<

Prayer Doesn’t Work as Advertised

Atheists, atheism, and Christian apologeticsThis is an excerpt from my book, Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey. A bit of background: Jim is a wealthy, housebound, and somewhat obnoxious atheist, and Paul is the young acolyte of a famous pastor, doing his best to evangelize. It’s 1906 in Los Angeles, and they’re in Jim’s study.

“Have you thought much about how prayer works?” Jim asked.

“The Bible tells us how: ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’”

“Does it really work that way? You just ask for things and then you get them?”

Paul breathed deeply to focus his mind. He had to think clearly. Jim’s arguments always seemed to trap him. “Well, no, of course not. And that frustrates some Christians. They don’t understand that they need to let God’s plan unfold for them. It may simply not be part of God’s plan to give you what you ask for right now. You can’t treat God as an all-powerful servant always at your elbow, fulfilling every whim that comes to mind. God isn’t a genie.”

Several white chess pieces—three pawns, a knight, and a bishop—lay on the center table. Though the table was not marked with a chessboard, Jim leaned forward and set them up on the table in their beginning positions. “Perhaps not, but ‘ask and ye shall receive’ is pretty straightforward. It makes God sound like a genie to me.”

“But that’s clearly not how prayer works.”

“I agree, but the Bible doesn’t. It makes plain that prayer is supposed to work that way—you ask for it, and then you get it. Prayer is a telephone call to God, and he always answers your call.”

“No—you’re misreading the Bible. It doesn’t say when you get it.”

Jim shook his head. “But it does say that you’ll get it.”

Paul tried another tack. “God answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is No.”

“That’s not what the Bible says. Jesus said that if you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains. Jesus said that prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Jesus said that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Jesus said that all things are possible to him who believes. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.’ No limitations or delays are mentioned.”

“Fine,” Paul said, clenching his teeth. “Fine.” He hated conceding ground, but he had no response.

“Okay,” Jim said, “let’s look at another aspect of prayer. When you pray, are you telling God something he doesn’t already know? That is, is prayer important because you’re informing God of some news, like ‘I’ve lost my job’ or ‘my brother has consumption’?”

“Certainly not—God is all-knowing. Obviously, he already understands your situation. It’s the asking part that’s important.”

“So you need to change it to ‘please help me get this new job’ or ‘please cure my brother’s consumption’?”

“That sounds better.”

Jim leaned forward. “But even this doesn’t make sense. God knows what’s best for you. For you to ask God to change his plans is presumptuous. It’s like an ant giving an engineer tips for designing a bridge. Will God think, ‘It’s best that you not get the new job, but since you asked nicely, I’ve changed my mind’? And maybe it’s simply part of his plan that your brother die from consumption.”

“But prayers are answered all the time! Lots of consumption patients can point to God as the reason they’re alive now.”

“Not with any justification. Let’s say Aunt May has an illness. She and her family pray, and then she gets well. She concludes that it was prayer and God’s intervention that cured her. But obviously there are other explanations, such as, that her treatment saved her. And if she had no treatment, perhaps it was simply her body healing itself.”

“And perhaps it was God!” Paul ached to pace around the room to burn off some of his tension, but he was a guest and thought better of it.

“Perhaps so, but you’re basing that on no evidence. I agree that we can’t rule out that it was God—or Vishnu or Osiris or a four-leaf clover. But we have no evidence that any of them did anything.” Jim was quickly running through different opening moves for his five chess pieces—tick, tick, tick as the pieces quickly struck the table, then a pause as he set them up again.

Paul wondered if his responses were so bland that Jim needed to play chess to keep his mind occupied.

Jim looked up and said, “The attraction of prayer in many cases is that it’s easier than doing the hard work yourself. Praying for a promotion is easier than doing what’s necessary to deserve a promotion. But let’s look at this from another angle. God has cured zero cases of birth defects—say, mental idiocy. We know this because zero cases have been cured by any cause, natural or supernatural. Millions of mothers have been devastated by the prospect of their children growing up with a disability or even dying an early death. Has God found none of their prayers worthy of an answer? Or amputations—there are probably men in your own church who have lost limbs due to war or injury. Has a single limb ever grown back? No. And since God has cured zero of these, maybe he has intervened in zero illnesses. That is, since God hasn’t performed any visible cures, maybe he hasn’t done any invisible ones, either.

“And think of the millions of people around the world who are starving. Prayers or no prayers, God apparently can’t be bothered to help them. If God is going to set aside the laws of physics and perform a miracle, is he to put my needs at the top of the list? If he won’t save a country starving during a famine, why should I think he’ll cure my rheumatism?”

Jim expanded his diversion, adding opposing black chess pieces to his imaginary board—three pawns and a knight from the other side of the table. He alternated moves from each side and held the captured pieces between his fingers so that the round bottoms embellished his hands like fat wooden rings.

“Consider smallpox,” Jim said as he set up the pieces for another mock game. “We don’t think of it much now, but it has been one of civilization’s most deadly diseases. In fact, the last smallpox outbreak in this country was here in Los Angeles, about thirty years ago. Suppose you have a large number of people who are vaccinated against smallpox and an equally large number who aren’t, and both groups are exposed to smallpox. Those who were vaccinated will do far better than those who don’t—regardless of who prays. You can look at this from the other direction—the high death rate from smallpox suggests that God’s plan is for it to be deadly. That is, vaccines interfere with God’s plan. Maybe we shouldn’t be using them.”

Every confident tick of a chess piece was a goad to Paul, a reminder that he was the novice in this discussion. Tick, tick, tick became “i-di-ot.” He said, “Maybe God doesn’t need to focus on smallpox anymore because science has stepped in. Maybe He’s focusing His miracle cures on diseases like consumption or cancer because that’s where the need still exists.”

“Did God ever focus on people with diseases?” Jim tossed away the chess pieces, and they clattered on the table. “Before vaccines, smallpox was life threatening. It killed hundreds of thousands of people every year. But in America, it’s now just a nuisance. Science has improved life expectancy; prayer hasn’t.”

Paul clenched the arms of his chair. “You can’t judge prayer with science,” he said, probably louder than he should have. “You can’t expect God to perform like a trained monkey at your command. It’s not our place, nor is it even possible, to judge God’s work. I agree that there are aspects of God’s actions that we just can’t explain. But I have the patience and the humility to accept God’s wisdom and wait for understanding. Perhaps I won’t understand until I get to heaven.”

“Fine, but if your argument is that you don’t understand, then say so. When asked, ‘Can we say that prayer gives results?’ the correct answer must then be ‘No, we cannot because we don’t understand.’ God might answer every prayer as you suggest, but we have no reason to believe that. A sufficient explanation is that prayers don’t appear to work because there is no God to answer them. The invisible looks very much like the nonexistent. Which one is God—invisible or nonexistent?”

Paul had no clever rebuttal, so he treated the question as rhetorical. “You’ve ignored praise,” he said. “That’s a vitally important reason for prayer. We humble ourselves before God and acknowledge that He can do what we can’t. It’s only appropriate to give thanks and praise to God.”

Jim snorted. “What’s the point in praising God? Surely God doesn’t need to hear how great he is. Is he that insecure that he needs constant reminding? Put this in human terms—do we curse insects for not acknowledging how important we are? Suppose we built a race of mechanical men. Would our first command to them be that they need to worship their human creators?”

“Are you unwilling to humble yourself before a greater power?”

“I’ll consider it when I know that such a power exists,” Jim said. “The picture of God that the writers of the Old Testament painted for us is that of a great king—a man with the wisdom of Solomon, the generalship of Alexander, and the physical strength of Hercules. And he apparently needs the fawning and flattering of a great king as well. You would think that God would be a magnification of all good human qualities and an elimination of the bad ones. But the small-minded, praise-demanding, vindictive, and intolerant God of the Bible is simply a caricature, a magnification of all human inclinations, good and bad. As Man becomes nobler, he loses these petty needs. Shouldn’t this be even more true of God?”

Jim leaned down and picked up a rumpled copy of a newspaper from the floor. “Let me show you something I read in this morning’s paper,” he said as he noisily flipped through a section. After a few moments he laid the newspaper on the table. “Here it is. It’s about a train accident in which eight people died. A woman was just released from the hospital, and here she says, ‘The doctors told my husband that I probably wouldn’t make it. But he prayed and prayed. And his prayers were answered—it was a miracle.’” Jim looked up. “So according to this, prayer works. But I must wonder if I understand the meaning of the word ‘works.’ Imagine if the utilities that we use so often—electricity, clean water, trains, mail delivery, and so on—worked no more reliably than prayer.”

“You’re mixing two different things,” Paul said. “You can’t judge the Almighty’s response to prayer in the same way that you judge something as artificial and profane as electricity.”

“Then don’t use the same word to describe their reliability. Prayer clearly does not ‘work’ as electricity does. And to compensate, the rules are rigged so that success is inevitable—if I get what I pray for, that’s God’s plan, and if I don’t get what I pray for, that’s also God’s plan. When a train crash kills eight people, and it’s called a miracle, how can God lose?” Jim slapped his hand on the newspaper. “But this makes praying to God as effective as praying to an old stump.”

Paul’s rebuttal lay scattered about him like a division of troops overrun by Jim’s argument. His fists were clenched, but he felt defenseless. “Are you saying that prayer has no value?”

“Many spiritual traditions across the world use meditation to clarify the mind or relax. Christian prayer can have these same benefits. A mature view acknowledges what you can’t control and can be an important part of facing a problem, but to imagine an all-powerful benefactor helping you out of a jam is simply to ignore reality. None of prayer’s benefits demand a supernatural explanation, and to imagine that prayer shows that God exists is simply to delude yourself. The voice on the other end of the telephone line is your own.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Related links:

  • Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey is available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Bob Calvan

    The atheist will never understand the meaning or the power of prayer. Because they are spiritually discerned and do not have the ability to understand..Unless God will give them spiritual life to understand.

    I will say this. Christian prayer can not thwart God’s will or change God’s mind..That is not why Christians pray..

    And to not waste time asking me, “Why do Christians pray.” As you are in a spiritual dead state.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      So there’s a good reason, but you just won’t give it to us. I see.

  • Rick T

    I’ll respond, but do not expect to change your mind, Bob, nor the mind of anyone deeply invested in your side. But if anyone is open to another answer here is another perspective. 

    First, your caricature of the Christian protagonist reveals your clear disdain, and your inability to think clearly about Christianity. Here are a few of your characterizations of this best example you can conjure up:

    Paul breathed deeply to focus his mind. He had to think clearly. Jim’s arguments always seemed to trap him. “

    “Fine,” Paul said, clenching his teeth. “Fine.” He hated conceding ground, but he had no response.

    Paul wondered if his responses were so bland that Jim needed to play chess to keep his mind occupied.

    Every confident tick of a chess piece was a goad to Paul, a reminder that he was the novice in this discussion. Tick, tick, tick became “i-di-ot.” 

    Paul clenched the arms of his chair. 

    Paul had no clever rebuttal, so he treated the question as rhetorical. 

    Paul’s rebuttal lay scattered about him like a division of troops overrun by Jim’s argument. His fists were clenched, but he felt defenseless

    This is truly the best you can do? Are your arguments truly so weak that you have to belittle the main character in order to make your case? You can’t do it with convincing rhetoric, so instead you simply pan the pseudo-Christian?

    And the only good guy in your book is the atheist. He ends up being kind generous, creative, sympathetic and understanding. Meanwhile, the Christians in your book are all vindictive liars, power and money-hungry megalomaniacs, manipulative and petty, and that is just the short list. So you stack the deck in terms of character flaws before you even get to any attempt at argument.

    The Christians don’t know their Arguments well, and can’t even clearly express what they do know clearly. This prayer discussion is a clear case in a point. “Jim” quotes a snippet of a verse out of context, ignores the message of the text and the conditions Jesus put on the verse, then picked apart the theology behind his erroroneous use of a phrase taken out of context,

    No one should confuse this passage out of your book, with it’s formulaic approach to dismantling the arguments of a young Christian who can’t articulate them well, with a serious attempt to refute  the possibility of the efficacy of prayer. You have done no such thing, either here or in your book. 

    Anyone open to good teaching on this topic would do well to consider reading a well-reviewed book on prayer. There are many such works. Do some homework and you will be much better informed than you would by reading “Jim’s” unchallenged assertions.

    Dont get me wrong. There are some serious questions raised by the questions the atheist raises in the book. Most serious Christians would admit that they have had to think through some or all of them before. But these questions also have reasonable and well-thought out answers. The basic assertion of the book seems to be, “Look, here are all these complaints about Christianity that no one has ever ought of, let alone answered convincingly. Since I can list them, I can prove god doesn’t exist. Case closed. My side wins!!”

    Two thousand years of theology demonstrates how shallow this assertion truly is. You simply haven’t done the research. Don’t dissuade others from doing so.

    • Retro

      Why do you bring up Bob’s book? Why don’t we go by what the BIBLE says?

      • Rick Townsend

        Bob brought up Bob’s book, I didn’t.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      this best example you can conjure up:

      I can conjure up all sorts of things. Why would Paul being a stronger debater serve the purpose of the book?

      Are your arguments truly so weak that you have to belittle the main character in order to make your case?

      I’ll respond, but I do not expect to change your mind, Rick.

      The book was written from Day 1, eight years ago, to challenge the Christian reader. There are zillions of Christian books that tell the Christian what he should say in response to atheist arguments; why write another? Any how would that be helpful anyway? Don’t you think that it would be a useful intellectual exercise to challenge the Christian reader and encourage him to address any areas where he has a problem?

      I suppose when you read a puzzle you just look in the back immediately for the answer. Or do you think it would be useful to be challenged and then mull that over, trying to figure it out for yourself?

      He ends up being kind generous, creative, sympathetic and understanding. Meanwhile, the Christians in your book are all vindictive liars, power and money-hungry megalomaniacs, manipulative and petty, and that is just the short list.

      I don’t know why you’re mischaracterizing the characters. I thought you read the book.

      Yeah, I spent quite a bit of time on this book. Kind of a labor of love. I thought you would be on board with my goal to push Christians to think about the intellectual arguments that support. Guess I was wrong.

      I didn’t do it according to your standards. Got it.

      This prayer discussion is a clear case in a point.

      Instead of a literary critique, why not give the Christian response to the argument?

      Anyone open to good teaching on this topic would do well to consider reading a well-reviewed book on prayer.

      You’ve completely lost me. Your Christian reads a Christian book on prayer and then gets into a discussion with an atheist. How is he prepared??

      Hey … I have an idea! Why don’t we equip Christians by showing them good atheist arguments and encourage them to find responses to them so that when they met actual live atheists they wouldn’t be blindsided.

      Nah. You’d hate that.

      “Look, here are all these complaints about Christianity that no one has ever ought of, let alone answered convincingly. Since I can list them, I can prove god doesn’t exist. Case closed. My side wins!!”

      Since I’ve already mentioned that that isn’t the goal of the book, why repeat that flawed argument?

      • Retro

        Since I’ve already mentioned that that isn’t the goal of the book, why repeat that flawed argument?

        The real reason Rick is criticizing your book Bob is to take the focus away from his book the Bible.

        Rather than hear him whine about Bob’s book, I’d like to hear Rick’s response to the question of why prayer doesn’t work.

  • Bob Calvan

    The doctrine of prayer is held in the highest form of worship. Retro and Bob may want to look at what Jesus said to the Father when asked how one should pray? And why Jesus prayed all night at times, and why Jesus was continually praying?

    Also TOMES have been written on prayer. Calvin’s institutes on prayer, Luther on prayer, hundreds of the reformers, the Puritans, Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards. And our biblical scholars of today. Like Piper, Storms, Packer, MacArthur. I suggest you read some of them before putting your foot in your mouth as usual. You may want to read how the Sovereignty of God and how the responsibility of man comport with prayer? But I know you will not.

    I am sure you both have heard of not casting pearls before swine. Well Prayer would be one of those pearls..So I will not defend this pearl to the two swine who mock it from ignorance. And do not even understand anything about it . Which was evident from that pathetic kindergarten strawman argument from Bob’s book..Boy if that is a sample of the book …..What can I say?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I suggest you read some of them before putting your foot in your mouth as usual.

      Or perhaps you could give us a summary.

      As I made clear in my response to Rick T, the goal of the book wasn’t to help out the Christian reader with standard Christian answers but rather to challenge that reader to figure them out himself.

      if that is a sample of the book

      So you have a hard time defending Christianity? As for me, I love nothing better than a one-sided nonfiction book on Christian apologetics. I think I have good answers, so I like to put them to the test to see how they stand up. But maybe that’s just me.

      • Rick Townsend

        Sure, I’ve read Christian books describing a Christian principle from a Christian perspective. And I have read atheist books describing an atheist principle from an atheist perspective. The “clear thinking about Christianity” novel, however purports to take two well versed individuals, a Christian (Samuel) and an atheist (Jim) and have them duel it out. Unfortunately, there is no discussion in the book that is “clear thinking” as Bob S would have us believe it to be. If you want to present the atheist perspective without the Christian side being represented fairly, no one is stopping you. As I said, I have read books by Dawkins, Gould, Hawking, and others. But this book purports to be the cross EXAMINED. Instead, it is the cross DISMANTLED, or at least that seems to be the attempt.

        As for the character flaws I cited, the Christian characters are Samuel, Jim and Athena’s parents. The atheists are Jim, and, by the end of the book, the two protagonists. Would you disagree that the Christians exhibit the negative characteristics cited, and the atheists all of the positive characteristics?

        Retro challenges my motives, as if he knows what they are. I do not intend to put a book review out on Amazon, etc., because I don’t want to risk being unkind. But when you (Bob S) post here a large segments of your book, have a blog with the same title, and do clear marketing on that blog site, this is the place to respond and explain where the faults lie in the book.

        You (Bob S) sarcastically state you like a one sided book. Clearly you’d prefer a balanced one instead. This one is one sided with the appearance of trying to be balanced. In that, it is deceptive. It is in fact a very one-sided presentation written as if the reader should expect balance. The farther into the book they delve, the more they realize they won’t find the balance here.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Would you disagree that the Christians exhibit the negative characteristics cited, and the atheists all of the positive characteristics?

          Yup. An evil, mustache-twirling villain as a Christian might be a fun character to write, but that doesn’t make for interesting reading. Same goes for a perfect protagonist. Characters have flaws, and characters change over time–at least they are in compelling fiction. I don’t know if I’ve written compelling fiction, but I certainly had characters with a mix of positive and negative traits. Samuel has good and bad traits, and the same is true for Jim.

          I do not intend to put a book review out on Amazon, etc., because I don’t want to risk being unkind.

          That’s thoughtful; thanks.

          This one is one sided with the appearance of trying to be balanced. In that, it is deceptive.

          I have no idea what we’re talking about. I’ve already told you the goal of the book–to push the complacent Christian off balance. Are you simply saying that I didn’t meet those goals? Or are you disagreeing with that goal?

          It is in fact a very one-sided presentation written as if the reader should expect balance.

          It’s a novel, and it has an agenda. Isn’t the way it’s supposed to work?

          If you thought this was going to be a balanced treatment, with each side winning an equal number of arguments or each debate concluding in a draw, you were mistaken. Apologies if I contributed to this confusion. I never intended to write that book–maybe someone else would find it a useful read, but IMO the approach that I took is much better.

    • Retro

      Retro and Bob may want to look at what Jesus said to the Father when asked how one should pray? And why Jesus prayed all night at times, and why Jesus was continually praying?

      And you might want to look at what jesus said about prayer:

      Matt 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, 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.”

      Mark 11:22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

      Jesus even uses the phrase “Truly I tell you”.

      Maybe Jesus should have said, “Subject to some restrictions I tell you”.

      • Rick Townsend

        And YOU might also look at the conditions Jesus gave, as in, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” Prayer is not unconditional “name it and claim it.” We have to live in unity with Christ, know, and meditate on and understand His word in a fairly complete way, and trust God to do what is His will. You have totally misrepresented prayer. Context, Context, Context. You provide none with your cherry picking of phrases out of context!

        These are not unreasonable conditions, they are intended to help us understand the heart of God. I don’t expect you to accept that, nor I do expect you to understand that fact before you misquote and mischaracterize scripture. But I will point it out to any who are open to balance and interested in “clear thinking about Christianity.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          There are many places in the NT where prayer is named (e.g., Matthew 6:25–34 + 7:7 + 17:20 + 21:22+ 18:19; Mark 9:23 + 11:24; Luke 1:37; John 14:12–14; James 5:15–16). I haven’t studied them all lately, but here’s one of them (John 16:23–30). It begins:

          [Jesus said] “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

          And then a few verses later: “Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.’” No analogies or metaphors or word games—Jesus is giving it to them plainly. “Ask and you will receive” sounds pretty plain to me. I get it. Where’s the cherry picking?

          Let me conclude with a principle I’m guessing you agree with. When a Bible student like you says, “Hold on, let’s slow down here; we need to see this in context,” alarm bells should ring. This is exactly what one would do if one had an external, personal view of theology and was doing damage control in response a verse that didn’t fit that presupposition. That’s not to say that slowing down, considering what distant verses say on this same topic, considering what scholars have said, and so on isn’t worthwhile for any passage. It’s just to say that hammering the Bible to take the shape of your faith is a very easy thing to do and is flawed. Agreed?

        • Retro

          And YOU might also look at the conditions Jesus gave, as in, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” Prayer is not unconditional “name it and claim it.”

          If you notice, the verses I quoted have no conditions attached. I’m just reading it as it’s written.

          For you to say that I’m misquoting the verse is fallacious. It says what it says.

          You can explain it by saying that it was said only to the Disciples if you wish, but you can’t claim I’ve taken it out of context.

  • Rick Townsend

    Reference your comment, “It’s just to say that hammering the Bible to take the shape of your faith is a very easy thing to do and is flawed. Agreed?”

    Agreed. And taking part of the context in the immediate vicinity of the verse is not considering distant passages or hammering the Bible to fit your agenda.

    If I say, “The last thing I would ever do is agree that I murdered Jim,” you could accurately say, “Rick said, ‘I murdered Jim.’” But you’d be missing the point. Taking a snippet like, “Ask, and you shall receive,” is doing just that.

    You need to consider the context in a better way than you have been doing.

    In the passage you quoted, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete,” you missed the context of the teaching. It is part of a broader teaching and is expanded on in other passages. That is the point. In the same passage, John 16, Jesus promises the apostles they will have trouble in the world, and He doesn’t promise to remove that trouble. Fit that into your theology and your name it and claim it charge gets more complex. You have to consider cross references, the chapter and book in which the passage occurs, etc.

    But the first step is admitting the possibility of a God of the Bible’s existence. Until you are really there, the issue of prayer will be mystifying to you. It is a complex topic that you have chosen to address with sound bytes.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      taking part of the context in the immediate vicinity of the verse is not considering distant passages or hammering the Bible to fit your agenda.

      Fair enough. Show me that, taken fairly in the local context, none of the NT references to prayer can be interpreted as “ask and ye shall receive.”

      That is the point.

      What is the point? I see that we must respect the context, but I’m not seeing the error. Maybe if you show me (1) how one could come to my conclusion but then how (2) the actual meaning is unambiguously something else (and what that is).

      You see where I’m coming from, right? Jesus very clearly says “ask and you will receive.” He doesn’t limit the domain.

      Jesus promises the apostles they will have trouble in the world, and He doesn’t promise to remove that trouble. Fit that into your theology and your name it and claim it charge gets more complex.

      It’s a mashup of ideas, I’ll grant you that. My worldview makes short work of this little puzzle (it’s a story; it doesn’t have to be perfect). Is there a single obvious interpretation?

      But the first step is admitting the possibility of a God of the Bible’s existence.

      Yep. I’ve done that many, many times.

    • Retro

      But the first step is admitting the possibility of a God of the Bible’s existence. Until you are really there, the issue of prayer will be mystifying to you.

      Since I believe that prayers are not answered at all, there’s no mysteries for me to explain.

      Actually, believing God exists makes the issue of prayer MORE mystifying.

      Since you believe that God exists and answers prayer, you are the one that needs to explain how prayer works.

      “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

      If Jesus didn’t mean it, then why did He say it?

      Was He simply being poetic? Was Jesus using hyberpole to make a point? Is this verse an interpolation?

      • Rick Townsend

        Bob and Retro,

        I will close my comments with this verse, which you chose not to cherry pick. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

        Not a vending machine God. Your context and your understanding are both incorrect.

        Rick

        • Retro

          I will close my comments with this verse, which you chose not to cherry pick. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

          Then why didn’t Jesus simply say this then, rather than saying all one had to do was to believe?

          Who ya gonna go with, the author of James… or Jesus???

  • Pingback: Claims that Prayer Cures Disease | Cross Examined

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Bob, was the “milk jug argument” around a hundred years ago? Do you know if Ingersoll ever used it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’d never heard that. If I’m just thinking of something dumb to pray to, I usually use an old stump.

      When I use the milk jug, it’s a deliberate homage to this Marshall Brain video. It doesn’t seem particularly innovative to me now, but it was very cool when I first saw it.

      http://godisimaginary.com/video8.htm

  • Pingback: hefalimp cardijon

  • Pingback: blucarpet.com


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X