of these occasions as reminders with the purpose to refute the claim that 'Thy will be done' makes what was asked beforehand useless. I will first introduce the examples, and later on we will see what they do and do not show us about the meaning of 'But thy will not mine be done'. The first example is about going to the zoo. If someone wants to go to the zoo and invites a friend to join him, he may want to stress that she should only come along if she wants to herself.

In such a situation one could imagine this person saying something like: 'I would like you to come to the zoo with me, but don't come because I ask you to; only come if you want to', or, in other words, to show the similarity with the prayer ending: 'I want you to come along to the zoo, but thy will not mine be done'. I will leave aside cases in which in reality there is no freedom on the side of the one to whom is said 'But thy will not mine be done', such as where it becomes a kind of manipulation, or false modesty, or a joke.

By saying 'But thy will not mine be done' the person in our example stresses that it is really up to her whether she wants to come or not. Something similar is the case in the next example. Wanting someone's favourite painting. Imagine a person who has helped someone to redecorate her house. He has put quite a lot of time and effort into it and therefore she wants to give him something in return. She asks him what he wants as he may name anything. He really likes a painting that she owns, but he knows it is her favourite painting as well.

He is aware that he really cannot ask her to give him that painting, but seeing that she told him to name whatever he wants, he tells her he would like that painting, anyway. He knows that he could only accept that painting if it was really her free will to give it to him.

Stolen Child

He does not want her to feel obliged by her earlier suggestion that he would get whatever he asked for, and therefore he says something like: 'I would really like to have that painting, but you should do what you want: thy will not mine be done. Both of these examples show that the expression 'But thy will not mine be done' could be used in an attempt to secure someone else's freedom.

The phrase can be used in a different way as well. Prompting the Grandmaster. Imagine someone watching a game of chess that cannot help it and shouts: 'Move your bishop! He does not want that to happen, as he wants the Grandmaster to play the best possible move. Therefore he adds: 'But thy will not mine be done. When someone writes a letter of application, she tries to convince the reader that she is the right person for the job. She wants this job and she thinks it would be wise for the organisation to give the job to her. This kind of approach is quite common. But we could think of another approach as well.

If someone cares more for the well-being of the organisation than for her herself in terms of getting this job, she could end her letter of application saying something like: 'You have far more insight into what is good for the organisation, therefore: I want the job, but thy will not mine be done.

In the cases of going to the zoo and wanting the favourite painting, someone wants to secure the personal freedom of the other; in the cases of prompting the Grandmaster and the letter of application the person wants to keep the responsibility in the place in which it belongs. He feels that moving the bishop would be the best move, but the Grandmaster has more insight in the game; therefore, the Grandmaster should play on his own responsibility.

In the case of the application letter someone wants the job but it is the responsibility of the readers of her application letter to decide what is best for the organisation. By saying 'But thy will not mine be done', she keeps the responsibility where it belongs.

In cases in which there is a higher good at stake, such as winning the chess game or the well-being of the organisation, and in cases in which someone else has more insight into this greater good, such as the Grandmaster or the selection committee, the responsibility does not belong with the person prompting or applying, therefore: 'But thy will not mine be done.

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  • The king and the poor girl. To explain why God needed the incarnation - becoming human, the humblest of humans even, et cetera - Kierkegaard tells a story about a king that loves a poor girl. The king realises that under the circumstances the relationship will never take off. The difference in wealth and power will always keep them apart. The king considers his options. He could arrange it that the poor girl would win a fortune or estate in a lottery. The difference in class would become bridgeable and an equal relationship would become possible.

    At least, seen from her side. For the king himself things would be different: he would know that she owes her wealth to him. He knows that she, as far as her money and status are concerned, is dependent on him and that would still make a really equal relationship impossible. For the king there is only one option left: he has to renounce his wealth and power and become as poor as the girl he loves. A human king would probably always keep something of his royal dignity despite his poor clothing, but God as the king in his or her omnipotent love for us became truly a poor human being.

    This is the parable as Kierkegaard tells it. The king wants the love of the poor girl. Being the rich and wealthy man he is he could do all kinds of things to get her attention. But he realises that that would never be true love.

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    He has to renounce his wealth and power to make true love possible. In his actions of renouncement he acts out the phrase 'But thy will not mine be done'. The aspects we have seen in the previous examples play a role in this case as well. The king wants to respect the personal freedom of the poor girl rather than overwhelm her with his wealth and power. And the king attempts to keep the responsibility where it belongs: it is up to this girl and not to him, whether she conceives love for him or not. But an important new aspect plays a role in this case as well: the love of the poor girl would not be true love, if the king would not act out 'But thy will not mine be done' in his dealings with her.

    Without the king acting out 'But thy will not mine be done' the love of the poor girl would be part of an exchange, whereas true love is outside of the economy of exchanges. The acting out of 'But thy will not mine be done' makes true love possible. In Kierkegaard's parable the king represents God. In the way the parable is used here the king is the one who acts out 'But thy will not mine be done'.

    In our comparison the king would therefore be us, whereas the poor girl would represent God to whom the prayer 'But thy will not mine be done' is addressed.