A Thanksgiving Prayer to an Uncontrolling God
The uncontrolling love view has positive implications for prayer at Thanksgiving. Thanking an uncontrolling God makes a lot of sense. Thanking a controlling God doesn’t.
Each November, Americans gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Words of thanks sometimes enter the public news or get expressed at civic gatherings too.
It’s natural to wonder, “What do people mean when they say, ‘Thank you, God?’”
Some people don’t believe in God. Many of them feel thankful, but their Thanksgiving language has no ultimate Referent. In their view, no Divine Being exists to which their gratitude ultimately points. Giving thanks may be their way to admit they’ve enjoyed goodness the past year.
Sometimes, these people say, “Thank you, God.” But their disbelief in a Being to whom they should be grateful makes this confusing.
Those who say God controls everything — let’s call their view, “All God” — express gratitude at Thanksgiving. They believe God directly or indirectly controls everything.
In their prayers, All God advocates say, “Thank you, God, for ____.” They can insert any event whatsoever. Such events might be supremely joyful or utterly horrific. The God who controls everything is responsible for every act of respect and rape, for peace and pain, for havens or holocausts.
Most All God prayers focus on what’s good. Reminding All God advocates their God causes evil can dampen their holiday spirit!
The Allowing God
Others who pray reject the idea God causes evil. But they claim God allows it.
When these people give thanks, they try to sidestep the problems that come with saying God allows evil. They might blame free agents or natural forces. But they try to avoid asking why a God who can stop evil singlehandedly permits it. The God who can control others fails to prevent the dastardly deeds we endure.
The Allowing God permitted the pandemic, the holocaust, and your sister’s rape.
When those who say, “God allows evil” pray at Thanksgiving, they could insert any event into the “Thank you, God, for _____” sentence. The Allowing God gets ultimate credit and blame for causing or allowing all things.
The Uncontrolling God of Love
Thanksgiving prayers make better sense in the uncontrolling love perspective. Advocates of this view thank God for always giving freedom, agency, or existence to creatures and creation. And God presents a spectrum of possibilities to each creature in each moment. In giving and presenting, the uncontrolling God never controls.
The uncontrolling God is the gracious source for all that’s good. This God actively loves moment by moment by providing, inspiring, empowering, and interacting with creation.
Genuine evil comes when creatures fail to respond well to God’s call to love. Or evil comes from natural accidents and free processes of reality. In the uncontrolling love of God view, God does not cause nor allow evil.
A Thanksgiving Prayer that Makes Sense
In her Thanksgiving prayer, an advocate of the uncontrolling love view can say every good and perfect gift originates in God. An active but uncontrolling God is the source of goodness and blessing. And this God neither causes nor allows evil, as if God could singlehandedly produce or prevent it.
The good we enjoy involves creaturely responses to God’s gracious action too. The uncontrolling love view supports our urge to thank creatures at Thanksgiving. God is not the only factor, actor, or force for good. Creatures can cooperate with God’s good work. As I say in Open and Relational Theology, an amipotent — not omnipotent or impotent — God exerts the power of love.
Most believers thank other people at Thanksgiving. They know creatures can join with God to do good. It’s right to thank God as the source of goodness and those who cooperate with God.
At Thanksgiving, it’s right to thank the Creator and the cook!
The more we realize how interrelated the universe is and how much God loves in an uncontrolling way, the more we understand how widely we are indebted. A Thanksgiving meal is possible because of God’s action, a chef or chefs, farmers, those who transport food, those who make the plates, tables, and homes we use when celebrating, plants, animals, and so many more.
God inspires goodness throughout all creation. We have many reasons to be thankful… and many actors to thank!
In light of this, here’s a thanksgiving prayer that aligns with the view that God always loves in uncontrolling ways…
“We thank you, our loving God, for being the source of all that’s good.
You also empower and inspire the good we receive from others.
We’re thankful to humans and nonhumans for cooperating with your love.
We’re grateful people because you’re a good and loving God!”At Thanksgiving, we can thank an uncontrolling God of love for being the source of all things good, without implying God causes or allows all things evil. Click To Tweet