What the Bible Says about Prayer. Versus Reality.

The Bible makes some rather bold claims about prayer.  How well do they hold up? (Part 1 of a 4 part series). prayer-praying-mother

Does prayer—like it’s taught in biblical Christianity–actually work?  That all depends on what you’re looking for.

Prayer can take many forms: meditation, an expression of gratitude or joy or anguish, an altered state of consciousness. All of these can be found in both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions and sacred texts, including the Bible. But perhaps the most common and familiar kind of prayer involves asking God for favors or help.

Devout Christians send requests heavenward both privately, as they go through their daily lives, and as a community ritual during Sunday morning services. In fact, the Bible tells them to, and it makes some concrete promises about how God will respond.

Consider the following verses from the New Testament:

  • Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! –Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
  • Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. –Matthew 7:7 NIV
  • I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. –Matthew 17:20 NIV
  • Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. –Matthew 18:19 NIV
  • If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. –Matthew 21:22 NIV
  • I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. –1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
  • Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. –James 5:14-16 NIV

If these claims are true, prayer should have tangible, important real world effects. For both believers and secularists, that’s a big deal, because these promises also offer some evidence about the trustworthiness of other promises made in the Bible. If I say that I will cure your illness or give you money when you ask and then don’t, why would you believe me when I say that I will make you healthy and wealthy after you’re dead?

Putting Prayer to the Test

Most people know that prayer doesn’t have the dramatic effects that these Bible verses seem to suggest. It seems rather easy to point out that if prayer worked that well, Christians wouldn’t have needed to convert Europe and later Latin America to Christianity at sword point; they could have simply prayed and preached, “for the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).

Alternately one might point out that the Black Plague devastated even the most devout, prayerful medieval communities—and that modern Christians, on average, live no longer than Muslims or Buddhists of comparable socio-economic status. But apologists for Christianity have always found ways to explain away discrepancies like these. Entire books have been written explaining why prayer doesn’t work like the verses seem to imply.

But does it have any effect at all?

Since the birth of the social sciences, serious academic researchers have suggested that we can come at this question through a different approach, by applying research methods to claims about prayer. Sir Francis Galton, statistician and founding father of modern psychometrics, published his first prayer study in 1872. Galton pointed out that royal sovereigns are the most prayed-for of any public figures. God Save the Queen! But when he compared the longevity of kings and queens to eleven other groups of privileged people, he found that monarchs had the shortest lives. He concluded that prayer didn’t work, which had very little impact on the behavior of the praying British public.

Modern Prayer Research

In recent decades, research on prayer has focused primarily on illness and healing.  Many prayer requests seem trivial or self-serving in a way that makes God’s lack of response easy to dismiss: please help me find a parking spot, or please help me get an ‘A’ on this test, or please let my team win.  But people generally assume that God cares about illness and suffering. After all, Jesus was called the Great Physician, and many of the miracle stories of the New Testament are stories of miracle cures. So a natural place to examine the efficacy of prayer is in the field of medicine.

Studies of prayer in medicine vary in their design and results, and some Christian leaders point to one or another, suggesting that prayer improved a health outcome—a difference that seems inexplicable without God’s miraculous intervention. Those seeming miracles are precious because they strengthen the whole edifice of belief.

But the best evidence available suggests that there’s no there there.

The STEP Experiment

The biggest and most rigorous prayer study to date is known as STEP, the “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer.” Funded by the faith-friendly Templeton Foundation, this decade-long inquiry applied a rigorous clinical research design including double blind with random assignment, and followed 1,802 patients who received coronary artery bypass surgery at six hospitals.

At the conclusion, Templeton, which had spent $2.4 million on the project, issued a press release:

“This project applied a large-scale controlled randomized research model to contribute to a growing number of scientific studies about prayer. Previous studies had attracted widespread public attention and discussion due to claims of positive health outcomes for distant intercessory prayer in which patients were unaware of being prayed for in the context of a research study.

“Analysts, however, had pointed to methodological weaknesses calling these results into question. In view of both the empirical uncertainties and the potential significance of a non-null result, the Foundation’s advisory board advocated that substantial resources be put forth in order to advance methodological rigor in the design and execution of a new “blue ribbon standard” study.

“. . . the null results obtained by the methodologically rigorous STEP experiment appear to provide a clear and definitive contrasting result to an earlier published finding (Byrd study) of a positive effect for patient-blind distant intercessory prayer in a prayer experiment involving recovery of patients in a cardiac care unit. Result: The STEP project did not confirm these findings.”

In other words, when examined under the most careful research conditions possible, prayer didn’t work.

Meta-Analysis

Scientists have a set of tools for wading through contradictory research results in order to identify the best evidence available and then synthesize that evidence. Meta-analysis, as this process is called, combines results from relevant studies, often weighting them based on how rigorously variables of interest were defined, controlled and measured, and how carefully alternative explanations were ruled out.

In 2009, Leanne Roberts, Irshad Ahmed, and Andrew Davison conducted a meta-analysis titled, “Intercessory Prayer for the Alleviation of Ill Health.”  After discarding lower quality research, the authors reviewed ten randomized trials “comparing personal, focused, committed and organized intercessory prayer.” In aggregate, these studies included 7,646 patients.

Overall, the meta-analysis found no clear effect of prayer on either general clinical state or death. Four studies that looked at heart attack patients specifically found no difference in readmission to a coronary unit.  Likewise, two that reported on re-hospitalization more broadly found no significant difference between patients receiving standard care and those receiving the same care plus prayer.

Five years later, Roberts, Ahmed and Davison’s review was edited and republished by the leading publisher of medical meta-analyses, Cochrane Reviews, without any change to conclusions, meaning their method withstood the test of time.

It is worth noting that the authors were not hostile to the possibility that prayer might have a measurable effect and, in fact, Roberts was an employee of the Anglican Church. But they concluded that:

“These findings are equivocal and, although some of the results of individual studies suggested a positive effect for intercessory prayer, the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer.  We are not convinced that further trials of this intervention should be undertaken and would prefer to see any resources available for such a trial used to investigate other questions in health care.”

But, but, but

This is the kind of language that consigns a drug or surgical procedure to medical history. But when prayer studies produce null results—or weak results at the margins of statistical significance (a far cry from those biblical promises)—researchers tiptoe, reassuring the public that their findings aren’t the last word or that results have little relevance outside of the specific conditions of the research.

When the STEP results were released, one co-author—a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic—made assurances that the study had no bearing on the efficacy of personal prayer, or prayers offered for family and friends. Bob Barth, the director of an intercessory prayer ministry in Missouri expressed optimism that future research would pan out, “We’ve been praying a long time and we’ve seen prayer work, we know it works, and the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started.”

Other prayer defenders take the opposite tack, hastening to reassure that unanswered prayer is actually a good thing. In the words of evangelist Ken Collins, one reason God might not answer prayers immediately is that “if He did, you’d stop praying! So He delays His answers to give you something better: fellowship with Him through persistent prayer.”  (Can I tell my kids and husband that this is why I ignore them so often?)

Even if unanswered prayer results in suffering unto death, theist philosopher, Richard Swinburne insists that what might look and feel bad is actually just one more way God shows his goodness: “Although of course a good God regrets our suffering, his greatest concern is surely that each of us shall show patience, sympathy, and generosity, and thereby form a holy character. Some people badly NEED to be ill for their own sake; and some people badly need to be ill in order to provide important choices for others.”

Faced with poor research outcomes, many religious leaders and theologians now argue that prayer is inherently exempt from evaluation. The Bible contains warnings against “putting God to the test,” so, of course research on prayer doesn’t work! Theist philosopher, Richard Swinburne dismissed the STEP results by arguing that God answers only those prayers offered “for good reasons.” Columbia behavioral medicine professor Richard Sloan told the New York Times that “the problem with studying religion scientifically is that you do violence to the phenomenon by reducing it to basic elements that can be quantified, and that makes for bad science and bad religion.” According to this form of special pleading, apologists argue that prayer—uniquely—has an effect on the natural world that is at once enormous, important, and unmeasurable. God heals people, but only if we aren’t watching and measuring.

Taking such obfuscation to its logical extreme, psychologists Bernard Spilka and Kevin Ladd argue that “scientists must be willing to acknowledge the distinctly nonscientific possibility that prayer operates ‘as advertised’ in a realm that is both nonlocal and nonphysical” (p. 169). They are absolutely right about this. Faced with assertions about a realm that is completely outside of the natural order, scientists must plead ignorance. However, so must all human beings, including theologians.

Invisible, Undetectable Results Don’t Count

Arguing that an invisible god works inexplicable magic that produces undetectable effects is the theological equivalent of a desperate child saying that the Tooth Fairy ate her homework. No parent or teacher or scientist can prove she didn’t. That said, it’s important to remember that humanity’s interest in prayer stems from a desire to get what we need and want. Actions of supernatural beings that have no discernable impact on actual lives are, from a human standpoint, simply irrelevant. Prayer persists because people believe that prayer affects this physical world and that they can see the results.

In the mind of atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris, prayer apologists cut themselves too much slack a long time ago, well before some began arguing that prayer is uniquely exempt from the scientific method. Even before double blind randomized trials humanity had a mountain of evidence that prayer requests don’t work. Harris points out that Christians adapt their behavior to what they know but won’t admit: “Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God regrow that missing limb. This happens to salamanders every day, presumably without prayer; this is within the capacity of God. I find it interesting that people of faith only tend to pray for conditions that are self-limiting.”

A God Should Do Better. So Should We.

God the Almighty shouldn’t operate at the margins of statistical significance. He shouldn’t be most evident when the evidence itself is of the poorest quality, fading into invisibility as the light of scientific rigor becomes brighter. He shouldn’t need defenders who are willing to tie their reputations to expensive research that they then dismiss as irrelevant when results are disappointing. God shouldn’t need defenders who engage in rabbit hole reasoning, who insist that he moves in our world and in our lives, but only as long as we aren’t looking; or who insist that despite all evidence to the contrary bad is actually good because it must be good, because by definition God is good and he’s in charge.

Since the year 2000, the U.S. government has spent over two million dollars on prayer studies without producing any result that is remotely congruent with the bold claims made by the authors of the New Testament. And yet those bold claims are a reasonable set of assertions to make about an all-powerful and all-loving, interventionist deity.

Our ancestors put forward their best set of hypotheses about how the world works, who is in charge, and how we can get what we need.  They did so without the benefits of enlightenment philosophy or the methods and discoveries of science, without the global flow of information and the freedom to debate ideas. They had no way of knowing that their hypotheses would fail when examined in the light of modern knowledge and analytic capacity. But at least they knew not to simply accept and repeat whatever their ancestors had said two thousand years earlier. Maybe we could try living up to that bar.

This article is Part 1 of a 4-part series adapted from the chapter, “If Prayer Fails, Why Do People Keep at It?” by Valerie Tarico in Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World’s Largest Religion, edited by John Loftus. Read Part 2 here.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Musings & Rants: Christianity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to What the Bible Says about Prayer. Versus Reality.

  1. Gunther says:

    As George Carlin stated what good is prayer, if it is going to interfere with God’s divine plan, thy will be done?

    Like

  2. Mark says:

    Well done.

    Like

  3. koppieop says:

    A 28-year young nephew of mine, full of good will but unable to obtain a stable income, struggled with the responsability for four children from three mothers. One evening, just after midnight, he put a few hundred dollars in his pocket and got into his car. There is (handwritten) evidence that he intended to repay part of a debt, but he also had the unwritten intention to wait at a nearby unguided [but with bright red lights and noisy alarm bells) railway crossing, ready to be on the track when the conductor of the 00.38 train couldn’t even try to apply the brakes.
    Would the accumulated prayers of his many relatives and friends have prevented the tragedy?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eleanor says:

    Your consistent and compassionate acknowledgement that our ancestors did the best they could with the tools they had is much appreciated. At a recent conference, a young woman asked a priest why God did not answer her prayers to save thousands of defenseless Rwandans during the 1994 government-sponsored genocide. She was told: “God did indeed hear your prayers and His answer to you was ‘No’. You must learn to respect the mystery in all that you do not yet comprehend, my dear. Pray for understanding.” To me, the reply suggested that the young woman had somehow dishonored her God by not accepting, without question, His Wisdom. Queries, then, were a sign of doubt and disrespect. Happily, this young university student is studying international political policy and works as a devoted humanitarian lawyer.
    Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile’s Wife

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wostraub says:

    Thank you, Valerie — this is one of your very best articles, and I look forward to reading the entire series.

    Another kind of argument a prayer apologist can make is the comparison of winning the lottery against winning at prayer. The odds of buying a winning Powerball Lottery ticket are about 175 million to one, while the chances of a prayer working are 50% — you either get what you want or you don’t. Plus, prayer is free, if you don’t consider the damage it does to your reasoning mind.

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  6. Carey Folk says:

    This is a great article – can’t wait for the other 3!

    Some initial random thoughts/comments…

    1. Prayer is akin to a monkey throwing darts at a dartboard.
    Let’s say the monkey throws darts for 3 hours straight. Odds are he is going to hit the bullseye a time or two.
    Then, let’s say I just happen to walk into the bar at the very moment the monkey hits the bullseye.
    “Damn, it’s a miracle, I’ve found a monkey that can throw darts and hit the bullseye.” I will preach this truth I have discovered. A citizen in the next town over just happens to read my story and then happens to walk into a bar and sees a 3 hour dart throwing monkey hit the bullseye.
    A legend is perpetuated – a legend they call truth.

    2. When people speak of how much prayer works in their life, more often than not, I think they are talking about the positive emotion and psychological state they achieve in prayer – not the outcomes or efficacy of the actual prayer itself.
    I’m betting Valerie will touch on this later (I haven’t read the chapter in the book). In an amazingly complex and fast paced world, people look for ways to live with the complexity, process it, make sense of it. I think belief in a God that controls the chaos is soothing – regardless of any real evidence of the validity of that God. I think prayer is a bit the same. It soothes in times of chaos, uncertainty, fear, etc. That’s one reason its so hard to let go of.

    3. We all have a worldview – a view of OUR perspective of reality. With worldview systems that are anchored in black and white thinking, us/them mentality, either/orness (I made up that word:) – anything that challenges that worldview is a challenge to life itself. Because for them, the “other” is a black pit of nothingness – a nihilistic existence with no meaning or purpose. So, sure they are going to fight other realities to the death. Evidence the nutty responses from the religious in the article about the prayer studies. From my worldview, those responses are just silly.

    4. Cognitive Biases. I am fasicinated by how cognitive biases play into our beliefs and worldview. One could write a book on this topic as it relates to prayer.

    Enough for now…again – I can’t wait for more comments and the other 3 parts.

    Thanks Valerie.

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    • Eleanor says:

      Wonderful reply, Carey! Like yourself, I like the consistent compassion in Tarico’s stance that our ancestors were doing the best they could with the tools they had. I also appreciate your description of ‘the other’ – a nihilistic existence with no meaning or purpose. To me, this state can mark the difference childlike clinging to guaranteed security with no need to self-actualize – or, the step into adulthood – a complicated, layered state of uncertainty – and adventure! Carey, I’d love to hear more about your ideas of cognitive dissonance!

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      • Carey Folk says:

        Gosh – we could go on for days on that topic. Some more highlights…

        Our human brains are incredibly wonderful. Think of the 10’s of thousands thoughts and 100’s of thousands chemical processes going on each day, each moment.

        Yet, the brain is faced with several challenges:

        1. Information overload. There is just too much of it. So, our brains use tricks to filter most of it out – mining for only the most useful information to us.
        2. Meaning confusion. We seek to make sense of the information coming at us.
        3. Fast paced life – gotta act fast. There is an element that affects all of this – time. It is limited and we have to live and to live, we have to make decisions and perform actions.
        4. With the information overload, we have to make decisions on what information to retain. Thus, we go for generalizations in many instances because it’s just all too overwhelming.

        So, evolution and 100’s of thousands of years gave our brains a tool – bias – to address these challenges. Mental tricks if you will to get through the day, through life.

        So, there is a positive upside to bias – it solves the challenges above. But it does so at a cost.

        We filter out useful information. We can create illusory meaning. Those quick decisions when faced with the need to act can be seriously flawed and our memory can tend to reinforce our errors.

        So, when science produces evidence contrary to the worldview we are working with at any given moment, our brains use these tricks to get back to our homeostasis. Cognitive Dissonance – a conflict in thoughts, ideas and information being presented to us – leads to an unsettledness that our brains don’t like. So, our brains pulls its shortcut tools out – cognitive biases – to get the peace back.

        That’s what the religious people are doing when they come up with wacky responses to overwhelming evidence that prayer lacks efficacy. Their brains are seeking homeostasis.

        The grand-daddy bias of all – Blind-Spot Bias – is the tendency to not recognize my own biases.

        I know this, I have them (biases that is). We all have them.

        Therefore, be true to myself, my thoughts and my reasoning but walk with big ole does of humility and graciousness. That’s one of the things I love about Valerie’s writings and work – I sense a strong stance for what she has reasoned to be true AND a graciousness that respects the mental and emotional journeys each of us has to take as we move from belief in prayer and conservative Christianity TO a more expansive, evidenced based way of being that is tinged with a large degree of respect for mystery.

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      • Eleanor says:

        Thank you, Carey!

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    • Carey Folk says:

      Oh – forget to cite – the 4 challenge mentioned are from a wonderful article by Buster Benson. I stand on the shoulders of those I came before me….:)

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  7. susan says:

    Valerie,

    As so often with good communication, your comments arrive in my brain at just the right time.

    “Praying” for you and your family for a tasty and convivial Thanxgiving.

    Onward through the fog…

    Susan in Texas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan. Your kind words are much appreciated in these times that for me are a time of grief for vulnerable people and for our planet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, seems that in our infinite popular wisdom, we have entered a shitshow.

        I have been in a fugue state since the election descended on us…threatening to roll back 50 years of social progress.

        Try as I might, I cannot shake the feeling that this will not end well.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Sha'Tara says:

        The saddest aspect of this is that it became inevitable. The “50 years of social progress” were illusory, purchased at the price of mortgaging a nation to banksterism, global exploitation, environmental degradation and endless war while internally the “progress” was a series of coatings of whitewash. Economic conditions slid downhill; “freedom” was sacrificed to security while racism, misogyny and homophobia were quietly buried under an expanding veneer of political correctness. Main stream media who supported the Democratic candidate and the billionaires who bankrolled her candidacy to over one billion dollars, lost to a candidate with nothing to offer but cheap shots coated in reactionary cant; who mocked the media and spurned the lobbyists. Why the upset? Because in fact Donald Trump is the face and the mouth of the real America, an America that has been silenced, mocked, robbed, railroaded, jailed and murdered by police during those 50 years of “social progress” during which the rich got disgustingly richer at the expense of the majority that had its homes and livelihood stolen. That was not social progress; that was a blatant lie. Donald Trump was created by the corporate lie called predatory capitalism. He is just as much a part of that lie as his opponents of course, but he said what “America” wanted and needed to hear in a way that “America” could understand what was being said: through crass demagoguery.

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      • Perry says:

        Yes, things are quite gloomy. This excellent analysis by George Monbiot describing the existential crisis we are all in sets out just how horrible the horizon looks:
        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/23/donald-trump-climate-change-war

        He ends that gloomy forecast with this hopeful challenge: “The task for all those who love this world and fear for our children is to imagine a different future rather than another past.”

        There are many people imagining and working on creating that different future. They are involved with The Next System Project http://thenextsystem.org/

        On that website you can find many ideas that provide the hopeful antidote to all the gloom and despair many of us are feeling: “THERE ARE REAL ALTERNATIVES: We can create the kind of society—and world—we’d like now and for future generations. There are political-economic system models that deliver superior social, economic and ecological outcomes.”

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  8. When I “pray,” I find that what my brain actually does is lay out the problem, realize my situation very clearly, assess my actual chances of my situation getting better, hope that things turn out the way I would prefer…. and acknowledge that the whole enterprise is a crap shoot. Amen.

    susan

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Geoff says:

    Valerie
    Excellent article. I found it quite amusing to read the excuses, rationalizations and mental contortions the religious are forced to come up with to protect their psyches and defend their separate realities. I’m going to share this with my sister in the Bible Belt who is constantly subjected to forced prayer before every breakfast, lunch and dinner at public gatherings.
    She will get a kick out of it.

    Like

  10. Steve Ruis says:

    I find it interesting that the same people who tend to tell us that “prayer works” are also those who claim that “God has a plan for each and every one of us.” If the latter is true, then what happens to us is part of God’s plan for us and our prayers are asking Him to change His Plan because we do not like it. These same people talk about humbling themselves before their god. So, their prayers equate to “Please, God, do not do what you have planned.” which makes their god into something closer to an ogre than a beneficent deity.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Perry says:

    The sitcom, The Beverley Hillbillies, had an episode where granny supposedly had a cure for the common cold. The banker, Mr Drysdale, excitedly thought he would get rich from her recipe, until the punchline came, which was that if you took her herbal remedy your cold would be cured in two weeks. In other words, the healing had nothing to do with the remedy, a person’s cold simply ran its natural course and ended.

    Some prayers are like that, where the thing prayed for, whether healing or some other matter would have happened regardless of prayer. My niece once sent out a group email asking for family and friends to pray for her husband to get a job quickly as they were in financial stress. He had just graduated from a two year mechanic’s course, money was low, he didn’t have a job yet and rent, bills and loans were due. A week or so later she emailed again to say he landed a good job, thanking everyone for their prayers and God for answering them. What I really wanted to point out to her, but didn’t out of respect for her beliefs, was that by giving God the credit for answering prayer, she was discounting all her husband’s hard work and good skills, having graduated at the top of his class, which made him a highly sought after employee. He would have got the same job without those prayers. I also wanted to ask her why God would answer those prayers, but ignore the prayer’s of countless mothers for their sick and dying children that must have been occurring at the same time all around the world.

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  12. Sha'Tara says:

    When I was a child and very much into church stuff (no choice, actually) a local comedian who was staying at our house told us this joke about the power of prayer. He said, there was a man who had a crippled right arm. The man was told to pray for healing by the priest. Not quite sure of how to go about it, the man looked up in the night sky and exclaimed, “Oh God, if you can hear me, please make my arm like my other one!” And he was promptly crippled in the left arm. The comedian added, a testimony to the fact that prayer works, you just have to be careful how you ask. I took that to heart, being a kid, and paid much attention on the “how” as well as the “why” but eventually I outgrew the need to be fooled. I don’t buy lottery tickets either, but I’d sooner do that than pray. It’s tricky stuff and personally based on that old story, I’m glad it doesn’t work, twice glad it doesn’t have a chance to work. Just imagine God granting each and every prayer, automatically, regardless of source as long as it’s done from faith! I’ll leave you with that thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carey Folk says:

      Sha’Tara – great post. Ah, you bring up the great “get out of jail free” card for persons whose prayer belief is challenged – “as long as it’s done from faith!” Wow, that’ll screw with a persons mind. It did mine. I got mired in the belief that my prayers weren’t getting answered because I didn’t have enough faith (so much for the mustard seed verse). I have a very hard (impossible) time believing in a God that would be that petty.

      Liked by 1 person

      • metalnun says:

        Sha’Tara and Carey, yes. Great points. And I would like to add, the “IF you have faith…” part is often used against people, “blaming the victim,” in the fundie tradition. When I was struck down with an “incurable” [according to mainstream medicine] illness, there was first of all the implication that I was possibly being punished by God for one of my many sins, including probable lack of faith. The fundie pastor and several “elders” of the church laid on hands on me and prayed for my healing. When the healing subsequently failed to happen, I was scolded for not having enough faith or, possibly, continuing in some other “sin” that prevented God from healing me. Fortunately I was skeptical of their approach and left the fundie tradition, ended up becoming an Episcopalian. A few years later I recovered significantly from my illness thanks to holistic and herbal medicine.

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  13. Paul Douglas says:

    Excellent post, Valerie. Yes, why doesn’t gawd heal amputees???

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  14. allanmerry@allanmerry.net says:

    Valerie, (after twice disappearing what I’m about to write, with an errant finger): What you write comprises Education, of an awe inspiring quality, about several of the most fundamental “elements” of our on-going human existence. And those elements are integral with all the others crying for comparable treatment. Education seems to me to be maybe the bottom line essential ingredient. So, (I ask myself daily), what can and must I do, along with others, to bring about that “blanket” of education? (The Goal, of course, a peaceful, humane, equitable, sustainable world-wide existence.) So’s not to risk another “disappear,” I’ll think more and maybe contribute later.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sha'Tara says:

    Quote: “The Goal, of course, a peaceful, humane, equitable, sustainable world-wide existence.” So well put, Allan. Especially now, the question, “What can I do?” is haunting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. metalnun says:

    Personally I enjoy contemplative prayer/ meditation. I will pray with or for people when they specifically ask me to do so, because it is comforting to them. However, I must admit I find intercessory prayer, (the only form of prayer that most people know about), amusing in that it involves telling God stuff He already knows and asking Him to do specific things for people as if He couldn’t figure out how to help them without getting advice from us, or that He would not have done so without being asked or reminded. :)

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  17. Sha'Tara says:

    Very good points – makes god look kind of stupid, yes? I’m all-knowing people, but remember I don’t know what you want, you need to tell me. I’m all powerful but people, don’t ask me to do stuff you already know from past experience that I can’t do, it makes me look bad. And if you give other people the idea that I won’t do those good things you ask because I don’t want to, well that’s even worse. Just praise me, I like that a lot, narcissists love being adulated.

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  18. allanmerry@allanmerry.net says:

    Sha’Tara, I thought I was replying to a different post of yours summarizing the real nature of our swell Capitalist Rulers. So, I’m about ready to post and suddenly your other one’s gone. Anwhow’s I write: About those single minded Rulers: They knew just fine that Hill was onto them. Smart Female who has learned over the decades how to actually move things. (Is it beginning to look like the Female gender of our single, worldwide Race, is our only hope?) Anyay, Meanwhile, several of the “Real” Macro Economists (eg. Paul Krugman, in the NYT) were explaining how things actually work; accurately, day after day, month after month, in the NYT and other of the metro dailies that often carry the “real” minds. While the large majority of us were watching all the rest of the Media, where one finds little (except local crashes, fires, and murders), significant “real” analysis of our Economy. Actually, it’s all, oh say, 99.1 percent, Entertainment. Well Duh? Hey that’s all I got time for!! Go away. :-(

    Like

  19. Lynn Norman says:

    Very good article. I have joined the athiest community. Thought it threw this last year and woke up. Thanks

    Like

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