Friday, July 11, 2014

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Professor of Process Theology, on prayer (from In God's Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer)

"God is like water, flowing throughout the universe, like an ocean touching innumerable shores.  The action of those waves is sometimes like a chaotic clash of elements, whose terrible dynamism reshapes what is and brings new things to emergence.  And the action of those waves is also gentle and quiet, nourishing all forms of existent life.  The one form does not contradict the other, nor the varieties in between, for the nature of water is interaction with all elements in its path, taking the nature of each element into account in the resulting action.  God is like water.

And we?  Are we those shores touched by God, showing in the shape of our sands what we have done with the waves of God upon our lives?  And what of our effects in God as our sands find their way into the vastness of that ocean?

All images break down as we push them to their limits.  But the force of this image is to give a sense of the very pervasiveness of God, so that prayer, far from being supernatural or even superstitious, simply follows from the reality that we live in--and within--God's presence.

God creates and works within an interdependent universe, both interdependent within itself and with God.  The universe is not 'finished'; God's creativity cannot be so easily stilled!  Stars are yet born, and race toward unfathomable reaches of space.  Suns yet burst in fireballs of energy, spawning yet new planets and who know what forms of new life.  In our own small portion of this universe, generation yet follows generation, and we turn life into story, and yet again into history.  In such a teeming universe, what is prayer but God's gracious invitation to us to participate in the continuing work of creation?  If prayer constitutes our openness to God's own purposes of in creating communal well-being, then prayer is God's creation with us of this very well-being!  Prayer is central to the how of God's continuing work in our world.

And so our prayers of confession purge us of blockages against our own and others' well-being, opening us to the transforming work and will of God.  Prayers of intercession actively join us with God's will toward the well-being of the greater community and are used by God to whatever degree possible to bring such well-being into existence.  Liturgical prayers express and deepen our communal identities, and can open us to goodwill toward communities not our own.  We may yet with God turn this world into a community of communities, rejoicing in identities that are what they are in and through their differences as well as similarities!  Then we would be woven into a world with a sparkling story, creating together with God a new history of interdependent care for one another and for this wondrous Earth.

And prayers of thanksgiving are like breathing spaces in all the work of prayer and the work that flows from prayer.  Gratitude shapes and forms us, flows through us and from us, mingling with our sorrows as well as with our joys.  Gratitude is the sheer delight of being a conscious participant in the dance of God, the dance with God.

And now, you see, in the end my image of God as water shifts, becoming the image of the dancing God who woos us to partnership through prayer.  But shall we not swim in those waters, dance in that dance, and merge all our metaphors together in gratitude to the One who surpasses them all?  Oh yes!  So let us pray; so be it; amen."


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