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A progressive Christian questions God and Prayer

Question & Answer

 

Q: By Jim

I am a Progressive Christian and have been so for 7-8 years (I’m 82). Two questions have weighed heavily on me and I learn as much as possible about my new journey. 1. What is/Where is God since “He’s” no longer an interventionist God who lives out there somewhere? 2. What is the role of prayer for the Progressives? In our church, who is VERY progressive, prayer sounds the same as it always did. It doesn’t seem appropriate, but if I’m correct, what is prayer, and quite frankly, Why?

I just completed the book, “Jesus for the Non-Religious”. Incredible read! Question 1 was dealt with extraordinarily well. But prayer was never discussed. Is there any resource I can go to that would enlighten me? Love the journey, but it’s a challenge.

A: By Rev. Roger Wolsey

 

Dear Jim,

It is an honor to address your question, though with humility since you are my elder by a few years. You’ve had more time on the planet to ponder these matters and I no doubt have much to learn from you! Regarding your first question, many progressive Christians reject supernatural theism and instead have come to embrace a more mystic experience of God, and many understand this Mystery through the lens of something called panentheism.  This is different than pantheism which posits that God is essentially certain material things on the planet (mountains, forests, animals, rivers, etc.) or equated with the universe itself. In panentheism, God is understood as being fully immanent within all Creation as well as fully transcendent from it. It’s a both/and approach that is surprisingly in sync with Christian orthodoxy – even though fundamentalists tend to deny this. So, this means that God is within you, me, your loved, ones, your enemies, the air you breathe, the water you drink, as well as within the past and future and any other dimensions known and unknown to us. Basically, everyone we meet is a manifestation of the holy and everywhere we go is sacred.

Your second question pertains to prayer. Some progressive Christians have shed intercessory or petitionary prayer all together for fear of treating God as some sort of “Cosmic Bellhop/Waiter” in the sky. Many progressive Christians have come to adopt centering prayer or other forms of contemplative prayer or meditation as their primary form of prayer. Others pray through making art or music, gardening, walking in nature,  etc. Some progressive Christians have reclaimed intercessory prayer, but held loosely, and understood a bit differently. The shift has more focus on how to help us discern and sense how we can make a positive difference in the world. From a process theology perspective, God works with the world as it is, and a world where prayer is taking place is different than one where it isn’t. God, “the Field/Force”, has more to work with.  God works with the world as it is in order to bring it to where it can be. Prayer changes the way the world is, and therefore changes what the world can be. Prayer opens the world to its own transformation.”  Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, from In God’s Presence – an excellent book that helps share how this view of prayer “makes sense” in a process theology perspective. Highly recommended. You might also enjoy the chapter on prayer and spiritual practices in my book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like Christianity.

Blessings to you on your continually evolving journey in and with the Divine.

~ Rev. Roger Wolsey

About the Author
Rev. Roger Wolsey
 is a United Methodist pastor who resides in Grand Junction, CO. Roger is author of Kissing Fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity and blogs for Patheos as The Holy Kiss and serves on the Board of Directors of ProgressiveChristianity.Org. Roger became “a Christian on purpose” during his college years and he experienced a call to ordained ministry two years after college. He values the Wesleyan approach to the faith and, as a certified spiritual director, he seeks to help others grow and mature. Roger enjoys yoga; playing trumpet; motorcycling; and camping with his son. He served as the Director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at the University of Colorado in Boulder for 14 years, and has served as pastor of churches in Minnesota, Iowa, and currently serves as the pastor of Fruita UMC in Colorado, and also serves as the “CRM” (Congregational Resource Minister/Church Consultant) for the Utah/Western Colorado District of the Mountain Sky Conference.

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