Proof #2: Statistically Analyze Prayer

December 13, 2007 at 4:10 am 17 comments

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.‘ ” [Mat 4:5-7, emphasis added]

Science has conducted many studies of prayer and the effect it has on patients. Hopeful Christians automatically assume that the studies all conclude that prayer is an effective weapon in the practice of medicine. I am here to burst everyone’s bubble: whenever prayer is tested scientifically, it is shown to have no effect whatsoever. Scientists often conclude in these studies that any effectiveness attributed to prayer is purely wishful thinking.

Making this assertion on a Christian website probably shocks many people. In fact, few Christians may have the stomach to even continue reading this article. That’s fine; Jesus lost quite a few followers when He taught things difficult to accept (Jn 6:66). For those that are still here, it is very true: prayer has repeatedly been shown to have no effect when tested in research studies. But, this finding should not shake any informed Christian’s faith because this finding is exactly what we should expect!

Remember that the Bible repeatedly promises that God will hear our prayers, not that He will answer them. Answered prayers must come from people who are obedient to the Lord and who have a pure motive. God also promises to provide for our needs, not for our wants. Finally, what we ask for must be in accordance with God’s will. This is why Christ prayed “Let your will, not mine, be done.”

First, consider the real motivation behind the prayers offered. Was the motivation to honestly heal the sick individual, or was it to test the effectiveness of prayer, and by extension the Power behind it?

I’m inclined to think that the second motive was really behind it all. God refuses to let us test Him (Deut 6:16). Therefore, would we actually expect Him to answer a prayer that is an obvious test? God prefers to remain hidden (Ps 89:46).

God has elsewhere given us enough evidence that He exists:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. [Rom 1:20]

Strong language from the apostle Paul. He says that men are without excuse. There is no excuse for not noticing that God is real.

Two specific articles are cited to help the atheists prove this case against prayer. The first one clearly states that the study mentioned is only one of many. No results are given for the other studies, only for the one that concludes prayer is ineffective. Again, we would not expect a scientific study to confirm the validity of prayer, but it is interesting that an article with the agenda of disproving prayer only outlines the results of a test that proves their point. Biased, anyone?

The second article openly admits its limitations. It says that science cannot measure the supernatural.

In both cases, the prayers were offered by church congregations who agreed to participate in the study. They prayed every day starting the day before the surgery and for two weeks after. Prior to this, no one had any contact with the congregation. No effort was made to change the family of the patient’s normal prayer patterns.

This is scientific? Mythbusters might as well have done this. With some explosions added in for effect, of course.

The theologians quoted in the first article expressed no surprise at these findings. That, of course, is pounced on by atheists who use that to declare that apathy on the part of religious leaders is evidence that they knew prayer was a waste of time all along. Calm, rational responses by Christian theologians, who were expected to act hysterical, are met with charges of conspiracy. This is a pretty paranoid world that the atheists have carved out for themselves.

So, why are theologians neither surprised nor concerned about this finding? The conspiratorial conclusions reached by atheists are a far cry from the real reasons, cited by the first article:

Historically, religions have promoted many kinds of prayer. Prayers of praise, thanksgiving and repentance have been highly esteemed, while intercessions of the kind done in the Benson study — appeals to God to take some action — are of lesser importance. They represent a less-respected magical wing of religion.

And:

In fact, many theologians reject out of hand the notion that any person or group can effectively intercede with God in any respect. Paul Tillich and Karl Barth, the two major Christian theologians of the 20th century (and certainly no opponents of prayer) would have scoffed at the idea. The Lord’s Prayer, the central prayer of Christendom, contains no plea for God to influence specific events in people’s lives.

Atheists would like to reduce God to a prayer-answering machine. God has His own unfathomable plan, and He does not change it for our pleas. Prayer can help in other ways than just miraculous healing, though skeptics never seem to consider that.

This same article makes that point:

Prayers are expressions of empathy that strengthen a caring community and bring comfort to those who are suffering. Comfort in this context undoubtedly has therapeutic health benefits. But scientists should not leap to the assumption that the ruler of the universe can be mechanically requisitioned to intervene in people’s suffering or health.

It seems that Christians are not the atheists’ only target these days. Positive attitudes are also under fire, as new studies find these to also be ineffective. So it seems that atheists want everyone to be as bitter as Madeline Murray O’Hare was. They fail, however, to mention certain points from the article they mention that are contrary to the position that they present. Thus, they would never reprint this:

A positive attitude can help lead to healthier eating habits, stopping smoking, drinking less, exercising more and learning more information about one’s disease and treatment options. Cancer patients have learned to live with therapy, avoid fatigue and even have returned to work, said Dr. LaMar McGinnis, senior medical consultant for the Atlanta-based society.

The same can be said for prayer. It can help in other ways that medical science cannot study.

None of the sources that were cited ever took the position that prayer is out of place, outlandish, superstitious, or unnecessary. Only atheists maintain that. While they purport that an infinite God can be put under the microscope in a finite study, I still hold to the position that we cannot contain or measure the God that we serve.

A study like this is nothing more than a test for God. He does not take tests. He does not bow to us. We are made for Him, for His glory. He is our Creator, and our prayers should not seek to be selfish expressions of our own earthly desires, they should request God use us for His will and to further His glory.

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Entry filed under: Prayer.

Proof #1: Try Praying Proof #3: Look at Historical Gods

17 Comments

  • 1. Samuel Skinner  |  February 1, 2008 at 6:43 am

    See- God answers little boys prayer with a resounding no. Yes, it is the onion.

    Why doesn’t the creator take tests? I mean being all powerful means he can ace them. Unless of course he just likes messing with people’s heads- but that wouldn’t be good.

    People can concieve the infinite. Look up into space- you see the black part? You are staring off into infinity.

    Technically this isn’t a proof, just an explanation for a previous lack of proof.

  • 2. jimmy  |  February 15, 2008 at 12:08 am

    You keep going on about God only answering the prayers of the virtuous, and those who are obedient to the Lord. That’s why “testing” scientifically or having atheists pray for the cure to cancer will never work. You also claim that God doesn’t answer the myriad of prayers He receives all the time. Well there are millions of “true Christians” out there – why don’t you all get together and agree to say no prayers for a month EXCEPT that all cancer patients in the world are cured. Then God will be bombarded by a single prayer by millions of virtuous, deserving Christians all intent on making this world a better place by curing cancer. Oh , hang on, let me guess, it doesn’t work like that either does it?

  • 3. Kirk  |  April 29, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    As a learned Christian, I have to disagree with this website on one thing. There is a promise of answered prayer that can not be denied. We must learn to walk the line of truth between 2 promises – God hearing and God acting. The real answer is the basis of our request. That argument is done very well by the author of this site. The motive of true prayer (prayer in the name of Jesus) is for God’s will to be done. We don’t understand God’s will and we can not see all of his work. His ways are just bigger than ours. His thoughts are higher than ours (That is why He is God and we are not – it is the natural result of his being.) God has promised to answer, but what type of prayer did he promise to answer. The one that seeks his will above every other desire. Faith is not easy, it is not for the weak-minded, or for those who are easily swayed. It is easy to stand and praise God when the sun is shining down on us. But will we say blessed be name of the Lord when walk the road marked with suffering. That is what the non-believer does not understand. In the valley of the Shadow of Death, we experience the real and awesome presence of God and that is the answer we really wanted in the first place. That is answered prayer. And sometimes, the answer is exactly what we asked for. And in those times – when the sun is Shining – the believer gives the same praise – blessed be the name of the Lord. Prayer is not something you will ever understand through science or rationale, it is, by its very nature, an expression of faith. That is why Brain’s arguments are moot, they do not deal in any way form or fashion with the root issue of prayer. They are result driven and prayer is not about results, it is about expression of faith. It is conversation between the Maker and the made. It is life experience between those who have faith and the One who is faithful. You will never understand prayer through a microscope because prayer is not scientific. It is not a formula. It is honest and real communication with God. The real problem is that the moment your prayer is simply about getting results, it ceased being a prayer at all.

  • 4. Luke  |  June 13, 2008 at 5:02 am

    –Every answer people give to the “why doesn’t God answer prayers” question just goes to show you that prayer is absolutely useless if God “doesn’t have the will” to answer a prayer in the first place. What’s the point?
    Do people even have to pray for God to do something special for them? Does he just sit around and let everything happen naturally until someone prays? With all these prayers floating around, he must be so busy floating around everywhere and deciding if he should answer them according to “his will.” He apparently doesn’t do anything but constantly decide if he wants to serve people by answering prayers. Then, when he decides to answer a prayer in a near future for a person, he has to “plan” stuff to ensure that “his will” gets carried through. That is a whole other topic right there I could get into right there, but will spare you.

    –The bottom line is people are so egotistical that they only think about themselves when pondering the subject of prayer. Millions, if not more, are all praying at the same time and don’t even bother to think about things from Gods point of view and how he supposedly deals with it among everything else people credit him for. Everyone thinks “God is listening to my prayers and making plans for me and doing all kinds of other stuff for me all the time,” and they don’t even bother to realize that if he’s doing this stuff for one person, he’s doing it for billions of people all at once, too.

    –Basically, everyone thinks that God is serving man like some indentured servant with an option to say “no.”

    Kirk said:
    The real problem is that the moment your prayer is simply about getting results, it ceased being a prayer at all.

    –So when people ask for anything in prayer, it’s not a prayer anymore because a result is expected. So if you’re not asking for something in prayer, then what are you doing? Having a one sided conversation? What could you possibly be telling God that he doesn’t already know?

  • 5. Luke  |  June 16, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Jesus lost quite a few followers when He taught things difficult to accept (Jn 6:66)
    –Here we have a guy performing amazing MIRACLES in front of thousands of people, but yet he loses followers because of a few words and teachings? How much dumber could anybody get? If I saw this guy doing impossible things, I’d accept everything he said.

    I smell nonsense. Don’t people even think about this kind of stuff down to the last detail? Are people so incapable of critical thinking? Go somewhere and pray while I think.

  • 6. White  |  July 1, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Why doesn’t God take tests? Eh, look for my comments in ‘proof 1’ page xD

  • 7. White  |  July 1, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    In response to Luke, if you see this guy performing impossible things, i’d accept everything he said. Let me ask you Luke, why don’t you worship Criss Angel instead?! or David Copperfield?!?! Even IF Jesus came in front of you NOW, you will say He’s just a magician. When He proves to you that He’s supernatural, you’ll say He’s a demon. So He go all the way to heaven to prove that wrong, you say you’re just having a hallucination 0.0 See my point?

  • 8. Luke  |  July 7, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Let me ask you Luke, why don’t you worship Criss Angel instead?! or David Copperfield?!?!
    –Aside from the fact they’re human street magicians on TV and no better than you or I, what’s the point in “worshiping” them or any other human? They’re not asking me to live life a certain way. They’re not going to punish me or reward me in this life or an after life if I don’t “obey” them. Why would I even “worship” anything to begin with?

    Even IF Jesus came in front of you NOW, you will say He’s just a magician. When He proves to you that He’s supernatural, you’ll say He’s a demon. So He go all the way to heaven to prove that wrong, you say you’re just having a hallucination 0.0 See my point?

    –Well now, if Jesus came in front of me now, then that would be the proof I’d need of God. Why would I say he’s a magician if he’s supposed to be some ancient dead guy? lol. Why would I say he’s a demon if demons don’t even exist in the first place? Since I don’t believe in an invisible man in the sky, I sure as hell don’t believe in invisible, shape-shifting demons who can “possess” people with their own God-given magical powers. And I’m smart enough to realize I wouldn’t have a random hallucination without a good reason like self-induced drugs or maybe a fever or whatever, heh.
    So no, I don’t see your point.

  • 9. White  |  July 8, 2008 at 5:20 am

    -.- what i meant is, you can never be 100% sure God exists.

    And even if Jesus DO appear in front of you now, i’d be sure you’d find enough excuse to not believe in Him, right? 🙂 Why? Becos God is imaginary -.- Why is God imaginary? Becos He didn’t appear in front of me now -.- Why didn’t He appear in front of me now? Becos God is imaginary -.-

    So on…

  • 10. Anti-Devil  |  July 13, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Luke go and think while we pray and think, u quoted from the bible” jesus lost quite a few believers when he taught things that were hard to accept”
    YA TRUE things were hard to except..but its true..
    and the few believer whom jesus lost are silly and stupid people who didnt think enough.You claimed u think a lot and enough,i find that total lies and nonsense…go and think again.just by a quote in the bible and yet u r so fast to speak against it…u really have to think.=D brother

  • 11. Mark  |  July 13, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    anti-devil, please learn how to spell.

  • 12. Mark  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    just kidding XD

  • 13. Anti-Devil  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    sorry didnt know why ur name appeared, btw sorry and pardon for my spelling..but some mistakes were just kidding hehe=D

  • 14. Anti-Devil  |  July 15, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    mark,btw thats my style ..my significance here,it doesnt bother u at all i hope?

  • 15. Carlos  |  June 5, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Jesus lost quite a few followers when He taught things difficult to accept (Jn 6:66)
    Luke says:”–Here we have a guy performing amazing MIRACLES in front of thousands of people, but yet he loses followers because of a few words and teachings? How much dumber could anybody get? If I saw this guy doing impossible things, I’d accept everything he said.”

    Well eh Luke the bible does record events where people did witness his miracles and still went ahead rejecting them take for example the religious leaders of his day (Pharisees and Sadducees) this guys did behold the great miracles performed by Jesus, yet despite this they rather opted to criticize what they saw in the place of embracing Jesus and his teachings. And while they were going away, there came to him a man without the power of talking, and with an evil spirit.

    The following is an example:
    “And when the evil spirit had been sent out, the man had the power of talking: and they were all surprised, saying, Such a thing has never been seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, By the ruler of evil spirits, he sends evil spirits out of men.
    (Mat 9:32-34 BBE)”

    Also the disciples constantly were misgiving about Jesus although having been around Him when he performed most of his miracles. What is more note that although he was around to witness the miracles of Jesus Judas still had the nerve to betray his master. This scenarios make it quite possible for Jesus to lose followers and Therefore your above statement becomes null and void.

    Luke says: “I smell nonsense. Don’t people even think about this kind of stuff down to the last detail? Are people so incapable of critical thinking? Go somewhere and pray while I think.”

    Maybe you are too quick to criticize religion in you dislike for it and fail to do proper homework on all the relevant points .

  • 16. blahsphemer  |  December 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    quote
    Remember that the Bible repeatedly promises that God will hear our prayers, not that He will answer them. Answered prayers must come from people who are obedient to the Lord and who have a pure motive

    So witch is it,he will answer them or he won’t?
    You cant have it both ways.;)

  • 17. Rurangwa Joseph  |  February 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    If the intention of prayer and miracles was results then Jesus and his desciples would not have worked for their living. But the Bible tells us that they worked. Let us face the truth: suffering, pain, death, joy, pleasure are all part of the fabric of our lives we can choose to make use of them to draw closer to God and to one another or to do the opposite. LET US CHOOSE RIGHT.


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