This dissertation develops an account of prayer as a constitutive source of Christian thought and life. It does so largely in order to address certain crises that are characteristic of the modern age. The concern is not only to resist processes of secularization that imply a loss of prayer but also to consider how a prayerful way of thinking (theology) and living (spirituality) enables one to overcome the most dangerous aspects of modern metaphysics and to counteract various structures of modern violence associated with economic injustice and identity-based exclusion. This dissertation promotes a practice of doxological contemplation that glorifies the God of Christian revelation, while distinguishing this contemplation clearly from a difference-concealing conceptualization of being as such and as a whole, allowing it to be troubled by the prayers of lament that arise in the midst of suffering, and connecting it with historical struggles of liberation.
The present work brings many voices into one conversation. It includes a critical analysis of Martin Heidegger’s somewhat doxological effort to overcome metaphysics in dialogue with Friedrich Hölderlin; an appreciative assessment of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s form of analogical, aesthetic, and dramatic doxology, especially as crystallized by his reading of Charles Péguy; an account of the limitations of Jacques Derrida’s and John Caputo’s prayers of apophatic deconstruction; a fresh take on the “theological turn” of French phenomenology, as represented by Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-Yves Lacoste, and Jean-Louis Chretien; a new interpretation of Johann Baptist Metz, which clarifies the prayerful character of his political theology (in contradistinction to those of Carl Schmitt and the Frankfurt School) and situates his remembrance of Auschwitz in relation to Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs; and an examination of the various doxological possibilities of Latin American liberation theology, including not only the problematic cases of Enrique Dussel and Juan-Luis Segundo, but also the more adequate proposals of Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, and Ignacio Ellacuría. The dissertation concludes with an elucidation of James Cone’s black liberation theology in relation to the doxology of the slave spirituals; this is the prayerful perspective that provides the final point of integration for the entire text.