Sunday, October 14, 2007

Prayer - Does it Work?

A nice fellow who has been commenting on my blog by the name of Garrett Drew Ellis brought up an interesting point that really got me thinking. Here is what he typed:

    "Harry,
    Once again, i do have to defend prayer. all through the bible you see that it, as well as the role of the holy spirit, gives access to God. But this is not something you have to accept. A non believer wouldn't get it. :)"


I started thinking about prayer. All the times I have prayed for something that either I needed or wanted. The times I asked for help and guidance in certain matters. The times I prayed for others' needs or for help for others. Why did my prayers not get answered? Was I being selfish? Not in the instances of praying to help others through medical difficulties, surely! But why had God not helped them? Were they not worthy? Or did I taint them because I was not worthy of asking God to help them?

Well, look to the Bible to see what it says about prayer.
In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
    Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:

    For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.


In Matthew 21:21:
    I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells all of us just how easy prayer can be:

    "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."


Well, this seems to be a line of bullshit right there!

In James 5:15-16 the Bible says:
    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.


So why do people not heal when prayed for? This prayer thing just does not work!

Now I could go back and contribute some good things that have happened in my life to prayers being answered. But that still leaves about 99% of all the other prayers unaccounted for. If prayer really worked, then there would be recorded instances of true miracles being performed like amputees growing back limbs. But this has never happened in recorded history that I am aware of. And if the Bible was true and accurate, we could ask for anything in God's name and it would be granted. So I have to say that the Bible is blatantly lying about prayer.

I wonder if I could get my money back from all the contributions I have made to the Catholic church through the years? False advertising. Bait-and-switch tactics. Maybe we should organize a class-action lawsuit against the Catholic church (or any church that claims the Bible is true and accurate.)



34 comments:

Fiery said...

Heavenly Father,
I come before you today to ask for X, in your precious and holy name.
Amen.

God's response will be
1)yes
2)no
3)not now

No matter what, god's holy butt is covered.

Poodles said...

God is a magic 8 ball.

Harry Nads said...

Good one, poodles. :)

Harry Nads said...

And welcome to my blog, Poodles! :)

Poodles said...

Thanks Harry!

Terra said...

In fact, prayer often does damage. Check out: http://www.physorg.com/news63551345.html
(sorry about the non-html, I'm awful with that stuff)

and, read this,
http://gods4suckers.net/archives/
2007/09/17/im-an-atheist-so-back-off/
if you haven't already. It was very entertaining and enlightening.

(again, sorry about the lack of html)

Terra said...

Sorry, that last link is really horrendous. Try this instead:
http://tinyurl.com/yrh48o

Harry Nads said...

Welcome, Terra, and thanks for the links! :)

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,

My prayers are always answered. There hasn't been one since i have been a christian that was left unanswered. How do you explain that?

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

maybe you need to check your motives when you pray. Prayer is first and foremost between God and a man that have a relationship. How do you expect Him to answer anything you ask Him for when you are gonna cuss him out as soon as you don't get what you want? thats not a relationship, your trying to pimp God. I wouldn't answer your prayer either

Harry Nads said...

Garrett,

Pray that the amputees of the world grow back their limbs. Or for world peace. Or that cancer patients all make instant recoveries, or that I win the lottery.

Something tells me those prayers will go unanswered.

Reg Golb said...

Prayer isn't for your wish list. I don't know or care what the catholic church or any other says on the matter.

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

thanks reg.

Harry Nads said...

Reg (the backwards blogger) and Garrett:

So why can you not pray for amputees limbs to grow back or the the sick are healed? Can you only pray for things that could come true whether or not you pray for them?

Why does the bible say (which is from the post, but you apparently won't answer them):

In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!


and then:

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.


and there is this one:
In Matthew 21:21:

I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
All of those scriptures are true. But what you feel to realize is that the bible also says you have to ask with right motives, ask with the will of the Father being your will. Paul said in reference to God " I decrease so that You may increase". If your will, your prayers are not in line with what God wants for your life, you are asking amiss and He has no obligation to answer them. This is with the trust that He has your ultimate good in mind. I am sorry about the amputees of the world but all of us have something that keeps us humble, keeps us dependent on God. If that means learning to trust God with a severed limb, while i am not happy about, so be it. Believe me, i have things that i would rather live without but that also teach me that God is in control, looking out for the best interests of the growth of my character.
Luckily, the bible teaches that in heaven, there will be no sorrow, no pain, and if i can be so bold, no severed limbs. Prayer is trust that God has good plans for us, plans that may not look good right now, but will work out for our ultimate good.

Harry Nads said...

Oh that is a bunch of baloney. The reason amputees don't regrow limbs is because it is impossible. Even if every Christian in the world prayed for it to come true, it would never happen. You can try to make any excuses you want as to why God won't heal them... I am coming to terms with the fact that it is because there is no such being.

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
Well then, since you have come to that conlusion, it seems that you have fulfilled the purpose for your blog. Your no longer on the fence, you have picked a side. Good luck with your choice

Harry Nads said...

I have picked a side regarding prayer. Do you seriously believe that amputees limbs could regrow if people prayed for it? According to the Bible, it should be able to happen. But it has never happened in the recorded history of mankind as far as I am aware. But that would be pretty good evidence for me to change my mind.

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
The point of prayer is not to regrow limbs! the point of prayer is not to simply ask for anything in the universe and receive it. If that is your interpretation of "ask and you shall receive" than you are delusional.
The point is 1 to be in line with God's desire for our lives which does not include going against the laws of nature. it doesn't mean that prayer should literally be able to move one of the rockies. It means that with a small amount of faith, prayer can help change monumental things. Dr. Kings faith and prayer led to the change of a nation in regards to civil rights.
Am i discounting miracles? No. God can do anything. But once again, will He do anything? No. Because it is people like you that will pray for everyone to regain their lost limbs and then think that your prayer did it and not give glory to god. God is not a genie, Jesus did not even grant every request that the disciples made, even thought he could have

Jeff said...

Harry,
You ask a great question. I would be careful, however, to throw prayer out the window because it has not healed an amputee. I am sure that the Apostle Paul prayed many times for his sight to be fully restored, but it appears that he dealt with such a problem for the duration of his life. He certainly was a man of prayer and God used him to write much of the New Testament.

You are most correct that Christ tells us in Matthew 7, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For whoever asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door is opened." However, Christ also taught us to pray as follows, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The key is that our will must align with God's will. Does ths mean that God wants an amputee to suffer when a limb does not grow back? I would be doubtful of this.

I have seen that God has three ways of answering prayer: Yes, No, and Not Right Now (which I think has already been said). For some reason, answered prayers of the miraculous type are rare. Does this mean that prayer doesn't "work?" May it never be. It is hard to put it mildly, but our time on Earth is not intended to be free from suffering. In fact suffering, in my experience, takes my eyes of of my selfish ambitions and makes me more humble and reliant upon God.

I have seen much pain and sufffering in my life, and I have asked God to "fix" the problems. Some have been answered, others not. Do I doubt God? No. I have witnessed and been the recipient of His love, mercy and grace in other areas. I know His will is better than mine...even when what I want is "good" in my eyes, yet He doesn't answer my request.

It is also important not to relegate God to a cosmic genie, waiting to grant our every wish -- not matter how altruistic the prayer might be.

Lastly, it appears that your question has many similarities with the question of pain and evil. Much can be said on that subject that is very relevant. However, I have already written too much.

Harry Nads said...

Jeff,
Welcome to my blog. :)

I appreciate the response and you are welcome to expand on it.

You said:
"I have seen much pain and sufffering in my life, and I have asked God to "fix" the problems. Some have been answered, others not. Do I doubt God? No. I have witnessed and been the recipient of His love, mercy and grace in other areas."

The answered ones, do you feel the only way it could have happened was through God? This is where I seem to have some issues with prayer. It seems that any "answered" prayer is just natural or could be explained by natural means and nothing supernatural. This being the case, how can one suppose it happened by God if it can be explained as natural phenomena?

I guess I require some kind of evidence or proof of answered prayers. That would be through miracles, unnatural or supernatural happenings, or something against the known laws of nature (ie. the regrowing of limbs.)

And how can you not take the actual quotes of Jesus as not being literal? When you get liberal in your interpretations, how do you know what to take as literal and what to take as parable or metaphorical? This also aligns with the questions I have regarding the Bible and interpretation. I would think that everything should be clear whether to be literal or not, being that it is the "word of God" and all. Why have so much grey area if it was intended to be "The Truth"?

I hope I don't sound like I am attacking you in any way... I just have so many questions and I want to find answers that are concrete and logical... not just "I feel it in my heart" or "you gotta have faith".

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
Please reread Matthew 17:20, including the entire chapter. Right before the verse you quoted, we hear the disciples asking Jesus why they could not drive a demon out of a man. Jesus precluded Matthew 17:20 with "Because of your unbelief..." I think that a prerequisite to prayer is belief. When you pray, do you really believe that God can grant it? Do you really believe that Jesus is the Son of God? If not, then i would venture to say that that may be the reason your prayers aren't answered, there may not be as strong a relationship between you and Him than there needs to be for prayer to be answered.

In regards to miracle type prayers, do you personally need to have one of these miracle prayers answered in order to believe? If not, there are occurences outside of the gospels that testify to prayer being answered. Elijah prayed for it not to rain and it didn't for three years. And the writings of the Roman Historian Josphus can give evidence to the life of Paul, who also performed miracles after acknowledging God as the source of all things and prayer.

Harry Nads said...

"When you pray, do you really believe that God can grant it? Do you really believe that Jesus is the Son of God? If not, then i would venture to say that that may be the reason your prayers aren't answered, there may not be as strong a relationship between you and Him than there needs to be for prayer to be answered."

I used to. Prayers did not get answered. I don't anymore.

But why don't you and all the others that do believe pray for the amputees? I know many people at my church (yes I still go sometimes for my wife's sake)pray for people that are ill and their prayers don't get answered. Are you saying that they truly don't believe?

You keep avoiding the reality that no matter who prays and for how long, it will never happen (the amputees regrowing limbs.) You seem to hide behind a barrier you have created to explain why God doesn't do it, ignoring that fact that it won't happen because it is impossible.

If you believe the Bible and have true faith, then you could drink arsenic and you wouldn't be harmed. But I feel you wouldn't try it because you know that you would be harmed. It's OK to admit it. And I'm sure you will say that that line is to be taken metaphorically (again with the selective interpretation.)

Harry Nads said...

"If not, there are occurences outside of the gospels that testify to prayer being answered. Elijah prayed for it not to rain and it didn't for three years."

Elijah who? I don't recall reading about that in any history books. Where did you get that information? Did it happen recently?

Harry Nads said...

"In regards to miracle type prayers, do you personally need to have one of these miracle prayers answered in order to believe? "

Yes... in my lifetime.

Harry Nads said...

"And the writings of the Roman Historian Josphus can give evidence to the life of Paul, who also performed miracles after acknowledging God as the source of all things and prayer."

So Josphus wrote about Paul performing miracles? Or Josphus wrote about someone named Paul, who by heresay (which is what the Bible actually is) performed miracles?

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
Josephus wrote about the apostle paul, the paul of the bible and about some of the miracles that he performed.

I feel really bad for you. You will never know God not because He doesn't exist and not because i don't think you honestly don't want to know if He is there because i think you do, but because you have limited yourself to the possibility of none of this because you can't touch or feel it. Everything in this universe is not built around us. I can tell You gave up on God a long time ago and that if He doesn't show Himself to you in a very real way, you will not even desire to know if He's there. Regardless of how you feel about prayer, i am going to pray that God will send circumstances in your life that will allow you to at least be softened and hopefully,return.

Garrett Drew Ellis said...

Harry,
One more thing. I have enjoyed my time chatting with you on your blog but i wanted to let you know that this will be my last post. You need a power to take control that i am not able to give, one that only God has. I think that my efforts will be better used with some men who are sincerely in need of help online, so that is where i am going to focus. I also think that my efforts in your life can be better used in the very thing you seem to dislike,prayer. Just know that i wish you all the luck in the world in your quest for God and that a young black boy named Garrett will be praying for you for the rest of your life, that God will reveal Himself to you in a very real way and that when He does, you will be satisfied with Him.
Be blessed,
Garrett Drew Ellis

Tattooed & Atheist (T&A) said...

"I think that my efforts will be better used with some men who are sincerely in need of help online, so that is where i am going to focus."

Screw the women though... Typical fundie chauvinist.

Jeff said...

Harry,
No attack/offense taken. I enjoy when someone has real questions (as you appear to do), rather than answers in the form of a question, with no intention of ever listening to a response. I was in a similar place as you not too long ago. Questioning is good, as God does not want us to have “blind faith.” There are an abundance of passages that militate against the concept of blind faith. In fact, the Bible tells Christians to be prepared to give an answer/defense as to why we place our faith in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), but we are commanded to do so with gentleness and respect (which some of my Christian brothers and sisters sometimes forget). But…back to the issue at had: prayer.

It is very important to note that there are limitations on what God will give in prayer. For example, God will not grant us the wish to also be God, nor will He approve (only forgive) of our sin. So, it is logical for God not to answer all prayers in the affirmative. If we can show that it is logical for God not to answer all prayers, then we can show that the passages you listed have obvious limitations. This, to me, is very important in showing the Christ did not intend for us to be able to ask for anything we want.

Another important concept to keep in mind is that scripture must be interpreted by other statements in scripture. I know this sounds like circular reasoning, but bare with me for a moment. If we are to assume that the Bible is the inspired word of God (I know this is a big assumption for some folks), then we should take all of its passages into consideration when coming to a conclusion about a given subject, in this case prayer. This is what is called systematic theology. In other words, a couple of small passages should not be taken out of the Bible and an entire theological position built upon them without looking at other relevant scriptures. While Jesus did say to ask and it shall be given, he also said to make sure our will was in line with God. Both statements need to be considered. [Check these passages out as well: Paul wasn't healed, though he prayed earnestly and faithfully (2 Corinthians 12:89). Jesus taught that it was not the blind man's lack of faith that hindered his being healed. Rather, he was born blind "that the works of God should be revealed in him" (John 9:3). Despite the apostle Paul's divine ability to heal others (Acts 28:9), later he apparently could not heal either Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25) or Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20). It clearly was not unbelief that brought Job's sickness on him (Job 1:1)].

Another relevant passage along these lines is 2 Samuel 12:15-25. King David prays for his infant son to be healed. The son eventually dies. In other places in the Bible, David is called a “man after God’s own heart,” yet God did not answer the prayer. I read this passage a lot while I was in the hospital with my mother a few years ago. I prayed for her healing, but she later died (I was in my mid-20’s and my wife was pregnant with what would have been my mother’s first grandchild). For one reason or another, my mother wasn’t healed. I was obviously saddened. It is likely I will not get an answer as to why until I meet my maker upon my death.

Those of us who do not believe that we can have anything we want when we pray are not liberal in our theology. In fact, the opposite is true. There are those who have built an entire belief system around God answering all of our prayers (Google “word of faith” or “prosperity gospel”). I, for one, have great reservation about these teachings, as they can lead a person down a dangerous road of having faith in faith, rather than faith in God.

Relating to your inquiry about wanting to see a miracle…the world has already witnessed the most fascinating miracle – the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The people of Jesus’ time wanted to see a great miracle so Jesus could prove His divinity. The sign Christ promised was the resurrection (he called it the sign of Jonah, who was in the belly of the whale for 3 days, like Christ was dead for 3 days before the resurrection). The resurrection had huge implications for the massive expansion of the early church, despite heavy persecution. There is so much to speak about related to this subject, but it is too much to list (entire books have been written). Just because God does not reply to/answer every prayer requesting a miracle, does not mean there are not great examples in other areas.

You also ask, “Do you feel the only way [answered prayers] could have happened was through God? This is where I seem to have some issues with prayer. It seems that any "answered" prayer is just natural or could be explained by natural means and nothing supernatural. This being the case, how can one suppose it happened by God if it can be explained as natural phenomena?” Sometimes I wonder if this was intended. If God were to so overwhelm us with His presence, would we really have free will to choose Him, or would it become obligatory? On the other piece of your question, answered prayers may often have natural answers. But is this surprising given that God created nature? What fascinates me are large number of coincidences, each answerable by nature, but taken as a whole, it becomes shocking. Interestingly, I have prayed for the opportunity to communicate with someone who has difficult questions about Christianity and God. Coincidently, you found my blog and posed a few questions. Did God answer a prayer, or can it be explained by mere chance? Both answers are credible.

A good book to read is “The Language of God” by Dr. Francis Collins. I have a link to it on my blog. He was the scientist who helped map the human genome. The book touches on why he is a Christian and believes in evolution. He also has a section on miracles and how some can be answered by science.

I would encourage you to put aside, for now, the need to see a miracle today. Ask God (if He is there) for insight and wisdom relating to the difficulties of faith. As the Bible says, if you ask for a fish, you will not get a stone.

Harry Nads said...

"Relating to your inquiry about wanting to see a miracle…the world has already witnessed the most fascinating miracle – the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The only account of this is the Bible. And it has numerous flaws in it for me to currently take it as being "the Truth."

Harry Nads said...

"As the Bible says, if you ask for a fish, you will not get a stone.

No, unfortunately, you always get nothing.

Harry Nads said...

Interestingly, I have prayed for the opportunity to communicate with someone who has difficult questions about Christianity and God. Coincidently, you found my blog and posed a few questions. Did God answer a prayer, or can it be explained by mere chance? Both answers are credible.

I would have to say it was chance, because I have been reading numerous blogs to search for answers.

I could say that I pray every night before I go to sleep that God watches over me during the night. If I wake up with no harm done through the night, does that mean my prayer was answered? I say no.

Harry Nads said...

Jeff,
I do enjoy our interaction. Would you care to answer some of the questions in my newer posts?