Pronoia in a religious context means Providence or Divine Providence — the wise and benevolent provision for all our needs by God. It literally means foreknowledge (pro = fore; noia = knowledge).
Pronoia is so important and essential to the ancient religion that the latter might even be called Providentialism.
The principle of pronoia is that there is a plan and purpose or end (telos) to all creation, and in this plan man plays a central part. The universe assists one who is aligned with the will of God, the creator and governor of the universe.
All things work together for good to them that love God. (Romans 8:28)
This principle is found in the works of Plato, Aristotle — and especially the Stoics, for whom happiness and virtue was considered to life "according to Nature"; note that Nature here is more than what we ordinarily call "nature" (flora and fauna, weather, etc.) — but includes all created things, the entire universe (visible and invisible).
Because of the intelligent design, purpose, and providential governance of the universe, all things are connected. This connectedness supplies one explanation for the apparent efficacy of omens and oracles.
Obviously if an all-powerful and all-benevolent God controls everthing, then we can trust God and the universe to supply for our needs; and to do so much more effectively that we can for ourselves.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
The opposite of humble trust in Providence is egoism. Egoistic striving and control is the one thing that most surely separates us from the plan of Providence.
Abandonment of egoism, and childlike trust in Providence, permits a nondual state of living (nondual in the sense that earthly existence becomes divinized, purer). This state is potentially one main meaning of what the New Testament calls the Kingdom of Heaven:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
The natural response to Providence is a feeling of gratitude:
"Each single thing that comes into being in the universe affords a ready ground for praising Providence, if one possesses these two qualities—a power to see clearly the circumstances of each, and the spirit of gratitude therewith. Without these, one man will fail to see the usefulness of nature's products and another though he see it will not give thanks for them." (Epictetus, Discourses 1.6)
The quote is revealing: if Providence seems absent, it is usually because we fail to see it (or fail to look for it).
The apparent absence of Providential aid is itself often providential: were everything supplied without effort on our part, we would be of little use to ourselves or others.
One must, further, learn retain faith in Providence in the midst of what seems like adversity. It is easy to believe in and praise Providence when things go well, but much harder when we suffer adversity. In fact, to accept difficulty as Providential is almost the quintessential and defining human ethical struggle, as evidenced by the example of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ — his very last words on the cross being,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46; cf. Psalms 31:5).So too, our ego must be crucified so that we may enjoy fullest harmonization with Providence.
The reconciling of adversity and Providence is also an important topic in later Stoic writings.
Pronoia in the sense of personal foresight or forethought, a form of wisdom, is also important.