Sunday, March 29, 2009

A note about Prayer

To continue blogging on this panentheism theme, I want to say something about prayer. Many panentheists hold, for various reasons, that God does not answer our petitions. In other words, if I pray to God to help my team win the big game, or my sick dog to get better, God is not the kind of entity that will intervene to answer that prayer.

Let us not concern ourselves here with why some panentheists deny the efficacy of petitionary prayer. Let us just grant for the moment their contention that such prayers cannot be answered.

I often teach panentheism in my intro to philosophy courses, and bring up this denial of petitionary prayer. Inevitably concerns are expressed about this fact. It seems that our modern culture has reduced prayer to the petitionary variety - prayer = asking God for things.

But there are other kinds of prayer that a panentheist would not only accept, but celebrate. There are prayers of adoration, in which the glory of the divine is celebrated, prayers of thanksgiving, in which we express gratitude for the world and our blessings, and contemplative prayer in which we recognize our unity with the divine.

In short, one can have a very rich prayer life without petitionary prayer. In fact, petitionary prayer should probably be thought of as prayer at its most shallow.


  1. Doc,
    I gave up on the prayer thing years ago. I am a deist. Not a cynic, not a negative person, just one who could ever grasp a "loving God" who allows horrible things to happen for no apparent reason.

    Maybe I could use your philosophy class to produce the syllogism for defense.

  2. Doc,

    I responded to this. Don't know why it isn't showing, but I will rewrite my comments later.

    You asked me earlier about membership in the NEA. The best way to get info is to google "Wisconsin Education Association". Trust me, you will a welcomed member.

    By the way, I worked at an athletic camp in Rhinelander many years ago. The camp was called Strongheart. Have you ever been there or seen it?

  3. Thanks for the Info about NEA. About a "loving" God. I'm on the same page with you in this respect: I think that we cannot think of God as a person-like being. This presumably rules out thinking that God could love us like our parents do, or any other person does.

    I do believe however, that God is the "ground of being," the core of our own being. And, it seems to me, that we experience the "ground of our being" most clearly when we truly love and are truly loved in return. And this is how I interpret the New Testament claim that "God is love." I read it as saying that in giving and receiving love we are opened to and connected with reality at its ultimate depth.

    So I cannot affirm a person-like God who loves us like our parents do; but I can affirm that "God is love."


Comments from many different points of view are welcome. But I will not publish any comments that are hateful, insulting, or filled with profanity. I welcome and encourage dialogue and disagreement but will not publish any hate speech.