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Faith and Prayer: My Notes on Helmut Gollwitzer Last Lecture – ca. July, 1975

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Faith and Prayer

Faith is life-help. It is the making-easier of life. [It helps life. It makes life easier.] In this sense, doing without faith is heroic, because wanting to have an easier life presupposes that the human being is weak. But we have to face the difficulties of life making our lives become harder and as Isaiah says, The Lord captures the strong to make them his own. /1

The cross is the attack of the old life on the new. Some why questions are not really necessary for life and life does not depend on answering them. But the question, for what am I called? is not of that sort of question, nor questions about suffering. The Greek word peristasi refers to apostolic suffering in II Cor. 6: We are continually suffering, but behold we live; filled with anxiety, but behold we live. The latter way of putting it is psychological. But it is our calling to be set aside to undertake the harder life, the life fraught with difficulty.

Thus important provisos are needed in our vocation. Amen, for example, does not mean, “I believe that… , but it means entrusting oneself to a person or relying on a promise. Faith draws a person into an assignment, a task, a mission, and questions have to be asked:

A. Does the cause have some hope of success?

B. Am I left to my own resources? Does it all depend on me?

C. How will I change in the course of doing it?

Will I also accomplish the goal of my life in the course of it?

D. What will happen to me if I make mistakes or if I fail?

E. What will happen to me and to this good cause if the Sender remains hidden?

Answer: You are not alone, along with this call you will achieve the goal of your life, your failure is forgiven, and God will be present with all the promises. God is going with you. So consider his word far more true and more trustworthy than all your inner experience, [all your internal misgivings and trepidations].

A. Faith is different from having faith (Gläubigkeit).

Faith is always a new act; one cannot have faith.

B. Faith is not a Weltanschauung, not a way to view the world

and does not stand in competition to ideologies and life systems.

Faith is not holding something to be true, i.e., believing statements to be true.

C. Faith cannot be achieved by means of inner speculation. It is looking up to another. I do not know if I believe, but I know in whom I believe.

On this issue,

1. Paul Althaus held that we cannot believe in our faith, [or believe in our belief. ]

2. Karl Barth held, however, that we can only believe in our belief.

D. Faith itself is an act or deed and not a psychological disposition. It is a good work in which the other good works are grounded – it is mighty in itself, and emancipated. It is all involved in and all about the sending. (See N.B. in the footnotes.)

E. Faith is not acting by oneself or doing something by oneself, nor is it a belief that is then externalized, so that faith stands chronologically or psychologically before the act. It is there together with all the other acts; in, with, and under the act there is faith. It does not come first before the act, but our faith inheres in our doing. Faith does not precede works.



It is not upon our works that we depend, but we depend completely upon him. Luther said, faith is the doer, love is the deed. For your sending remember that God’s name means “I will be with you.” The I am will be with you and has sent you. Here the one who sends you promises to be with you in the future.

Faith is the hope of love. Faith makes life harder, more difficult, through the sending. And there is always an attack on the new life by the old and sharing oneself is very difficult.


In the identity of prayer and faith, four questions are directed at the Sender. I grasp the answers for them from the one who promises. These are questions of faith with hefty complaints directed to God. Struggling and arguing with God can be a form of trust that is acceptable to God./2

Concerning bidding prayer: we have discovered that the events of nature occur by means of specific laws. It is not true that wonders violate these laws. The word used for miracles in Greek is dynamis and it means “signs of strength” or “astonishing signs” or “things that astonish us.” Prayers often step aside into praise and thanksgiving and these terms cannot be understood apart from one another. There are two ways of questioning God, one that is metaphysical and the other that poses questions from personal experience. God is a limit-concept, which is completely irreplaceable. Prayer is conversation with the Sender.

Some Notes on Helmut Gollwitzer’s Last Lecture in Berlin

(taken by Peter Krey, as an Interim Pastor of St. Ann’s Church in Dahlem-Berlin at the time)

1 Die Starcken soll der Herr zum Raube haben, which in German means that the strong are the ones whom God takes as spoils (Isaiah 53:12). In English it is translated, “and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”

2 This is a very difficult German sentence: Vertrauen kann die Gestalt des Hadern mit Gotte Annehmen.

N.B. In my Luther reading, I found his taking one further step, which Gollwitzer leaves implicit: “Faith is a good work in which the other good works are grounded – it is mighty in itself, and emancipated,” i.e., It is a good work that God does in us and therefore it is mighty in itself, grounds all our good works, and is emancipated.


Written by peterkrey

September 6, 2006 at 4:16 am

7 Responses

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  1. I’m interested in the distinction you draw here:

    “A. Faith is different from having faith (Glaeubigkeit).

    Faith is always a new act; one cannot have faith.”

    I guess I’m not sure how “have” is supposed to be understood. Are you saying, e.g., that faith is an ‘external’ force, something that can’t be said to be “ours” or to “belong” to us? Would you say that faith is a gift?

    Btw, hope things are going well for you in philadelphia!

    Jason Zarri

    September 21, 2006 at 12:56 am

  2. Hello Dr. Krey!

    I hope that this email finds you well. My name is David Kim, I took your Humanities 30A, Human Values/Ethics class at Vista Community College in Spring 2004. I’m not sure that you remember me or the class – in class we discussed such topics as virtue ethics, syllogisms, Paul Tillich, Aquinas, the Tao Te Ching, among other things.

    We met occasionally, outside of class. i remember walking and talking with you after lecture ended, finding ourselves in the Starbucks cafe down Shattuck Ave (do you remember me??). I look back very fondly at those discussions we had. You taught me so much – lesson that I still wrestle with today – like the “life world and the two systems”, what a church should look like, being genuine, what is character in light of Jesus’ teachings, and so on. I also recall you telling me how you played the horn at church!

    You are probably wondering why I’m emailing you – Since taking your class at Vista, I transferred to Cal and graduated with a degree in English. I’m currently interning at a small church as a youth pastor for a very small group of about 10 children, but in about a year or so, I plan on going to law school…which requires recommendation letters! =). In the 5 years that I was in Berkeley (3 at Vista, and 2 at Cal), no other professor left a greater impact on me than you Dr. Krey (at this point, I’m really hoping that you haven’t changed your email address over the years!). You taught me so much more than I would have ever expected from a college course – you taught me things that I will use for the rest of my life – things that I teach to my own students at church, things that I will teach my own children in years to come. I found out that I needed recommendation letters, and I immediately thought about you.

    I hope that this is not too sudden or in any way inappropriate. I understand how time consuming those letters can be and how busy you are, but I would so much appreciate it! I have since moved back home to southern California, but if you would like to meet in person, I think that I could find a way back up to Berkeley. I would really really appreciate it.

    If you still do not remember me, I’ve attach some pictures! There’s one of me, and a few of some of the papers I’ve saved from our discussions at Starbucks and the worksheet on “the Life world and the Two systems” you gave me. I’ve saved everything from class and from our discussions – I always thought, “hey, this is actually really good stuff!”, stuff that I couldn’t just throw away. I still look back to those handouts, particularly your handout “Important Citations” with all those famous quotes – very useful!

    Pardon me for the lengthy email. I just hope that all of this has tickled your memory, I know it’s been a while, and that you come across hundreds of students every year, but I sure do remember you!

    I look forward to hearing from you after all this time.

    With thanks – your student,
    David W Kim

    David W Kim

    October 31, 2006 at 7:20 am

  3. Dear David,

    I would be glad to give you a letter of reference. It is so good to hear that my teaching had such a wonderful affect on you. It must be the Holy Spirit at work! I’ll get in touch with you ASAP.

    With heartfelt thanks,

    Dr. Krey


    November 3, 2006 at 6:13 am

  4. Hello again Pastor Krey! It’s David from Vista CC a few years back. I hope that your ministry is going well. My youth group kids and I just came back from a winter retreat a few weeks ago, and we all came back so blessed – God is truly faithful. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been keeping in touch with you. I hope that all is well. I’ll send you another email regarding the letter of rec. Please let me know if there is anything else you need!

    With gratitude,
    Your Student,
    David Kim

    David W Kim

    January 11, 2007 at 4:57 am

  5. Panic Away

    This helped me out of those DARK PLACES.

    Panic Portal

    August 6, 2007 at 12:20 pm

  6. dear Panic Away,

    I translated these lecture notes of Gollwitzer’s last lecture, because they were also very helpful to me.

    I’m glad they helped you, too.

    peter krey

    Peter Krey

    August 6, 2007 at 7:42 pm

  7. Panic Away Education

    This helped me out of those DARK PLACES.

    Panic Away News

    August 7, 2007 at 1:18 am

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