Prayer is an illusion


#1

In this thread, we’ve been having a side discussion. I stated that the problem of evil wouldn’t be so bad if God wasn’t distant. That is, if prayers were actually answered and God communicated with people directly. This distance clearly says that God doesn’t really care much about human beings - and that he is certianly not “our father,” for a father does not give his children the silent treatment. Finally, if God doesn’t care about human beings, the Christian God doesn’t exist.

If God does care about us, I asked, why doesn’t he talk to us directly?

In response, Keikiolu said that, “He does ‘talk’ to us directly. That’s what prayer is. As well as ‘living prayer’, which is discerning God in one’s actions and choices of everyday life.”

My response is this: Prayer is an illusion.

The contention of Christianity is that God does indeed communicate with us, through prayer.

So, let’s just say for a moment that I was a believer. I pray for God to communicate with me and help me discern if I should accept this particular job, or that particular job. I wait, and nothing happens. God didn’t answer my prayer, and I’m a bit upset.

I go to my priest and he tells me that God answers your prayers with “yes”, “no”, and “wait.” God might help you (that’s a “yes”), he might not (that’s a “no”), or he might help you at point in the future (that’s “wait”). Sometimes it’s hard to discern how God answered your prayer, you have to be faithful and have patience.

Well, that answers sound comforting, but it is, in fact, an illusion.

Let’s say for a moment that you come to me with a problem. I ask you to pray to my stone idol. One of the following three things will happen:

  1. The problem is solved the next day. I say “See! The stone idol answered your prayer!”

  2. The problem is solved in a year. I say “See! You just had to wait patiently.”

  3. The problem is never solved. I say “Well, we just have to trust in the stone idol. He knows best. Just be patient and have faith.”

Well, will you begin to worship my stone idol? Of course not. Why? You won’t worship my stone idol because it did nothing. It didn’t answer your prayer. It had nothing to do with solving your problem. You know that and I know that. Whatever happened, it was nothing more than a coincidence.

If the criteria is “yes”, “no”, and “wait”, the stone idol can’t lose. It appears that the stone idol did something, but it actually did nothing.

In fact, **with any concievable scenario, no matter who you were asking, “yes” “no” and “wait” are ***always true, no matter what. *It’s true no matter if you pray to a stone idol, Jesus, Mary, or anyone. “Yes” “no” and “wait” is always the answer no matter what force or being you pray to.

If you say that God answers prayers in the form of “yes”, “no”, and “wait”, God can’t lose. But in reality, God is no different than my stone idol. My stone idol can’t lose either. That’s the illusion.

So how do we know for sure? How do we know that every answered prayer is a coincidence?

Well, scientific studies have found that Christian prayer has no tangible effect.

Dr. Herbert Benson conducted a study of heart patients, in which some were prayed for and others weren’t. The $2.4 million study confirmed that prayer had no positive effect:

Here’s the article.

In the study, the researchers monitored 1,802 patients at six hospitals who received coronary bypass surgery, in which doctors reroute circulation around a clogged vein or artery.
The patients were broken into three groups. Two were prayed for; the third was not. Half the patients who received the prayers were told that they were being prayed for; half were told that they might or might not receive prayers.
The researchers asked the members of three congregations — St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul; the Community of Teresian Carmelites in Worcester, Mass.; and Silent Unity, a Missouri prayer ministry near Kansas City — to deliver the prayers, using the patients’ first names and the first initials of their last names.
The congregations were told that they could pray in their own ways, but they were instructed to include the phrase, "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications."
Analyzing complications in the 30 days after the operations, the researchers found no differences between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not.

If Christian prayer has no special effect, then God does not answer prayers at all. If God does not answer prayers, God does not exist.


#2

I can’t give the untold number of times people have asked me to pray for them and then come back later and say my prayers are being answered. There’s no doubt in my mind about God’s existence.


#3

Thanks goodness we don’t bind the Lord Our God by scientific studies. I wouldn’t presume to try and measure or analyze the workings of God, who is infinite in being and perfection. It is amusing how us fallen and imperfect creatures try to analyze, measure, and assume we can know the ways of Our God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:8-9)

And God does talk to us directly too. Have you ever heard of Jesus the Christ?

Anyhow, I better leave this thread before it gets nasty. Peace!


#4

But if prayers have been found to have no effect, then does God answer them?


#5

Actually, Jesus did bridge the “distance.”

God does answer prayers. I think sometimes we are not listening. :wink:


#6

Do I really need to answer that?

It’s a “scientific” study about the ways of God. That’s not science…it’s stupidity on our part.


#7

I am not sure if one is praying for something…let’s say a particular job…and that job doesn’t come through, that doesn’t equate to God not answering prayer. Perhaps, a better job comes along, and therefore God averted you to making a bad decision.
I don’t look at God as a great genie sitting in the sky…ready to grant my whimsical fancies…through prayer. True prayer…is when we only want what He wants. That should be someone’s prayer. When we start making random requests, and then get upset when those requests don’t pan out–we are far from a healthy prayer life.

I used to pray with more of myself in mind…Now, I pray for strength…when I am weak. I look at prayer as a conversation with God…I think if we look at it that way–we will see answers to our prayers…daily.

But…one has to believe. The size of a mustard seed is how small one’s faith can be to cause such marvels to happen. God’s awesome…don’t knock true prayer, til you’ve tried it.:wink:


#8

I have tried it, by the way, and found it to be useless.


#9

A scientific study on patient’s receiving prayers is ridiculous and a waste of money. You simply can’t control the environment in this case… how did they know if the other patients weren’t also receiving prayers from others who weren’t even aware of the experiment? God answers prayers in many different unexpected ways that a simple experiment could never reveal in a neat, straightforward manner.

Prayer also requires faith, and for your heart to be in the right place. If you pray expecting either your requests to be instantly gratified or to receive nothing at all, then your prayer is likely in vain. If you pray with faith and trust that God will answer you in His own way, in His own time, then I’m sure that you will have better luck!:thumbsup:


#10

I know how you feel. I once felt the same. But the Truth is, it
is an illusion that God isn’t real.

I have a secret prayer, but I can’t tell you what it is, it has been
deleted from this forum twice.


#11

It’s not a one time thing…or a two time thing…it’s a lifetime thing.:slight_smile: I think the beauty of a relationship with God–is that long after we abandon Him…if we choose that route, unfortunately…He never abandons us.

Do you believe in God, Exalt?


#12

Though people often pray for a certain situation or person in their life to change- that isn’t exactly what prayer is all about. The perfect prayer and what praying means can be seen in the Our Father:

Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
Amen.

In it one can see what prayer is- it is thanking God for our blessings, asking God to forgive our misdeeds and asking God to allow his will be done- lest we forget. Prayer is about allowing God’s will to be done within ourselves- not getting God do fit our will. It is about allowing the graces God gives us to flow through all our thoughts and deeds, no matter the situation. So I am not sure how one would be able to measure and empirically prove or disprove prayer.


#13

Not the Christian God. I can accept a distant God - a kind of God that just started the world and is just sitting back and watching what happens - but not a God of compassionate, fatherly love.

Why? Because God doesn’t talk to people. He stays silent and distant. And because he doesn’t answer prayers any more than my stone idol answers prayers.

So how do I know that God hasn’t abandoned me? I’ve tried asking for him to talk to me. He hasn’t responded. So… I think my conclusion that God isn’t there is quite valid.


#14

Exalt, that all depends on what you asked for and in what way you expected him to respond. You might have just been looking the wrong way when he did :yup:


#15

hehe its kind of funny as right now, our Bible Study group is up to the prophetic books and it never stops talking about how God sends prophets after prophets to deliver the word of God yet people reject them.


#16

So, how do you know that you’re talking to God and not yourself? Does God ever respond in a tangible way?


#17

“Hey God. I’m not sure what to believe right now, and I was wondering if there was any way you could show me the truth.”

Nothing so far!

I must be a terrible listener if I’ve missed out on the voice of God, right?


#18

Point me to a prophet. Last I heard, they stopped coming two millenia ago.


#19

And he’s brought you here :wink: Coincidence or God-incidence - maybe right here you are at the place where you’ll find the truth.

We all sometimes make the mistake of looking for the big loud thunderclap when we should be listening for the still small voice instead. And when it comes to God we’re all terrible listeners :yup:


#20

In my case there were three specific occurrences that were a real wake up call. And they were not cause and effect events (as in: X occured so I prayed and Y happened when it was more likely for Z to occur.) It is something I don’t really want to get into. But I will tell you that even experiencing the miraculous didn’t make it any easier to believe. My reaction was towards skepticism at first…

All I can say is that everything is a “response”- prayer helps build us up so that we make the right “responses” when the time comes to make them. But this presupposes a “personal” Deity; so it isn’t exactly helpful. It really comes down how well you trust the experiences of others, and what conclusions you come to in regards to Deity- I just am not sure if it is prudent to conclude it is an illusion or verifiable empirically.

I just wanted to add a link to:
The Catholic Encyclopedia on Prayer


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