Little-Known Bible Verses IX: Better Miracles than Jesus

To Christian believers, Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate and therefore possessed of omnipotent power. According to the Bible, he backed up this claim by doing many miracles while on earth – casting out demons, healing the sick and the crippled, calming storms, walking on water, producing food, and raising the dead. It would seem to be pure hubris for a lay believer to ever aspire to match such miraculous feats, much less entertain the unthinkable idea of surpassing them. But in fact, that’s exactly what the Bible promises any true Christian will be able to do, as we see from the following little-known Bible verse.

This passage is John 14:12-14. The context is Jesus speaking to the apostle Philip:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

Greater works than these shall he do. According to Jesus himself, as recorded by the divinely inspired and inerrant text of the Bible, any true Christian believer will be able not only to reproduce the miracles of Jesus, but to do better miracles.

Just to make absolutely sure we understand this, the text has Jesus promise that he will grant any miracle whatsoever which a believer prays for in his name. In fact, he promises it twice. There are no loopholes or qualifications to this pledge, none of the convenient apologetic excuses used by modern believers – “but only if your faith is great enough”, “God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is no”, “God only does miracles in front of the faithful”, and so on. Jesus says plainly and clearly, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

Of course, these excuses have arisen because this promise is plainly false. Christians can not do miracles like those of Jesus, much less miracles which exceed those of Jesus. They cannot heal the paralyzed, they cannot still hurricanes, they cannot stroll across seas, they cannot raise the dead. Their prayers, like the prayers of all other believers of all other religions, are empty words and nothing more. However fervent they may be, however many times they invoke Jesus’ name, they produce no tangible effect greater than slightly stirring the air. The only power that a Christian or any other person has to affect the course of events in the world is what they can achieve through their own, non-supernatural effort.

This verse is just one of many in the Bible which promise, repeatedly and without qualification, that God will grant any prayer prayed by a faithful believer (see “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” for a more complete list). In the superstitious and credulous times when this book was written, perhaps that false promise was not such a great impediment. Its very extravagance may even have been a help. But in this somewhat more skeptical era, it seems likely that many believers would be shocked and upset if they knew their own text made promises it could not deliver. How many Christians might become disgruntled and realize they have been taken advantage of if they knew about this Bible verse?

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://makarios-makarios@blogspot.com makarios

    Your problem, in this case is that you neither understand what it means to pray “In Jesus Name,” nor do you understand what work that it was that Jesus came to earth to do. Sticking to what you know would serve your purpose better.

  • James B

    And yet a colleague of mine appears to honestly believe that these things can and do happen… although that the miracles could be better than Jesus’ might be news to him. He seems quite ready to test this belief, so I’ll see if I can devise some test that may do the job.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    makarios,
    Thanks for the usual Xian answer of, “You’re wrong, but I’m not going to tell you how or why or try to actually explain why in a way that makes sense.” Do you really find this to be a good method of dialog? Perhaps you could try actually explaining why you think Ebon is wrong.

  • mikespeir

    Gee, I can’t speak for Ebon, makarios, but I was raised in a Pentecostal fellowship that placed a lot of stress on this verse. I believed it for most of my life and taught it. As for me, I think I do know what it means. It means pretty much exactly what Ebon claims it does. I join with OMGF in asking you to explain what we’re all missing here. If you don’t bother, guess what we’ll take away from your silence.

  • http://verywide.net/ Moody834

    Unfortunately, the people crazy enough to believe that their so-called holy book is the inerrant word of “God” will not be dissuaded from their delusion by anything coming from an un-believer/infidel, or at least not without a lot of time invested by both parties.

    There are plenty of believers who do not believe that their book is literally true, but maintain that it is inerrant in its inspiration. I find this to be equally as ridiculous and about as problematic. However, the point is that they will be even less inclined to worry about the apparent flaw in their text as it relates to reality. Once you leave behind those who ostensibly believe in a literal interpretation (domain of the hardcore, five-cans-short-of-a-six-pack, woo-woo people) you enter the realm of the theologians, where nearly anything goes so long as it supports continued belief. And this is not yet addressing those—I couldn’t guess how many there are, but I’d be willing to bet that they make up a larger percentage than one might suppose—who say they believe in a (“the”) literal interpretation of their book and believe it is inerrant but who are in fact devoid of any real belief, who are actually just liars/deceivers working out some stratagem (whether political, sociological, personal, or otherwise pathological).

    As this is Mothers Day, let me share a moment of my childhood with you. When I was a kid, I approached my mother with a lot of questions about the religion I was supposed to belong to. One afternoon, when I was 12, I asked her some very pointed questions in a demanding way. My skepticism was nearly matured at that point. She was not prepared. After nearly fifteen minutes of my questions, she stomped her foot and spun around from the kitchen sink where she was doing dished. “Enough!” I shut up. My mother was nearly in tears. “I can’t… I don’t know! I don’t know! I’m too old to change!” I desisted, and I got my comeuppance that night when she told my father about the confrontation. I never attacked her with such questions again, but I had seen something that educated me better than any attempted answers could have.

    My mother is 83 years old now, receiving hospice care as she dies from an aggressive form of osteoporosis. She has been suffering a great deal for nearly two years. She has prayed and prayed for “God” to take her “home”. A co-worker of mine, who is Catholic like my mom, has prayed for her and had her church pray for her. Certain of my sibs have prayed or used reiki “techniques”. Yet still my mother has slowly, painfully, inexorably declined in health, the morphine and methadone she’s had to take, in tandem with the endless pain, slowly eroding her mental faculties.

    The most important thing about “God”, she used to say to me, is that “God is Love”.

  • http://makarios-makarios@blogspot.com makarios

    Well,I hadn’t intended a “dialogue” only a comment, but I had to come down stairs to turn the lights off and thought I’d check back. To pray in Jesus’ name or to ask something in Jesus name has nothing to do with just words. It means to be a follower of Jesus, a student of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus. While all disciples of Jesus would be Christians, it’s obvious from how many of us live that not all Christians are disciples. In other words, someone who prays in Jesus name is someone who lives, breathes, and exists in and for Jesus. I think it was Plato who described a disciple as a “vessel so tighly sealed that not one drop of his teachers message leaks out.” It’s that person’s main goal in life to become like Jesus. Ah, this is going to get too long. Umm, anyhow, that doesn’t mean to live as Jesus lived then. It means to live as Jesus would live if He were me. Only someone who does this can know what it means to pray “God’s will” where what God wants is what I want and what I want is what God wants, namely anything that will glorify God and further His kingdom. That, if you will notice is the work(s) that Jesus did. Whether is was healing, or teaching, or befriending those who the world then and now turn its back on, His goal in coming to earth was to bring people into the kingdom of God. If you will notice, that is the context of what this whole section is talking about. During His public ministry Jesus brought in 100′s perhaps, while (without getting into the whole theology of John 6:44) we, as His disciples down through the ages, exactly as He predicted have brought in billions. Now, can these verses mean more than what I’ve just said? Maybe. I don’t know. We as Christians always, always, always take, twist corrupt and use for our own corrupt purposes what Jesus taught, but at minimum they mean what I just said.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I think I understand Makarios’ argument now. In summary, it’s this: If this verse was meant to be read the way I read it, the Bible would be false. Therefore, this verse was not meant to be read that way. It’s an easy argument to make, once you renounce all vestiges of intellectual honesty.

  • paradoctor

    The funny thing is, nowadays we _do_ routinely do miracles greater than anything in the Bible; and this in accordance with Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. So we fly, we talk with friends a thousand miles away, we watch events on the other side of the world, we send robot explorers to Mars and Saturn… Or consider electric lighting. Or 60 m.p.h. travel. Or refrigeration. Or antibiotics. Or vaccination. Or indoor plumbing.

    Or take this very Internet; the world’s biggest library.

    Or consider a lightning rod. It protects from bolts from the sky; a power that Jesus never claimed.

    Note that these routine marvels of modern life were products of science, not religion; doubt, not faith.

  • paradoctor

    And concurrent with these merely practical miracles of modernity, there is also a spiritual message of species humility. The universe, as revealed to us by the Method of Doubt (a.k.a. natural philosophy, or science) is one far vaster, mightier, more beautiful, terrifying, glorious and sublime than anything that any mere faith expected.

    That is doubt’s ambiguous miracle; it teaches us how to make our lives far better; yet it also teaches us how small those lives are, on a cosmic scale.

  • Brock

    If a vessel is so tightly sealed that nothing can leak out, it follows that, try as we might to talk to thus-defined disciples, nothing will leak in. The rest of makarios answer is exactly what Adam predicted: special pleading to establish conditions which are clearly not in the text. makarios is a True Scotsman.

  • http://www.yunshui.wordpress.com yunshui

    I hate to be a voice of dissent, but the verse quoted specifically talks about Jesus’ “works”. Whilst that could certainly refer to miracles, it could also be a reference to his ministry, his teaching, hell, even his carpentry skills! I’ll bet you there are Christian woodworkers out there who can knock up a better occasional table than their Messiah. I’m not referring to the original text here, so scholars who can read the Greek may correct me, but I’m not sure that an argument based on the absence of miracles can be established from an absence of the rather vague term, “works”.

  • http://www.yunshui.wordpress.com yunshui

    Mind you, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it,” is pretty unambiguous.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I hate to be a voice of dissent, but the verse quoted specifically talks about Jesus’ “works”. Whilst that could certainly refer to miracles, it could also be a reference to his ministry, his teaching, hell, even his carpentry skills!

    The verse just before the ones I quoted says this:

    “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

    Whatever “works” are being discussed here, it’s a kind of works that would give people a reason to believe in Jesus’ divinity. I don’t think his carpentry skills would fit that definition.

  • OMGF

    It means to live as Jesus would live if He were me.

    How is that even remotely possible? Supposedly Jesus was without sin, but you can not be without sin due to your human nature.

    Only someone who does this can know what it means to pray “God’s will” where what God wants is what I want and what I want is what God wants, namely anything that will glorify God and further His kingdom.

    The only thing you desire is that god be glorified? Color me unconvinced. Besides, why does a perfect, omni-max being need glory?

    During His public ministry Jesus brought in 100′s perhaps, while (without getting into the whole theology of John 6:44) we, as His disciples down through the ages, exactly as He predicted have brought in billions.

    Really? It’s not at all clear that he’s talking about the cumulative effect of all his disciples being greater than his. He’s saying that “he who” does this will be greater, not “all combined” will be greater.

  • IgniteMe

    When my brother and I were young – we were required to attend the Wednesday night, Sunday morning and Sunday evening services at the then named “Orlando Christian Center” – Benny Hinn’s church… One day Benny Hinn declared that my brother’s Type 1 Diabetes had been healed! AT LEAST TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE agreed that my brother was healed… Well, my mother took my brother off of his insulin and of course he got violently ill. Hinn’s response? My brother’s faith “was not strong enough”. Yes, that’s right, blame the child… What if he had died as a result? How many others have suffered and died directly at the hands of Benny Hinn and others of his ilk?

  • Eric Kleinsmith

    …And let me tell YOU something, Mr.Makarios! When I was 12, I got Diabetes. When I was 13, a Mr. Benny Hinn laid hands on me and claimed I was healed. Being a dutiful christian family, I promptly went home and stopped taking my insulin, and, YOU GUESSED IT, ended up almost dead in a hospital. So, if you would like to claim that this hurts no one, you are sadly mistaken my friend!
    Your loving Atheist

  • mikespeir

    “Whatever “works” are being discussed here, it’s a kind of works that would give people a reason to believe in Jesus’ divinity. I don’t think his carpentry skills would fit that definition.”

    Exactly. While one could stretch things to suggest that the greater evangelistic success in the book of Acts might partially fill the bill, it’s the more ostensible sign-type works that are clearly meant.

    I used to give these examples. In Acts 5:15-16 we’re told people were healed (all of them) when Peter’s shadow fell across them. Even Jesus isn’t said to have done anything like this. In Acts 19:11-12 we’re told that God did “extraordinary” miracles through Paul by the means of cloths taken from the apostle’s body. Jesus did nothing like this.

    The problem here, of course, is that we have to take the word of the writer of Acts (Luke?) that any of this happened. What would drive us to believe that?

    makarios makes the common assertion that it’s the person of the miracle worker that’s important here. Curiously, when a modern-day faith healer is caught in some kind of debauchery one often hears quite an opposite argument made to defend the miracles that have purportedly taken place at his hands, i.e., that it’s the Spirit of God who does the healing, regardless the character of the “vessel” used. (This is also the excuse for why Jimmy Swaggart, say, was able to convert so many people despite living “unworthily” himself.) As always, the conclusion has been agreed upon beforehand. The evidence must be made to lead there. If anyone’s doing any “twisting,” it’s the believer in his handling of reason so as to ratify belief.

  • http://www.yunshui.wordpress.com yunshui

    The verse just before the ones I quoted says this:

    “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

    Whatever “works” are being discussed here, it’s a kind of works that would give people a reason to believe in Jesus’ divinity. I don’t think his carpentry skills would fit that definition.

    He would have to be one awesome carpenter, I suppose…

    If makarios is right (just suppose, for a moment), then it looks even worse for Christianity. Since no miracles are occurring, either the “true disciples” can’t work miracles (in which case the Bible verse is wrong) or there are no “true disciples” at all (in which case the verse may be true, but Christianity is screwed). Assuming makarios practices what he preaches, we should be seeing some miraculous works coming from his direction pretty soon, right?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “To pray in Jesus’ name or to ask something in Jesus name has nothing to do with just words. It means to be a follower of Jesus, a student of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus.” — makarios

    Implicit in this snippet is the assumption that none of us were ever true believers of Christianity. I know that wasn’t the case with me — as a young Southern Baptist — and I’m certain that others here can say the same thing.

  • http://www.xanga.com/andrea_thatonegirl TheNerd

    This is just another reason that I believe there is far more power in Jesus of Nazareth as a Spiritual Symbol than in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

  • http://www.xanga.com/andrea_thatonegirl TheNerd

    BTW: Are IgniteMe and Eric Kleinsmith brothers? If not, just how many people have been hurt at the hands of believers in faith healing?

  • Eric Kleinsmith

    Dear Nerd…
    Yes, IgniteMe and I are brothers, but trust me, this happens a hundred times a week to scores of people. Just one visits to Benny Hinn’s church will show you that. And he’s been doing this for YEARS. I knew who he was when he married the pastor’s daughter of a church called Calvary Assembly in Orlando. The problem is, this is happening EVERYWHERE. The so called Leader of our Country claims to be a Christian. This happens in a thousand churches a week, EVERY week. And they keep coming back for more. If a political leader got on TV and claimed he had healing powers, he would be laughed out of office. Yet THOUSANDS of today’s most influential pastors do this every week. How many people have possibly died due to the harm caused by Liars threading out trinkets of false hope to the people who are the most helpless and desperite inside. These people are crooks, they are selling off miracles like candy at a fair, and they ought to be prosecuted.
    Eric

  • IgniteMe

    Just one thing to clarify my point… With two thousand plus people in attendance – surely SOMEONE there must have been a “true believer”… So – saying that the miracle healing did not occur for “lack of faith” clearly leaks like a sieve. And, in addition, “more than two were gathered in his name”. In reference to: Matthew 18:18-20

    18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
    20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    In this instance, there is not even the requirement for belief!

    Seriously, if you care for your fellow man, take the risk to speak out against such nonsense… For years I was a “closet atheist” for fear of the wrath of the fundamentalists. But over the years I realized that, in the end, future generations are simply more important than my own personal safety… SQUEAK UP!

  • Brian

    I find it interesting that the clause of “God’s will” is being added to this – in effect it says you pray that whatever will happen is going to happen and then claiming success because something did happen. 100% success rate when doing it that way.

  • Eric Kleinsmith

    What really killed me was when Hinn told me I had a “lack of faith”. How much faith was I supposed to have? Go even longer without my medication until I was dead? His argument disn’t hold up with me at all.

  • goyo

    To pray in Jesus’ name or to ask something in Jesus name has nothing to do with just words. It means to be a follower of Jesus, a student of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus. While all disciples of Jesus would be Christians, it’s obvious from how many of us live that not all Christians are disciples. In other words, someone who prays in Jesus name is someone who lives, breathes, and exists in and for Jesus.

    So, here’s the qualifier: not all xtians are “disciples”, so their prayers are not answered. No wonder there are no evidences of answered prayer, there aren’t any true disciples.
    Well, except for makarios.
    The excuses keep coming, and we’re still waiting for evidence of answered prayer.
    I’m with Thumpalumpacus. I was a serious Southern Baptist, and then, even went Pentacostal for a while. I was teaching discipleship, and praying in tongues, laying hands on everything from people to cars. You couldn’t find a bigger disciple than I was. And guess what? My prayers weren’t answered then, and I was giving the same excuses that everyone still uses.
    Here’s the proof that there is no god, makarios: Your life and mine are no different.

  • nomad

    I’m a Christian. This post has given me an opportunity to think deeply about the verse quoted. I can’t say I’ve come up with a response yet.

    I do, however, want to point out that not all Christians are blind faith followers. I truly, whole-heartedly believe the atheist/theist belief can be debated from both sides, equally well.

    At any rate: Benny Hinn is a kook. I’ve tried to convince my mother of this fact for years. I truly despise how they willingly and directly try to pull more people into their “shows”. I often wonder: do they really believe they’re performing miracles or do they know it’s a sham?

    As for miracles, I used to believe they happened. I’m not sure if they do now or not, but I’m keeping an open mind about it.

    I’m also puzzled why more than a few atheists on this board seem bent on ridiculing religion. I quote Moody834:

    “Unfortunately, the people crazy enough to believe that their so-called holy book is the inerrant word of “God” will not be dissuaded from their delusion by anything coming from an un-believer/infidel, or at least not without a lot of time invested by both parties.”

    Can’t the last few words of that sentence be applied to atheists as well? “… or at least not without a lot of time invested by both parties.” I thought atheism was an approach that relied on fact and science? I don’t think you’d be easily convinced to turn Christian (or any other religion) without a lot of time invested either. I wouldn’t immediately call an atheist “crazy” and I wouldn’t immediately dismiss their books out of hand either.

    I find the discussion very interesting though and will continue to read the board.

    Also one last comment: if you’re an atheist reading this and you’re getting offended, or you want to hit ‘reply’ immediately to defend your position, I’d suggest you sit back, think about why you became an atheist (reason, fact, science, etc.). I haven’t said anything remotely anti-atheist, just brought up a different point of view, which by all accounts, you should be open to. Besides, if anything, you might welcome someone who doesn’t dismiss atheism out of hand either.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I truly, whole-heartedly believe the atheist/theist belief can be debated from both sides, equally well.

    That’s doubtful. Theism relies on the acceptance of assumptions that can not be shown to be true.

    Can’t the last few words of that sentence be applied to atheists as well? “… or at least not without a lot of time invested by both parties.” I thought atheism was an approach that relied on fact and science? I don’t think you’d be easily convinced to turn Christian (or any other religion) without a lot of time invested either. I wouldn’t immediately call an atheist “crazy” and I wouldn’t immediately dismiss their books out of hand either.

    I won’t speak for Moody and his/her choice of words, but I will say that believing in a book as the inerrant word of god that also tells us the universe is only 6000 years old or so does seem a bit crazy when one considers all that we know about the universe.

    That said, I and others here are open to evidence. Ebon has even written posts on what it would take to convince him that theism is true. It wouldn’t take a “lot of time invested by both parties” if there were solid evidence the theist could present.

    Also one last comment: if you’re an atheist reading this and you’re getting offended, or you want to hit ‘reply’ immediately to defend your position, I’d suggest you sit back, think about why you became an atheist (reason, fact, science, etc.).

    I think you’ll find that the majority of posters here won’t get offended by you, nor will we act in knee-jerk manner as you suggest. If you come with reasoned arguments and back up your assertions, you’ll find this place rather open and reasonable in return.

  • Ryan

    Hope this commentary helps put these verses in context..

    4. (12-14) When Jesus departs to the Father, His work will continue on earth.

    “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

    a. The works I do he will do: Jesus did not expect the disciples to disband after His departure, but to carry on the work in even greater magnitude.

    b. Greater works than these he will do: This promise seems impossible; yet after Peter’s first sermon there were more converted than are recorded during Jesus’ entire ministry.

    i. Greater is not “more sensational” but greater in magnitude. Jesus will leave behind a victorious, working church, not a cowering one.

    c. Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do: In My name is not an Aladdin’s lamp of prayer; it signifies both an endorsement (like a check) and a limitation (requests must be in accordance with the character of the name). We are coming to God in Jesus’ name, not in our own.

    d. That the Father may be glorified in the Son: True prayer in Jesus’ name always has this goal. Since that was Jesus’ passion, to pray in the name of Jesus means the prayer will have the same passion. Surely, this is prayer God will answer!

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ryan,

    Greater works than these he will do: This promise seems impossible; yet after Peter’s first sermon there were more converted than are recorded during Jesus’ entire ministry.

    According to the bible, Jesus healed the sick, let the blind see, raised the dead, and fed large groups of people, as well as transubstaining water to wine. All of those are far more impressive than converting people, most of which has far more practical benefits. Do you think more people simply believing Jesus was the son of god is more important than people not starving or seeing?

    Greater is not “more sensational” but greater in magnitude. Jesus will leave behind a victorious, working church, not a cowering one.

    Didn’t Jesus also say something about keeping prayer or worship out of the public realm? I distinctly remember that, and it seems like the kind of thing that a church would be the exact opposite of.

    Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do: In My name is not an Aladdin’s lamp of prayer; it signifies both an endorsement (like a check) and a limitation (requests must be in accordance with the character of the name). We are coming to God in Jesus’ name, not in our own.

    And yet even those who distinctly believe (let’s say a large group of people at some faith healing session) are unable to out do the rates of random chance. Not only that, but if god is all knowing and has his divine plan going then he’s going to do what he wants anyway, regardless of whether you ask for it or not. Kind of makes the asking him to do things in anyone’s name kind of silly, no?

    That the Father may be glorified in the Son: True prayer in Jesus’ name always has this goal. Since that was Jesus’ passion, to pray in the name of Jesus means the prayer will have the same passion. Surely, this is prayer God will answer!

    And yet many people who firmly believe and pray with passion, even in the best of intentions, still don’t break the boundary of random chance in mudane matters, much less in miraculous ones. Or how prayer has been shown to have no effect in studies.
    Kind of messes with the idea that prayer does anything.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Oh yeah,

    Greater works than these he will do: This promise seems impossible; yet after Peter’s first sermon there were more converted than are recorded during Jesus’ entire ministry.

    I’ll bet they’d get a whole lot more believers if things like parting of the seas, raising of the dead, and moving of moutains occured on a more frequent basis when Christians ordered such things. I think that would kind of help the credibility along a bit for most atheists.

  • goyo

    c. Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do: In My name is not an Aladdin’s lamp of prayer; it signifies both an endorsement (like a check) and a limitation (requests must be in accordance with the character of the name). We are coming to God in Jesus’ name, not in our own.

    I love it. Someone actually admits “limitations”, even though the text nowhere suggests this.
    Requests in accordance with the character of the name. We know that jesus healed physical infirmities, so all prayers for healing of sick people should be answered.
    Why are they not? Jesus never failed to heal anyone, so what’s the deal?

  • DamienSansBlog

    I’m familiar with most of the verses in your “Little-Known…” series, but this one was new to me! Can’t imagine how I missed it. Thanks, Ebon!

  • Derf

    You all seem to be forgetting another thing that has no qualifier on it. There is nothing said in the Bible about how or when He will answer prayers. Since nothing is said about it therefore you can adjust both without conflicting with the prior claims. Just as if you went to your parents at 17 and asked for something from the store and they give you the keys to the car and some money. Now anyone can see that they clearly gave you what you were asking for, you just had to go and get it. However there really isn’t much point in saying this because all you are going to say is My definition doesn’t meet your definition therefore I am wrong.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    There is nothing said in the Bible about how or when He will answer prayers.

    Well, if I pray for someone who is dying of cancer, I would certainly hope the when would be before the person dies. Alas, we know that is not the case. I would hope the how is that the person is healed, although to use your analogy, if god gave me the keys to the car and allowed me to develop a way to cure the cancer (in a timely manner) that would at least be helpful. Again, alas, we also know that this has not happened. So, it still appears that god does not answer prayers.

  • goyo

    Just as if you went to your parents at 17 and asked for something from the store and they give you the keys to the car and some money. Now anyone can see that they clearly gave you what you were asking for, you just had to go and get it.

    No they didn’t, they had you go and get it. That’s different.
    Good grief, you xtians will go to any means to try and explain why jesus just doesn’t answer your prayers. Face it, if you get seriously ill, or lose a limb, you’re in trouble.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    However there really isn’t much point in saying this because all you are going to say is My definition doesn’t meet your definition therefore I am wrong.

    No, I wouldn’t say that. What I would say is that you’re inventing new qualifications out of thin air to rescue the biblical text. The Bible has Jesus say plainly that, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.” Obviously, this is not true.

  • Derf

    Well, if I pray for someone who is dying of cancer, I would certainly hope the when would be before the person dies. Alas, we know that is not the case. I would hope the how is that the person is healed, although to use your analogy, if god gave me the keys to the car and allowed me to develop a way to cure the cancer (in a timely manner) that would at least be helpful. Again, alas, we also know that this has not happened. So, it still appears that god does not answer prayers.

    No they didn’t, they had you go and get it. That’s different.
    Good grief, you xtians will go to any means to try and explain why jesus just doesn’t answer your prayers. Face it, if you get seriously ill, or lose a limb, you’re in trouble.

    And you two just proved my point exactly when I said,

    However there really isn’t much point in saying this because all you are going to say is My definition doesn’t meet your definition therefore I am wrong.

    Therefore I’m not even going to argue with you two because all you are going to say is He doesn’t answer prayers how I want it done therefore the bible is wrong. Then after that your probably going to make some comment about how us Christians will make up any excuse for God. However to ebonmuse who said,

    No, I wouldn’t say that. What I would say is that you’re inventing new qualifications out of thin air to rescue the biblical text. The Bible has Jesus say plainly that, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.” Obviously, this is not true.

    I am not making qualifications out of thin air. The lack of either of them being mentioned makes them automatic qualifiers. Just as I can say I will paint the deck. All that is said is that I will paint the deck, nothing about time or method therefore I can do it however or whenever I please and the original statement is still valid. Though not to open another can of worms just some food for thought according to the bible when Jesus was praying in the garden he prays for his imminent death to pass. However he that not his will, will be done but the Fathers. From that one can inference that Jesus being God and un-falable would pray perfectly. Therefore even the perfect Christian would not have all prayers answered in a positive way and it is the will of the Father that dominates. But again that is a whole different debate.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Derf,

    Therefore I’m not even going to argue with you two because all you are going to say is He doesn’t answer prayers how I want it done therefore the bible is wrong.

    Are you honestly going to argue in this vein? If I pray for someone to be cured of cancer and they die of cancer, then in what way can the prayer be said to have been answered? If god cures them of cancer after they are already dead, in what way can that prayer be said to have been answered? Knowing that the success rate of prayer is the same as random chance, in what way can one say that prayers are answered? What you have effectively done is say, “Prayer is real and if you object, I’ll simply say that you’re wrong and declare victory.” Yet, the issues I brought up are real questions that need to be answered. If god works on his own time schedule, how does that meet the requirement when god’s schedule exceeds the time schedule for fulfillment of the prayer?

    From that one can inference that Jesus being God and un-falable would pray perfectly. Therefore even the perfect Christian would not have all prayers answered in a positive way and it is the will of the Father that dominates.

    Actually, Jesus’s statement sounds rather inclusive to me. He does not say that your prayers will be answered if you pray in the correct fashion. He does not say that your prayers might be answered at the discretion of the father. He plainly states that your prayers will be answered, whatever you ask for. If this is not a case of making qualifications out of thin air…

    Also, isn’t Jesus part of the trinity with the father? Therefore, they are one being, are they not? Or, are you asserting that they are actually multiple beings and that you are a polytheist?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Derf,

    Since you understand prayer so well and how you know it works try and humor me with this:

    Devise an experiment for me. This experiment will clearly demonstrate how prayer works and also demonstrate the beneficial effects we see are due to prayer exclusively.

    Also,

    Just as I can say I will paint the deck. All that is said is that I will paint the deck, nothing about time or method therefore I can do it however or whenever I please and the original statement is still valid.

    Your statement is not valid if the deck gets destroyed before you paint it; same way prayers to save lives by getting cured from an illness are not valid if those people die from the illness anyway.

  • Derf

    When I said,

    From that one can inference that Jesus being God and un-falable would pray perfectly. Therefore even the perfect Christian would not have all prayers answered in a positive way and it is the will of the Father that dominates.

    I was just giving it as an extra thought, I realize that in of itself it is not a very good argument for the seemingly unanswered prayer. The only point was, was that if Jesus being God doesn’t always have prayers answered the way he wants wouldn’t that apply to the rest of us? Again just a thought, nothing I’m really trying to argue there because that point is all based on ones own interpretation.

    Further on when you said,

    Also, isn’t Jesus part of the trinity with the father? Therefore, they are one being, are they not? Or, are you asserting that they are actually multiple beings and that you are a polytheist?

    That is a whole different thing and my explanation is going to differ far from many Christians just because that point is where many sects differ beliefs. The best explanation I can give, is yes and no. Yes Jesus is a seperate entity from the father as is the holy spirit but they are all one in the same. Sort of like how one can be a father a son and a brother, three distinct people but one in the same. However when you assume that this being is the reason for existence you can expand that thought further.

    Now where as before I was giving a general point of view for prayer I will give you my personal view. Since a common point seems to be the thought of curing disease I will answer that specific question with it also says in the Bible that man is appointed once to live and once to die. Therefore everyone will die and therefore not all diseases for people can be cured for them. More generally I am assuming you mean to argue that prayers are often unanswered and seem to have no impact on our lives at all.

    This is probably where you all are going to find the most problems with my statements saying I am making excuses. All I can say is this is religion and not science and is based solely on beliefs. Where as science is provable because it answers the how question religion inherently can not be tested because it answers the why question. Also if everyones prayers where answered nothing would happen. One can assume that just as a person prays for one thing there is someone out there praying for the exact opposite. This is where I would say therefore prayer works because not every prayer can be answered in the fashion I wish but will be answered through what is best overall. However it seems that the general belief here is that since this case exists therefore prayer doesn’t work.

    Basically all I am saying is that Christians for the most part aren’t idiots that blindly follow. While there are a great deal who do, the vast majority starts from the same point you are at and draws their own conclusions.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Derf,

    I was just giving it as an extra thought, I realize that in of itself it is not a very good argument for the seemingly unanswered prayer.

    Actually, it speaks against the passage cited.

    The only point was, was that if Jesus being God doesn’t always have prayers answered the way he wants wouldn’t that apply to the rest of us?

    Actually, I find this notion to be non-sensical. Jesus is supposedly god, so to not have his own prayers answered doesn’t make any sense. In your example of father, son, and brother, they are still one person and not prone to such glaring examples of disconnect, excepting for mental illness. Even though I am may be a brother, father, and son (I’m not actually all those…) the brother part of me doesn’t speak to the father part and have those thoughts go unfulfilled. It makes no sense, especially when extrapolated to an omnipotent being. Even granting your every prayer idea, wouldn’t Jesus’s prayers be for the best, so those should be fulfilled, unless you wish to argue that someone else had a better competing prayer. In that case, you would have to agree that Jesus was not as great as he was made out to be.

    Now where as before I was giving a general point of view for prayer I will give you my personal view. Since a common point seems to be the thought of curing disease I will answer that specific question with it also says in the Bible that man is appointed once to live and once to die. Therefore everyone will die and therefore not all diseases for people can be cured for them. More generally I am assuming you mean to argue that prayers are often unanswered and seem to have no impact on our lives at all.

    The point of the original post was that there are no provisos given that sometimes people have to die, so some prayers for healing won’t work. In fact, it says quite the opposite, that whatever you ask for will be given. If we ask/pray that people don’t have to die at all, why should that not be given us?

    Where as science is provable because it answers the how question religion inherently can not be tested because it answers the why question.

    Actually, I would contest that religion doesn’t answer any questions.

    Also if everyones prayers where answered nothing would happen.

    I find that hard to believe. It’s hard to imagine that an exact split of prayers for X or not X exists for all issues.

    This is where I would say therefore prayer works because not every prayer can be answered in the fashion I wish but will be answered through what is best overall.

    What evidence do you have that god answers prayers in regard to what is best overall? The Bible certainly doesn’t give this impression, nor does it paint a god that would be concerned with what is best. Either way, surely you have to concede that prayer for peace and healing would be what is best overall, so why do these prayers have no effect?

    However it seems that the general belief here is that since this case exists therefore prayer doesn’t work.

    Actually, the general feeling is that the scripture says something different and that prayers are not answered as the scripture says they will be. I think a different general feeling (backed up by scientific study) is that prayer fails to work at all.

    …the vast majority starts from the same point you are at and draws their own conclusions.

    The do start from the same point considering that most of us were Xians at one point, but they don’t start from the same point in terms of what is logically and rationally being considered. In order to get to the conclusion of god, one has to assume one’s conclusions, which is a logical fallacy. If one starts with a clean slate, then one will not rationally or logically reach the conclusion of god.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Derf,

    All I can say is this is religion and not science and is based solely on beliefs. Where as science is provable because it answers the how question religion inherently can not be tested because it answers the why question.

    At best, religion can answer a question by posing an even bigger one; it doesn’t actually answer anything. For instance, a common question is “how did we get here” and religion answers with “god”. Of course, the next question is “how did god get there” or “can I ever see god” or “how do I know god cares about us” or “does god exist” or “is god as you describe him” and in the end all the answers come down to some statement about how religion is paradoxical or there’s some spooky mysterious god at work whom we can never understand (and he’d like you to donate your money and political support). That’s not so much answering a question as it is slapping on an unproven layer and saying it’s all beyond our grasp anyway.

    Religion can be tested through it’s effects it’s supposed to have on the world. In your religion, god is supposed to answer prayers, and there are no qualifications for that prayer to be answered. So here’s the situation you’re now setting up:
    1) If prayers get demonstrabily answered, your religion is proven correct
    2) However, it is very clear prayers are not getting answered as study after study has shown (unless you consider the power of prayer to be less than the null hypothesis; no better than chance)
    3) So since prayers are not being answered you retreat to “These claims are based purely on belief and cannot be tested” even though if the results pointed the other way I can assure you your position would not be so humble.

    And just for the record, wishing it were so does not make it so.

    Now the reason prayer demonstrates no effect in the data is because there is no effect of prayer. Not once has anything that cannot happen randomly happened because of prayer (no lost limbs getting regrown due to people praying last I checked). Out of those that happen, they happen at no greater a baseline than they do if there is no prayer. In order to not put 2 and 2 together in this case you need to be either ignoring the evidence at hand or denying it.

    Also if everyones prayers where answered nothing would happen. One can assume that just as a person prays for one thing there is someone out there praying for the exact opposite.

    Are you really trying to imply that for everyone praying for people across the world to not go hungry and die of illness in pain that someone is praying for those same people to die hungry and sick? More to the point, are you also implying that prayer and god work in a democratic fashion and the side with the most prayers decides what god will do? Finally, in a pure shot of arrogance do you honestly believe that a being like god as you descibe him was to actually exist for the sake of argument, that it would actually care what people were praying for and give it serious consideration before he acts (or doesn’t)? Kind of makes prayer seem like a serious waste of time.

    This is where I would say therefore prayer works because not every prayer can be answered in the fashion I wish but will be answered through what is best overall.

    So it’s best overall for people to have the HIV virus, and for people to lose limbs and become unable to take care of themselves, to get addicted to drugs and ruin their life, for children to be sexually abused and women raped, for domestic abuse to continue and people to starve to death across the globe, for natural disasters to take the lives of so many people? That’s just what I can name off the top of my head, and these are things I’m sure people are praying to stop. How can you just play that off as “prayers not being answered the way people want them to be”, and if these prayers are not answered as people want them to be, can you really say they were answered at all? If I ask for a car and get a pair of rollerblades, has my request really been answered?

    Basically all I am saying is that Christians for the most part aren’t idiots that blindly follow. While there are a great deal who do, the vast majority starts from the same point you are at and draws their own conclusions.

    While some may not be idiots (which you could say about most people regardless of faith or lackthereof), they do blindly follow and I say that because there’s no other way to accept these beliefs. Upon what do you draw conclusions if not evidence? Speculation perhaps; maybe assumptions; how about a warm tingly feeling? Of course, every other religion uses those same things and draw wildly different conclusions. If you use the evidence (i.e. what actually is) there is no rational reason to believe that god exists. I have yet to hear one.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    This is where I would say therefore prayer works because not every prayer can be answered in the fashion I wish but will be answered through what is best overall.

    So, in other words: prayer always works, except when it doesn’t.

  • Derf

    To Mrnaglfar, well if you want to start the whole debate about how god is unprovable, go right ahead, but there is really no point you either believe in a higher power or you don’t. However I will say that there are plenty of things in science that have absolutely no explanation and stares blatantly at scientists that they are wrong yet no one says anything. The information loss paradox, the unexplained energy of the universe expanding, many models of gravity on a small and large scale don’t work, yet you blindly follow science as an absolute and drawer from pure logic. Also yes I would argue that it is possible for HIV and death to be better for the overall good of mankind. There sheer amount of space everyone would constitute if no one died would be absurd, and if expanded further I’m sure you could find many basic resources that would be gone. But on the pain and suffering thought of things, yes it is a horrible tragedy to go through, but many people are inspired by those who are strong through tragedy. To the drug abuse I would argue that, that is free will. That is another thing you have to assume with prayer, because it is assumed in Judaism and Christianity that God can not tamper with free will, therefore he couldn’t grant prayers that mess with free will. But you all are probably never going to give this a second thought.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Derf,

    To Mrnaglfar, well if you want to start the whole debate about how god is unprovable, go right ahead, but there is really no point you either believe in a higher power or you don’t.

    I would say that there is a point to it though, and that is: do your beliefs have any basis in rationality?

    However I will say that there are plenty of things in science that have absolutely no explanation and stares blatantly at scientists that they are wrong yet no one says anything. The information loss paradox, the unexplained energy of the universe expanding, many models of gravity on a small and large scale don’t work, yet you blindly follow science as an absolute and drawer from pure logic.

    Yes, there are many gaps in our knowledge, so what? Who here follows science as an absolute, and what does “and drawer from pure logic” mean anyway? The fact is that science is the best method that we’ve found to study and understand the natural world around us. That’s not to say that there aren’t other possible methods or that science is the best conceivable method, but there don’t seem to be a lot of competing methods right now and you can’t argue with science’s track record. That it hasn’t yielded all the information in the universe instantaneously is both overly demanding and a silly reason to speak in disdainful terms.

    Also yes I would argue that it is possible for HIV and death to be better for the overall good of mankind.

    For a loving god, it’s weird that he would find HIV to be necessary considering all the suffering that HIV patients go through. It seems a bit gratuitous to me.

    There sheer amount of space everyone would constitute if no one died would be absurd, and if expanded further I’m sure you could find many basic resources that would be gone.

    Yes, that is true. However, for an omni-max god, this should not be a problem. You make the mistake of thinking that this Earth, this universe was the only thing god could create – that he couldn’t create a universe where we wouldn’t be competing for resources that wouldn’t be there.

    But on the pain and suffering thought of things, yes it is a horrible tragedy to go through, but many people are inspired by those who are strong through tragedy.

    There are other ways to be inspired than pain and suffering. Are you really advocating that people get HIV/AIDS and suffer so that they can be uplifting role models for others?

    To the drug abuse I would argue that, that is free will.

    Some people have addictive personalities that are certainly not a result of some choice. Some can take drugs and not be addicted for some time, while others are addicted after their first contact. This is not a case of free will. Although it is a choice to take that first drug, which of us has never taken any drug? All of us have taken some drug at some point, whether it be caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, THC, etc.

    That is another thing you have to assume with prayer, because it is assumed in Judaism and Christianity that God can not tamper with free will, therefore he couldn’t grant prayers that mess with free will.

    Anytime someone says “god can not” I have to wonder why an omni-max being can’t do something – at least something that isn’t logically contradictory. Either way, when I pray, I’m expressing my free will. I’m asking for something that I’m choosing.

    But you all are probably never going to give this a second thought.

    Yeah, our answers where we go into detail about what you said and make counter-points obviously show that we don’t give a second thought to anything you say. Get real.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Derf,
    One more thing:

    That is another thing you have to assume with prayer, because it is assumed in Judaism and Christianity that God can not tamper with free will, therefore he couldn’t grant prayers that mess with free will.

    It occurred to me that this would make god completely impotent to do anything in the world. No prayers could be answered if god can not act without tampering with free will – at least not in the sense that you are using it.