Kathryn Tanner on “whether” and “how” God can be said to respond to our prayers
Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005): 97-8.Good stuff, but definitely dense. I found this volume to be quite tedious, but full of little surprises.
“Christians do say…that God responds to the prayers of the faithful. Are there not, then, exceptional cases where God’s agency for created effects is determined by what the creature does? We have to say that a statement like ‘God grants petitions’ holds, not because God’s agency is itself altered by prayer, but because prayer is according to God’s will a necessary created condition in particular cases for a created effect or for the alteration of the usual order of created cause and effect. To say that God makes up for the deficiency of created causes to produce the effect for which a person prays is to say, according to our account, that God’s created intention includes the effect and the prayer as its condition but not adequate secondary causes.
“Could one say instead that God creatively intends his own agency to be conditioned by prayer? If one could, one would avoid talk of the creature’s influencing or altering divine agency in any strong sense. Such statements can only collapse, however, into the ones we have just recommended…[I]t is appropriate to say things like ‘God hears our prayers’; God’s creative intention may be said to include ‘himself’ as genuinely affected by creatures. One cannot talk in the same way to suggest the conditioning of God’s very agency by creatures; the divine agency forming a creative intention cannot be included in any real sense within it.”