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Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God Paperback – January 23, 2018
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His proposals may shock you, but good medicine can sometimes do that. I highly recommend Mark's book!" -Thomas Jay Oord, author of The Uncontrolling Love of God and 20+ other books
"Mark Karris makes accessible some of the most important thinking going on in the theological community today about God's relationship to creation and the purposes of prayer. He will take you to a place where your prayers can be more honest, where God's love is completely trustworthy, and where you enter into a deep partnership with God." -Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
“I think Mark Karris’ book is extremely important for the church to read and understand. His premise that God is a God of uncontrolling love is right on target. His critique of my prayer at the Democratic National Convention was also right on target. If I had thought the thoughts that he had eloquently set down in his book, I would have prayed differently.” -Tony Campolo, speaker, author, sociologist, pastor, and social activist.
"What an important work of spiritual guidance...Karris teaches, with his vividly inviting prose and wise theology" Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew Theological School, author of On the Mystery: Discerning God in Process
As a life-long intercessor who doesn't know how to pray (Rom. 8:26), I have nevertheless observed with Bishop Tutu that God does nothing in this world without a willing human partner. Mark Karris articulates this beautifully, developing a coherent theology and practice of petitionary prayer that honors the language of divine kenosis and human participation.-Brad Jersak, author of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
"This is one of the best books on prayer I have ever read.-J. D. Myers, author of What is Prayer? How to Pray to God Like You Talk to a Friend
"This is really a provocative and inspirational book!"-Bruce Epperly, author, or co-author, of over forty books, including Praying with Process Theology: Spiritual Practices for Personal and Planetary Healing
"This book should find a warm reception in congregational study-groups, seminaries and divinity schools, as well as with anyone genuinely interested in pursuing a deeper understanding of prayer." -Owen F. Cummings, Academic Dean and Regents' Professor of Theology at Mount Angel Seminary, author of over eighteen publications, including Thinking About Prayer
"Mark Karris asks the hard questions about prayer that many of us are afraid to ask. By appealing to both scripture and reason, he develops a new path forward, and illustrates it with practical applications involving situations we all face. If you struggle with petitionary prayer, as I do, you should really consider Karris's approach, whether or not you end up adopting it as your own." -Scott A. Davison, professor of philosophy Morehead State University, author of Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation
"In Divine Echoes, Mark Karris masterfully breaks down the myths and mechanisms of praying for divine intervention. Drawing on the idea of essential kenosis, Karris offers a model for petitionary prayer that is powered by the uncontrolling love of God and enacted through the libertarian free will given to humankind. Instead of merely praying to God and hoping that God acts, Karris enjoins the reader to pray with God, partnering with the good work God is already bringing about in the world."-R. Anderson Campbell, co-author of Praying for Justice: A Lectionary of Christian Concern
As a therapist and theologian Mark Karris is uniquely equipped to help us navigate perplexing questions about prayer... If you are skeptical or have given up on petitionary prayer, this book might help you renew your practice and see prayer in a whole new way. -Mark Scandrette, author of Belonging and Becoming and Practicing the Way of Jesus
Divine Echoes is an excellent and thought-provoking treatise on the topic of petitionary prayer! It is movingly written, well-researched, filled with down-to-earth anecdotes and gentle argumentation. Mark Karris speaks to the curious mind and the hungry heart, helping us enter into a sacred activity that helps complete our humanity and bring forth health, healing, and wholeness to the world.-Jay McDaniel, Professor of Religion, Hendrix College, author of Replanting Ourselves in Beauty: Toward an Ecological Civilization
"The personal and vulnerable stories shared, the compelling theological understanding of prayer presented, and a new and persuasive paradigm of petitionary prayer proposed makes this provocative book a work that belongs in everyone's library." -Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion, author or editor of more than a dozen books, more recently, Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love
Petitionary prayer is one of the Christian hard knots to untangle, for not only does it seem that petitionary prayers frequently go unanswered, but we presume that God can and should step in and unilaterally make things right. Karris, in a very readable and provocative book, helpfully challenges petitioners to be the very hands and feet of God in the world, implementing his loving concern for all. -Bruce R. Reichenbach, Professor Emeritus, Augsburg College, author of Divine Providence: God's Love and Human Freedom
Mark Karris gives an important and practical lesson on prayer that will help us combine healing engagement in our broken world with honesty about who God is and how God works in the world. He impressively merges deep theology and practice. -Ted Grimsrud, Senior Professor of Peace Theology, Eastern Mennonite University, author of Embodying the Way of Jesus
"I am impressed with both the religious depth and the theological sophistication of this passionate interpretation of prayer. Many other readers will also find this a most helpful meditation on the meaning and power of petitionary prayer." -John F. Haught, distinguished research professor, Georgetown University, author of Resting on the Future
"Most of us ignore or explain away the difficulties in Christian belief and practice. It is refreshing to find someone courageous and honest enough to investigate one such problem, that of the validity and purpose of prayer for others. This is a book which all thinking Christians should read! -Christopher Huggett, BA, MPhil, PGCertEd., Author of A Theology of Becoming
About the Author
Mark Gregory Karris is an ordained pastor, licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, musician, adjunct professor, and all around biophilic. He is the author of "Season of Heartbreak: Healing for the Heart, Brain, and Soul" (Kregel, 2017). He and his family live in San Diego, California.
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By reading it, you will learn that many of the common beliefs about prayer are simply wrong. For example, if the common beliefs about how and why God answers prayers are correct, then this proves that God is capricious. Why does God heal some people from the flu and give them parking spots at the mall, but not others? Why does God rescue some people from violence, but not others. But God is not capricious, and so there must instead be something wrong with our understanding of prayer and it works in connection to our loving, gracious, and relational God.
So read this book, and start rediscovering prayer (and God).
I will be re-reading this because although I was able to get through it easily, there are lots of GOOD things to process here.
Prayer is an ancient practice universal to all religions; in fact it can be said to be an innately human, even neurological experience, common to all, even those who do not profess belief or religion acting as a means of reaching out and communicating, for some, with God, and for others, the Universe or that which is totally Other. There are many forms of prayer that have been catalogued; of these, the author focuses on and deconstructs (and ultimately re-constructs) petitionary prayer, that is, the practice of praying for others or the world from a distant or removed perspective. Examples of petitionary prayer include praying for a sick Facebook friend or praying for an end to war. But what does it mean to pray for others or the world? How do our prayers reflect or not reflect what we believe about God? The very act of praying presents a conundrum, as observed by Origen, writing in 233 CE,
“First, if God foreknows what will come to be and
if it must happen, then prayer is in vain. Second, if everything happens
according to God’s will and if what he wills is fixed and no one of the things He wills can be changed, then prayer is in vain.”
Further, how do we address the issue of unanswered prayer and the silence of God in the face of human suffering throughout the world? Karris draws on Thomas Jay Oord’s concept of “essential kenosis,” an understanding of God that is “uncontrolling” because the nature of divine love itself defies control and we are not humans puppets or players in some divine Plan, but rather creatures with some degree of free will and choice in a world still taking shape and form based on our decisions and actions for good or evil. Essential kenosis posits a God who has limited ability to control all events and circumstances. There is no Blueprint God or Puppeteer God. Individuals suffer and die due to a range of poor choices on a personal and collective, governmental level.
If we follow Oord’s theodicy, then we must begin to identify our responsibility towards how our behaviors and values affect the world and begin to imagine what our roles versus God’s roles might look like, and, as a result, how the direction of our prayers might change. Here, Karris introduces the concept of “conspiring prayer,” a form of prayer that does not simply make requests of God, but explores how we as individuals and groups might be part of the very solution we are seeking. Conspiring prayer invokes the idea of partnership with God in order to work towards creating the world we envision for ourselves and the future. Divine Echoes challenges us to a new paradigm in which we acknowledge and accept our own responsibility to collaborate and conspire with God. If we are ever to experience peace in this world and relief from the suffering of humankind, we must pay attention to how this book offers a unique perspective on how to accomplish the creation of a better world.
In addition to an expansive discussion of the few points mentioned above, the book offers three appendices which feature a rich collection of conspiring prayers for individual and communal use, as well as a selection of meditative and reflective prayers. Additionally, detailed endnotes and an exhaustive bibliography offer the reader more opportunity for expanded research and study.
This book is a provocative, landmark book that challenges and inspires readers to invoke prayers that are conspiring, subversive and creative. A must for seminarians and clergy, Divine Echoes is also an excellent choice for church discussion groups, with an engaging writing style that is accessible to both lay and professional readers.
My hope is that people read this book while keeping an open mind. I feel that books like this which challenge the status quo are what we need to progress in our thinking about God and help us optimize our prayer lives. Humans are curious in nature. Because no one has a God’s-eye view we should be questioning and seeking new perspectives on what could be true or not.
After reading this book, I came to various conclusions:
1) Have an open mind about what you've been taught. Don't just accept that this is the way it is, "just because”. Do your research, explore the Bible, come up with reasons why you believe what you believe. This book has definitely helped me form my own theology of prayer.
2) If you pray for things to happen also go out there and help make them happen along with God. Don’t expect God to do by Himself what he has called both God and us to do together. Be the literal hands and feet of God in the world.
3) It is a blessing to be able to explore others journeys and peer into their minds. Reading Karris’ book felt like I was journeying with a friend. He was down-to-earth yet challenging me to new intellectual and theological horizons.
4) We are so lucky we have the freedom to read and think openly on topics like these. In other parts of the world and even some churches, critical reflection is highly frowned upon.
5) We are encouraged to be “Divine Echoes,” and engage in conspiring prayer and love as much as we can. Spread it, embrace it, show it, talk about, write it, cherish it. Karris’ book helps me to do that practically.
I highly recommend this book!
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Prayers to God that violate a person's free will.Read more