Studying theology in a secular, university environment can be of real benefit to our devotional life as Christians, but it can also cause real struggles at times. One of the biggest dangers is that we allow our understanding of God’s character to become twisted by our studies in such a way that it negatively affects our communion with Him in prayer. If Archbishop William Temple was right in saying that “Religion is what you do with your solitude” then we need to guard our prayer life at all costs since it is the unseen foundation of our faith.
Most of our difficulties with prayer can be traced back to deficient or wrong views on the doctrine of God. For example, a Christian, having been exposed to the teaching of the New Atheist movement, may begin to doubt that God lovingly cares for her and will lack assurance, faith and tenderness in her prayer life. The solution may come in many forms. Perhaps a reminder of the enduring love between the persons of the Trinity? Or a refreshed knowledge of God’s absolute commitment to His people in sending Christ as substitute? As Keller reminds us, “The reason we know God will answer our prayers is because of that one terrible day when He did not answer Jesus’ prayer”. We will soon find that the depths of God’s character are sufficient to dispel all our misplaced fears as we approach Him in prayer.
It is vital therefore that as Christian theologians we commit both to defending a biblical view of the doctrine of God and, more importantly, commit to developing our own intimate prayer life. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man is “To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever”. Let us not be theologians that only read about God but miss out on enjoying Him ourselves!
Josh Oldfield, Theology Network Relay Intern in Edinburgh 2014/15