I know at least three people who believe in miracles: Marjorie Suchocki, Bruce Epperly and I do. I have written several times about holding onto the miraculous (as well as dealing with demons and skirting ‘Satan’) – both as Bible reading Christians and as ministers in the 21st century – even after we have excused ourselves from the super-natural worldview of centuries past. Bruce Epperly (who’s final session at EVTC will be released soon) looks to Marjorei Suchoki for some helpful language about prayer and the nature of God’s power. (Suchoki is perhaps most famous for many books including one on prayer: In God’s Presence and eschatology: The End of Evil).
What follows is a summary of a section from Epperly’s book Process for the Perplexed p. 58-60. I found it so helpful and so encouraging that I wanted to put it up here (reformatted as a blog of course). All the words are Epperly’s or Suchocki’s except those in italics.
Suchocki describes the intimacy of God and world necessary to the faithful practice of prayer.
If God’s power works through presence, and if God’s presence is an ‘omnipresence’, then one could say both that there is no center to the universe and that everything in the universe is center to all else … we can say that all things are center, for if all things are in the presence of God, then it is God who centers them. The earth, then, is indeed privileged and we do have a privileged history, for all are presenced and centered in God. Prayer in such a universe makes eminent sense – for God is always present.
From this perspective, God is, as a mystic once said, “the circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
This allows us to affirm the wisdom of my mother’s kitchen magnet motto, “prayer changes things”. Suchocki understands prayer as “our oppeness, to the God who pervades the Universe and therefore ourselves, and therefore that prayer is also God’s openess to us. In such a case, prayer is not only for our sakes but also for God’s sake.” In a relational universe, prayer is essential to God’s work in our world and “the effectiveness of God’s work with the world.”
Prayer is intimately connected with God’s vision for each moment of our lives. God’s initial aim, or vision for our lives moment by moment, is grounded in God’s awareness of our joys, sorrows, needs, and loves.
God knows us better than we know ourselves and seeks to provide possibilities that join our lives with the lives of others in a way that bring beaty and healing to the world. God inspires us to prayer for others as weel as to act on their behalf. Surely this is an insightful way to interpret Romans 8:26-28
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And gone who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
God moves within our lives, inviting us to reflect God’s vision of Shalom and healing in our relationship with others, whether a child diagnosed with cancer, the survivors of the Haiti earthquake, or a friend who is in the process of discerning her future vocation.
As Suchocki affirms, “prayer is God’s invitation to us to be willing partners integrate dance that brings a world into being that reflects something of God’s character.” Accordingly, our prayers make a difference in terms of the intensity and effectiveness of God’s healing and reconciling work in the world.
While the intensity and form of divine guidance and activity in the present moment our lives shaped–and either enhanced or limited–by our past history, decisions, values, and the quality of spiritual devotion, our attentiveness to God in the present opens us to new costs bursts of spiritual energy.
Further, in an interdependent universe our prayers are an example of what quantum physicists describe as non-local causation: they create a positive field of energy around those for whom we pray, enabling them to be more open to God in a ruling God to be more creative and effective in shaping their life situation.
Process encourages people to be realistic, yet hopeful, in prayer for extraordinary life changes. Indeed, spiritual realism embraces both the concrete and the possible, regular causality and naturalistic leaps of energy. As Suchocki notes, “prayer creates a channel in the world through which God can unleash God’s will towards well-being.” Because each moment is unique, “miraculous” releases of energy that change ourselves can occur; but there are no guarantees, except God’s loving presence, in every life situation.
We see the occurrence of events described as “miraculous” not as violations of the laws of nature, but of intensification’s of God’s healing energy as a result of the interplay of God’s visionary power and energy, our prayers, and the conditions of those for whom you pray.
Romans 8:28 can be translated this way “ in all things God works for good for those who love God” as a representative of the holistic, relational, non-coercive, and multifactorial nature of divine activity.
I find this greatly encouraging and inspiring. We get to do this wonderful thing of partnering in prayer while no longer being required to subscribe to an antiquated metaphysic or pre-modern worldview.
Let us pray.