Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

When All's Said And Done About Petitionary Prayer...


Prayer Failed for Jesus!

We can keep this simple. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was God incarnate. In John 17, Jesus prayed that his current and future followers would have the kind of unity that he and his heavenly father enjoyed. He requested this so that the world would have a basis to believe that God had sent him.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:20-21 (NASB)

That was the prayer.  What kind of results did the self-proclaimed Son of God get?

Ministry of a Healing Amputee and Another Where the Dead Come Back to Life


This article is about two ministries of note I've found in the past couple of months. One is an amputee that claims that Jesus is Growing her leg back, and one is a missionary that claims that he has witnessed the dead coming back to life by the power of God.

Carole Miller McCleery-Greene. On her website has posted medical information and interpreted it for the reader as proof that Jesus is restoring her amputated leg. She has had two automobile accidents that almost claimed her life and did claim her leg but she credits Jesus with getting her through it all.

David Hogan is a Missionary that has personally witnessed dead people miraculously coming back to life by the power of God through his ministry.
- David Hogan. Freedom Ministries. Faith to raise the dead.
- David Hogan at YouTube

I found the David Hogan ministry thanks to a commenter in another article, and I found the Amputee ministry thanks to my RSS Feed at The blogger at Respectful Insolence is a surgeon. He analyzed the claims of the regenerating leg, the medical information on the website and the interpretation and in his opinion, she's going to die before her leg grows back. He wonders the same thing I do, which is, if Jesus gets the credit for saving her, why doesn't he get the blame for putting her in that situation?

I didn't look long enough to find any dissenting opinions about David Hogan and the dead coming back to life except for this one from a christian because I am quite confident that if it were true, it would be widely reported in the science journals, because scientists love figuring stuff out.

I wonder, if we didn't live in the age where information can get transmitted in seconds around the world, what kind of impact would these claims have? Do you think more people would believe them? Do you think there is any correlation to the type of thing that went on with Jesus? Maybe, maybe not.

But hey, whats the harm, right? It makes them feel better and gives them hope.

It's killing me watching them trying to make sense out of it.


Dear God,
While I sit here, fat, dumb and happy, doing my best to muster up blasphemy, you are kicking my God fearing family around till they are bleeding. This is my appeal on their behalf.

You know what you are doing, and you know what I'm talking about. She didn't need this right now. Afraid of dying with cancer, doing chemo, getting pieces cut off and her husband has a stroke. The third one has a cancer too, and they all watched their mother choke to death in her own spit praising you with her last breath, but praying for death. They all do at the end don't they? At least all the ones I've seen. At least all the ones I've loved. That is, if their not shooting themselves in the head. If you're going to take them anyway, why wait? THEY GOT THE PUNCH LINE. ENOUGH ALREADY.

Why don't you take me? What is your problem? Is it some kind of hostage situation or is it that you test the ones you love the most? Do you punish the perfect ones for the sins of the wretched? Its some kind of sick joke isn't it. Its killing me watching them trying to make sense out of it. You know I won't complain and lament "why, why, why" because I have the comfort of not believing in you to get me through it. They keep saying "keep us in your prayers" like you don't know whats going on or like we can change your mind. If you take me, no harm done, I will know that I am just a statistic, and its nothing personal. But them. THEY LOVE YOU! KNOCK IT OFF!

What? Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Chance, I mistook you for Jesus. Do you know where I can find Jesus? He's not answering his calls. There's some of his people that could use some comfort right about now and I can't bring myself to try to share mine with them.

Prayer: Counting the Hits, Discounting the Misses

This was just too funny to pass up, sorry.

What Would You Do With $800,000.00 or 55,000 People for 12 Hours?


On July 7, 2007 55,000 people at a cost of $800,000.00 got together in Nashville for twelve hours of swaying, praying and fasting to influence God or other people or maybe it was just a pep talk to turn the country around. It was intentionally held on 7/7/07 because “Biblically, the number seven is the Lord's number," said Scott MacLeod, who helped organize The Call and is founder of Provision International, an inner-city ministry in Nashville. “All through the Bible, there are a series of sevens. So, when you get three sevens to line up at once, you know something's up.”

Can’t argue with logic like that. God knows there is more potential energy in those prayers than the combined effort of 110,000 hands laying on tools or brainstorming on different ways you could use $800,000.00 or 55,000 people to do something useful.

A Means to Manage Uncertainty


Before I get started, I want say thank you for the kind sentiment, the blessings and prayers.

Now, I want to ask you to stop ignoring the fact that we were once as devoted as you. That is called a qualifier. It is part of the truth of what we are saying to you. That we believed, searched with all our hearts, came away with nothing. This means that god doesn't want us, that we are in the queue, or that he doesn't exist.

And I want to point out another characteristic of Christianity that I noticed when I was in it.

Christians try to use god as a way to eliminate uncertainty in their lives. A blessing or a prayer is a way to implore to god to change things in favor of ones wishes.

Christians align themselves with the ideal because (most importantly) they save themselves from torture forever, and they know that a world where everyone thinks the same would logically reduce conflict. Christians just want what everyone wants, they want to live comfortably. Uncertainty is scary.
Eliminating uncertainty is in their best interest.

Christians want to evangelize and change peoples minds, hearts etc, they want to influence the world and they are using god to it.

God is the 'good luck' charm, or the talisman, the magic wand, the appeal to consequences, the appeal to force. They do what they think he wants, as per their interpretation and their individual experience with their personal god. They pray for things to change. They say 'that was a blessing' when they could have just as well said 'that was lucky'.

Christians say "I'll pray for you instead of saying 'good luck' ". They pray for themselves hoping they'll get their wish ("Oh, no, not me, its other Christians that do that!" point, point), knowing in reality that it is up to gods will, and gods will is more or less unpredictable, just like chance. If Christians set up the conditions right, they can get a prayer answered, and if they don't they will likely get squat. Just like chance.

Christians pray for the world to come in line with what they want the world to be rather than accept is as it is and work with it. Rather than figuring things out and determining how to come up with the most likely successful outcome, they waste their time praying about it, waiting for some answer to pop into their head, then they think it came from god. In a worst case they "JUST GIVE IT TO GOD!" and don't seriously think about it anymore. In reality, if something pops into their head, it is an option that they more than likely would have found sooner had they expended some resources to do some investigation and careful consideration. If not, they get whatever happens by chance and lament about how "its gods will and everything happens for a reason".

Ignoring qualifiers is what happens in a biased thinker. Biased in that the Christian wants the world to be a certain way, and thinks that they can make it that way using god. It is self-centered and controlling and to make it work, it requires ignoring facts about the world that negatively impact the scenario (challenge the "reality" of god).

Think about it the next time you do something like go watch fireworks on the fourth of July and hand out free cold water with your church banner hanging on your car. Get those people in your church, change those hearts and don't forget to remind them about the ten percent Jesus commanded when the plate comes around.

I used to be a young earth creationist, because in my mind, to make any sense, the bible had to be literally true if A GOD had something to do with it. How could it not be? Then when I started doing an HONEST search and stopped ignoring qualifiers and started trying to figure those variables in, it started falling apart.

I got this way from an honest search for god.

Believe it or not.

A truth can survive scrutiny if it is a truth. If god is everything he is said to be, he can too. Give it an honest try. Christians shouldn't have anything to worry about if they have the strength of their convictions.

The Promise of Prayer


Prayer should be the intersection between the natural and the supernatural. This is a critical discussion comparing and contrasting the promises of prayer in the bible, our expectations and our observations. I use the first person, using myself, or my former Christian persona as an example.

Here were my presumptions:
- The Bible is the revealed word of God through a collection of mostly anecdotes. The only evidence I have for that is tradition and the belief of the majority of others in my community of believers and also the precautionary principle as demonstrated by Pascals Wager.

- I am told that prayers work by a large community, and have anecdotal evidence to support the claim. Also the anecdotal evidence supports what the Bible says about prayer. The bible says the following about prayer.
A. * 2 Chronicles 7:14 "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
B. * Psalm 145:18,19 "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him. He will also hear their cry and save them."
C. * Proverbs 15:8b "…The prayer of the upright is His delight."
D. * Isaiah 45:11 "Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel…ask of Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me."
E. * Isaiah 65:24 "It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer; and while they are still speaking I will hear."
F. * Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."
G. * Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."
H. * John 14:13,14 "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name I will do it."
I. * John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you."
J. * John 16:23,24 "…Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you…ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
K. * Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
L. * 1 Peter 3:12 "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to his prayers."
M. * 1 John 5:14,15 "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

Anecdotal evidence is regarded as weak and defeasible.

In the list above, of which may not be all inclusive, only A, B, G, H, I, L and M have qualifiers that could justify an unanswered prayer. It would seem that all the bases are covered.
- A. conditions are "humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways".
- B. conditions are "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him".
- G. conditions are "believe that you receive them".
- H. conditions are "whatever you ask in My [Jesus] name", which is an added qualifier, different from the old testament.
- I. conditions are "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you".
- L. conditions are " righteous".
- M. conditions are "according to his will".

I would like to point out that there is no comprehensive list anywhere in the bible that talks about the conditions of prayer. I think that is an oversight that I would not expect if the Holy Spirit was responsible for the text through the ages.

So what is the point of prayer?
I think it is the method that god provided to us to interact with him. It is a point of intersection between the natural and the supernatural. It would seem to be a good place for a test. And if it is meant as the method that god provided to interact with us, I think that I could reasonably expect god to want to participate. Since he knows how we think, he would know that this would give us confidence about our relationship. Relationships are more successful when we know we can trust our partner. And in fact, unless I am remembering wrong, our relationship with Jesus is supposed to be the perfect example of a marriage. Since this is the case we should be able to show that intercessory prayer works. However in at least ten studies, it didn't (Power of Prayer, American Heart Journal). If the testing method is alleged to be faulty, then I think it is the responsibility of Christians to set up a double blind test with the participation of non Christian experts with a protocol that is agreeable to everyone to show that prayers work.

So lets say that Christians set up a test as described above and that out of 1000 studies, some numbers of prayer work. And in the control group, the same thing happens. The results are inconclusive. This seems to be the typical outcome in scientific prayer studies (suspect or not). In the control group, some reasons this could be are the test protocol is invalid or has been compromised, god was skewing the odds for some reason, or that chance is just as effective as prayer. If we assume that god is skewing the odds for the reason that he won't permit us to test him, that would seem to mean that it is impossible to test prayer and the only reliable way of knowing that prayer works is to maintain the sanctity of the intent and look at the personal interaction. We could keep our own prayer log. But in this case, we can expect god would know and once again skew the odds. Therefore we can't use any empirical method to test prayer. But since it seems to work sometimes, it is evidence of a miracle. And the investigation into the odds of how likely it would be to turn out the same way to due to chance is given no thought.

Empirical studies have shown that the following are likely to be true, and sufficient to use as presumptions in research.
- People are naturally terrible at estimating probability.
- People are naturally terrible at perceiving and interpreting probabilistic data.
- People "remember the hits and forget the misses"
- People like stories and are willing to give the teller of the story the benefit of the doubt about the truth of it.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it is believed by the larger group.
- People will change their evidence based viewpoint if it contradicts the viewpoint of the group.
- People overestimate the degree of belief in others.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.
- People are likely to use the precautionary principle as illustrated by Pascals Wager in minimizing risk.

These schemes of reasoning are detailed in the books such as the ones I have read "How We Know What Isn't So" by Thomas Gilovich, and to a smaller degree Daniel OKeefe's "Theories of Persuasion" and Robert Cialdini's "Influence". Cialdinis "six weapons of influence" depend on a couple of them. These are common patterns of reasoning that can be identified and predicted. In fact they are used effectively in Politics and Advertising and they explain the persistence of the existence of the "rumor mill".

There is a concept called "Negative Evidence", "Negative evidence is the absence of evidence that might reasonably be expected to be found were the issue in question true" (Freeley, 113). There is another concept known as "Ockhams Razor". Ockhams Razor states that when given the choice of options for an explanation, the one that is less complicated or depends on less variables is more likely to be correct. Using the data contained in the books listed above and my personal experience with prayer, I think a simpler hypothesis to explain prayer is that it is a myth.

So lets stipulate for a minute that I am an amateur and that reading a few biased books doesn't mean anything with regards to the truth of the lord. With this stipulation in place I would like some expert to explain my recent experience.
My 86 year old grandmother was a model of righteousness in her church community. Without getting into it here, only condition M fits her circumstances, it which case it was gods will that she die a slow, painful and humiliating death from cancer in the face. The intercessory prayer of her church community had no noticeable effect. This is the personal prayer experience of a community of presumably righteous Christians. This is the way I predicted it would happen based on probability. Why not answer the prayers and let her die in her sleep and get around the suffering?

I have no reason to believe in supernatural factors with regards to my prayers or "my walk with god". And I assert that no one else does either. If they do, I'd like to see them because a world with a loving god in it manipulating things for the better is something that I would be interested in.

American Heart Journal. Intercessory Prayer.

"anecdotal evidence."
Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2007. 11 Mar. 2007.

Freeley, Austin J. 1993. Argumentation and Debate: Critical Thinking for Reasoned Decision Making 8th ed. Wadsworth Publishing Company

Cialdini, Robert. 2001. Influence: Science and Practice. Boston. Allyn and Bacon.

Gilovich, Thomas. 1991. How We Know What Isn't So. New York. The Free Press: A division of Macmillan, Inc.

Holy Bible.

"Ockham's razor." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 11 Mar. 2007.

Okeefe, Daniel J. 1990. Persuasion Theory and Research. Newbury Park, California. Sage Publications.

Power of Prayer. New York Times.

Prayer, Healing, and the God of the Gaps

Christians will assert that the “God of the gaps” epistemology doesn’t adequately describe their knowledge about God and his activity, since God is not just known in the gaps of our knowledge. But consider how science has filled in the gaps when it comes to prayer and healing.

When ancient people prayed for their “daily bread,” they did so because crops could sometimes fail in their local area, or a hunter may fail to bag a deer. Such disasters as these things could produce hunger, and possible starvation. Do Christians today have the same fervor when they pray for their “daily bread” as ancient Christians did? Many Christians in the industrialized West don't even pray before every meal, especially when they eat at a McDonald's. Many if not most all of the Christians in the industrialized West, take their food pretty much for granted.

When Christians are very sick, they will take a prescribed pill from the doctor and be confident they'll get better, even if they do pray. But in the ancient times when someone got very sick they could die. Christians in the ancient past had no choice but to depend almost completely upon God's help here. Are Christians saying they wrestle with God over sickness in prayer like the Christian people of old did? Or is their confidence more in the results of science and medicine, than in God? I know the answer. They just haven't admitted it yet.

As science helps Christians with their daily meals and with healing, they believe in prayer and in God’s help less and less, and they believe in science more and more. Say it isn’t so!