“God works with the world as it I 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”— Dr. Marjorie Suchoki
by Ann Siverling, OblSB
When I found out the theme for the January 2023 newsletter was “prayer,” I felt overwhelmed. It seems to me that the topic of prayer is about as big as the topic of world history from the beginning of time until now. Where does one even begin? I reflected on things I had learned and sources I knew of regarding prayer.
The first one to come to mind was the time someone gave me the “formula for prayer.” At the time it was helpful. On some level it reminds me of the prayers we all know as the “Psalms.” The idea was that when one prays, one begins with adoration of God, then thanksgiving to God, then repentance of one’s sins, and, finally, after all that has been complete, one came make their petitions of God. It is a nice formula because it includes several different ways of relating to God, but if I were to have to utter a prayer in an emergency, I probably would skip the first three and move right into the petition!
Then I remembered Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s true Home. (I love that title).
It is a lovely book if one is look for a list of all the different types of prayer and essays on them (i.e., Prayer of Tears, Prayer of Rest, Healing Prayer, and many others). For someone who is new to prayer, all this information could be invaluable. But I still had a gut feeling that there is more to prayer than just all these different types.
I next reflected on a book written by many of the former professors from Luther Seminary and edited by Dr. Paul Sponheim. This book is called A Primer on Prayer, and the word Primer conjures up feelings of being at the school of prayer.
But this still didn’t seem to be a good enough definition of the experience of prayer. Prayer seems to be all about relationship—a relationship between God and God’s precious children. But is it possible there is more still to prayer than each of our individual relationships with God? I remembered one of my favorite books from seminary: In God’s Presence by Dr. Marjorie Suchoki.
In her book, Suchocki provides a unique image of prayer. She states that when we pray it is like we open a window of communication with God. But what happens when that window is open is that God can connect us to others whose windows are open. She writes that, “God works with the world as it I 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” (p. 46).
Such a lovely image of what God can do when we pray. God is not only in relationship with us but also with all others who are praying! Suchocki also writes, “We risk being used by God as answers to our own prayers” (p. 50). I have never thought of prayer as a risk, but there it is—we risk being used by God!
Finally, Suchocki shares, “Prayer creates a channel in the world through which God can unleash God’s will toward well-being. Prayer puts you in the way of the channel, and you will become a part of God’s rolling waters” (p. 52).
So, as we begin this new year of 2023, let us continue in prayer as we have or even pray more. Let’s do this! Let’s take the risk, let’s be part of God’s unleashing of God’s will toward well-being, let’s get in God’s channel of rolling waters!