Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

Christianity, conversion, faith, Gospel, New Testament, peace, Prayer, Uncategorized

The World Doesn’t Need Theology, It Needs God

The World Doesn't Need Theology, It Needs God
man holding cross

The world doesn’t need theology, it needs God

Halfway through Lent, I’m feeling extraordinarily grateful. Rather than my usual, panicked, “Only three weeks left!”


“These grace-filled days are half over and I’m still committing the same boring, banal sins!”

Our warmer San Antonio very early mornings beg for reflection and prayer on our outside deck as I await the thrill of the first bird’s song. Alone and in the dark, at times, the joy and wonder almost suffocates.

Is this new-found peace because I’ve stopped sinning?

Hardly. Rather it’s a two-fold realization.

Having raced to confession three times in the Lent that’s barely half over, I’m acutely aware of the temptation to judge, criticize, and if not very careful, gossip each time I open my mouth. But instead of letting it crush me, I’ve a renewed appreciation of the wonder, immensity, mercy and majesty of God. My nature is to do and speak what I know I should not. But yet he meets me right there, in my lovelessness– if I just ask.

It’s what drives me outside in the dark and the silence. To await the first songs of those winged creatures that upon opening their eyes, sing. Is there a more glorious thing to do upon awakening than to sing? In her lovely photographic tribute to these beautiful creatures, my friend Almita Bey Carrion, writes, that “each bird we see or hear is a blessed gift from God from the world of nature.”

The second part of my realization is exquisitely expressed by Father Jeremiah Shryock‘s, “The Necessity of Solitary Prayer.” Only when I read his essay was I aware of precisely what drives me outside to sit alone in the dark.

“A great while before day

he rose and went out to a lonely place, where he prayed.”

Father Shryock begins his essay on prayer with Saint Mark’s “window into what a day of the life of Jesus looks like.” Reflecting on why the second person of the Trinity needs to pray, the Franciscan friar remarks on the difference between our prayers from those of Jesus.

So often, we are praying–begging– for cures, relief, rain or whatever is the invitation to fear with which the relentless news cycle insists we inhale. Just so, Saint Mark’s Gospel reveals that Jesus’ days are filled with healings. Whether relieving Peter’s mother’s fever or curing leprosy, paralysis or driving out demons, the news of healings spread quickly. Therefore Jesus is constantly surrounded by people. Saint Mark writes that “the whole town was gathered outside the door.”

Why then, with so many people desperate for him, does Jesus step away to pray?

Father Shryock’s reply warrants our deep reflection. For Jesus, prayer isn’t a means to ‘get something’ from the Father.

Or to fulfill an obligation.

Or to show how good and reverent he is.


The truth is this: the Father is always caring and providing for us in every moment of life. If he were not, the world and we ourselves would not exist. Therefore, we do not have to be anxious, we do not have to kill ourselves by overworking, and most importantly we can enjoy time alone with the Father to marvel more deeply in his love, goodness, and providential care for all of us…Jesus will reference the Father’s tender care for all of his children and his own trust and faith in the Father’s goodness later in the Gospel when he says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on…your Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:25:32)

The Necessity of Solitary Prayer

And second, perhaps primarily?

Jesus’ understanding of prayer is wholly different from our own. For all the reasons Father Shryock exhorts us to understand, Jesus isn’t praying for an end to drought, war or illness, from the Father. Rather the second Person of the Trinity seeks to glorify the Creator. By rising while the needy searchers sleep, the Lord seeks to glorify God–solidify his union with the Father. Those beautifully subtle words bear repeating: A great while before day he rose and went to a lonely place where he prayed.

Yes, I think, as I read and reflect on the Franciscan Friar’s article, Jesus is divine. But he is also fully human. We’re told he “felt the power go out” when the unnamed hemorrhaging woman touched the hem of his cloak. Hence, mustn’t his–and our–humanity have drained him?

On that point Father Shryock remarks on those of us who become so obsessed by a good intention: working in a food kitchen or prolife organization or any worthy cause that we lose sight of reality. We get hooked into believing we’re important, essential, perhaps better than those around us. Although the Franciscan Friar writes about apostolates and missionary work his caution applies to all work that any of us does. The excitement of learning, excelling and succeeding often propels us right into the arms of the enemy. We forget: we can do nothing alone.

The reason for this is that the demands of the apostolate and fraternal life are simply too much for us.
They are beyond our natural strength.
Without a deep life of prayer, our apostolic life will possess a major problem; there will be too much of ourselves in it. 

The Necessity of Solitary Prayer

You must meet the living God every day in solitary prayer

In recalling a conversation with an elderly priest he’d never seen before, Father Shryock explains my title. It was a few days before his ordination and he sat in the seminary cafeteria with the priest who asked if he were one of the seminarians to be ordained in a few days. Upon replying yes, the soon-to-be- priest asked if the older man had any advice for him.

“He paused for a moment, looked out the window, and said, “It’s great that you studied all this theology, but remember the world doesn’t need theology, it needs God, and for your theology to have any impact in people’s lives, you must meet the living God every day in solitary prayer. If you don’t, nobody will listen to you, nor should they.”

Those words, “The world doesn’t need theology, it needs God,” dove into my mind and heart.


They’re a warning. The study, knowledge, work of whatever it is we feel called to do is good. Good because our desire to do it is a grace, gift from God. But the words and knowledge can seduce and eclipse him whom we seek to glorify.

Post Tags :
solitary prayer, solitude, theology, why did Jesus pray

4 thoughts on “The World Doesn’t Need Theology, It Needs God”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

Latest Sunday Reflections

Scroll to Top