Prayer: Because Jesus Already Knows What You Want, He Just Wants to Hear You Beg

Prayer: Because Jesus Already Knows What You Want, He Just Wants to Hear You Beg October 29, 2019

You don’t often come across clever atheist memes from Christians, but for me this was an exception. Christian apologist Tom Gilson attacks the meme in the image above in an article published today: “Atheist Memes: Be Wise—Don’t Take the Bait!

(I commented on another Gilson post just a month ago.)

How Christians are (apparently) supposed to respond

By “Don’t take the bait,” Gilson means:

[I wish] believers would refuse to let atheists bait them. Or if I may switch metaphors, that we’d refuse to play by atheists’ rules.

Huh? What atheist rules? You mean reason and evidence? Are atheists out of line for pointing out (apparently) ridiculous aspects in Christians’ supernatural views? Perhaps what he really wants is for Christians to avoid getting into the ring if they’re likely to get beaten.

But why avoid engaging atheists? Wouldn’t that be a chance to follow 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”?

The article did contain the hint of one point that I agree with: that atheist/Christian discussions are rarely fruitful and usually frustrating. But that’s not where Gilson wants to go.

Questions Christians should ask

What Would Jesus Do? Apparently, ignore the challenge, assume the rightness of his position, and press forward. In Jesus fashion, Gilson wants to ask questions “to help [atheists] see that their question is built on faulty premises.”

Here are the questions (in italics) in Gilson’s Socratic Method to gently guide the foolish atheist to the Truth.

Tell me, please, what you think prayer is.

Here are the claims made for prayer:

Ask and you will receive (John).

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew).

Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark).

He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do (John).

I wonder where you got that information from?

From Jesus himself, if the Bible is to be believed.

Do you think that’s all there is to prayer? Has it occurred to you there might be more to it?

One answer: Yes, that’s it. If Jesus wanted to qualify the method, he would’ve done so. Surely, Christians must agree that the Holy Bible is a reliable source of the declarations of Jesus.

Another answer: Christians aren’t stupid, and they realize that “Ask and you will receive” isn’t how prayer actually works. So they imagine qualifications that for some reason weren’t included in the gospels—it was your fault for asking for something selfish or foolish, God has a better plan, God isn’t your genie, God did answer it (just not the way you wanted), and so on. I must repeat: while these are popular rationalizations within Christianity, that’s not how prayer is defined by Jesus.

The Christian who is disappointed after taking the gospels’ promises about prayer at face value is told that they need a mature faith. That is, put your faith first and reason second. With a clash between faith (an earnest prayer offered) and reason (an unanswered prayer tells you that the Bible’s claims are flawed), the “mature” Christian will whip up reasons to listen to faith and ignore reason.

Tell me what you understand of the character of Jesus, that would lead you to think he might be pulling a trick on us like the meme suggests?

You ask the wrong question. You don’t take Jesus in the gospel story as a given and then wonder why a prayer wasn’t answered. Instead, you approach this as you would any remarkable claim—say, cure cancer by changing your diet or invest your retirement savings in this new startup. You assume nothing up front. The Bible’s claims about prayer are easy to test, and disconfirming evidence follows quickly. It’s not that “Jesus” is playing a trick, it’s that the Bible’s supernatural claims are false, just like all the others.

If Christians were unbiased, they wouldn’t double down after prayer has been shown not to work but would question whether Christianity is worthy of their belief.

Why do you think Christians pray? Is it because the issue you’ve raised here has never occurred to us?

I know prayer doesn’t work, and so do Christians. The light switch works. The car works. The telephone works. Works is precisely what prayer doesn’t do.

Prayer provides intermittent rewards, and Christians are like pigeons in a Skinner box. Pigeons in cages who are fed food pellets at random times imagine that they somehow caused the food to appear. If they were preening or pecking or flapping when the food appeared, they try to conjure up more food with repetitions of that action. It becomes a superstition.

It’s not that Christian newbies tentatively try prayer, find that it works, and increasingly use it as a reliable tool. No—belief comes first, and prayer is what believers do. They get intermittent reinforcement through the odd coincidence or occasional wish that comes to pass.

Your view of Christians here seems to be that we’re mindless and stupid. Am I right to read you that way, or did I get that wrong?

No, that’s not my view. I’m stuck with the same imperfect brain that you are. I’m subject to the same biases that you are.

Most Christians (indeed, most religious believers) adopt the religion of their surroundings. They believe because they were taught to. The combination of being raised to believe false things and being a smart adult with a mature Bullshit Detector means the adult can either see that their supernatural beliefs are no better grounded than those in Hinduism or Buddhism, or they can double down and use their intelligence to justify their beliefs after the fact (Shermer’s Law). That avoids cognitive dissonance, the discomfort from holding two contradicting beliefs.

Back to your question, it makes sense that children accept the guidance of their community as they grow up. They’re not stupid for believing that the stove can be dangerous, you must be careful crossing the street, and Jesus knows everything. It’s just that society’s truths are wrong sometimes.

What about that meme?

True to his word, Gilson has avoided taking the bait and actually addressing the meme. No, you wouldn’t want to play the atheist’s game and actually respond to the question of why prayer is needed at all when Jesus/God already knows what you want and need.

Other posts on prayer:

.

Prayer is an act of doubt, not faith.
If you really thought your god was watching over everything
and you genuinely trusted in his “plan,”
you wouldn’t be praying in the first place.
— seen on the internet

.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • larry parker

    Looks to me like Gilson took the bait.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Gilson is like the kid with chocolate smears on his face denying he dug into the cookie jar.

  • larry parker

    Tell me, please, what you think prayer is. – Useless
    I wonder where you got that information from? – Reality
    Do you think that’s all there is to prayer? Has it occurred to you there might be more to it? – Yes Yes
    Tell me what you understand of the character of Jesus, that would lead you to think he might be pulling a trick on us like the meme suggests? – Jeaus is a myth. the meme isn’t pulling a trick.
    Why do you think Christians pray? Is it because the issue you’ve raised here has never occurred to us? -Following orders. No.
    Your view of Christians here seems to be that we’re mindless and stupid. Am I right to read you that way, or did I get that wrong? -You got it wrong. I would say more like gullible and indoctrinated.

    • eric

      Tell me, please, what you think prayer is. – Useless

      Oh, I don’t know about that. I think there’s probably some psychological stress relief value in giving voice our concerns, fears, etc. in times of particularly bad stress. Of course, IMO it doesn’t matter whether you’re “talking to” God, an absent parent/friend, or Bugs Bunny for that matter; its the act of talking through some issue, thinking about how some other person might handle it, or thinking about what you’ll do better when you get out of the situation that is therapeutic, even if nobody but you is listening. In western culture, ‘just-plain’ talking to yourself is considered weird and disturbing. Talking to yourself using an absent ‘other’ is actually more socially acceptable. So what does a person do when they really need to noodle through some issue out loud, but don’t want to be seen as the crazy dude? Talk to God. Or dead grandma. Or whomever. 🙂

      So for that reason, I have no issue with the ‘prayer in a foxhole’. Or the newly widowed spouse who occasionally talks as if their spouse was right there. Sometimes it can signal a superstitious belief, yes. But sometimes it’s just a more socially acceptable form of self-talk therapy than just-plain talking to yourself.

      • larry parker

        I agree, mostly. But ask Gilson, or any other believer, if praying to their god is the same as praying to Bugs.

        • Greg G.

          But ask Gilson, or any other believer, if praying to their god is the same as praying to Bugs.

          Why pray as an amateur? I think it would be better to contract prayer out to a professional. One gets the same results from the praying but with less time invested in it, which is much more beneficial. Hiring a praying mantis is quite cost-effective.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Or praying to Joe Pesci 😉

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Or to the Jug of Milk.

  • Polytropos

    Pigeons in a Skinner box is pretty much exactly how I see prayer, but I think it can also work as a kind of meditation for Christians. People use god a bit like a therapist, having “conversations” with him about things in their lives that are problematic. It makes them feel better and as far as that goes there’s nothing wrong with it, but the problem is they go away expecting god to magically fix whatever’s wrong. And you just can’t fix real problems with imaginary solutions.

    • Jim Jones

      > I think it can also work as a kind of meditation for Christians.

      Nice idea, but it’s rote recital with no mental effect.

      When the Powerball hits $500 million I buy a ticket. I put more thought into that than they do into prayer – or hymns.

      • Polytropos

        At least with Powerball there’s a slim chance you might get something out of it.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        ‘rote ritual’ == repetition.

        Repetition *has* shown to have a calming effect on people in times of stress, FWIW.

        Not that I believe the supernatural nonsense.

        • Greg G.

          IIRC, I found Patheos when JT moved his blog “What Would JT Do?”

          He practices card tricks to calm his mind. He is amazing at it now. I follow him on Instagram under “jt_does_card_tricks”.

        • Polytropos

          And don’t forget thought stoppers. Thought stoppers are good at temporarily quieting worry about things like “what if trusting Jesus won’t actually pay my bills?”

  • Bob

    Why is prayer needed at all when Jesus/God already knows what you want and need.

    Just to set the record straight, it was Jesus who first posed this question: ” your Father knows what you need before you ask him. And it was just before he taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer.

    So why prayer? Because God wants to have a conversation with us.

    Prayer is not primarily asking. It is not a college student sending off a quick email home to Dad and asking for more money. It is about listening and interacting. And it is in the context of a conversation that we may ask. And it is in the context of a conversation in which we have listened that we may ask with confidence.

    What difference does that make? It changes our praying and brings our praying more in line with God’s desires for us and through us than our own sometimes poorly considered desires.

    Actually, that is the point of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 that followed the brief clause I quoted above.

    “Thy kingdom comes and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” That request is to be the heart of our praying.

    “Give us this day our daily bread.” After we have set the tone of our prayer with the desire that God’s will be done, we may ask for our own needs. Notice that is a pretty simple request. We should not ask for ourselves extravagantly.

    • Illithid

      “It is about listening and interacting.”

      That was actually the source of my first serious doubt about this “god” stuff, way back when. There was no interaction. It was like talking into a dead phone. Not even a dial tone, just… nothing.

      • eric

        Yup. That specific sentence stood out to me too. The two things missing from prayer are a voice to be listened to or interact with.

    • Jim Jones

      Seems like mental masturbation.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        ‘Seems’?

        😉

      • Doubting Thomas

        If someone is having a “conversation” with god, it seems more like mental illness.

    • Otto

      Prayer is not primarily asking.

      But asking is a big part of prayer. Without fail in every Church service I attended for 30+ years involved asking God to help sick or injured parishioners, and also asking for God’s mercy in general. Sure, it is not the only type of prayer, but to assert Christian prayer is only ‘listening and interacting’ and not about gaining God’s favor just isn’t addressing the issue honestly.

    • Thanks4AllTheFish

      It is about listening and interacting. And it is in the context of a conversation that we may ask. And it is in the context of a conversation in which we have listened that we may ask with confidence.”

      A Conversation with God. (reality episode)

      Believer: Dear God, Could we talk?
      GOD?:
      Believer: Hello?
      GOD?:
      Believer: God? Are you there?
      GOD?:
      Believer: Can you hear me God?
      GOD?:
      Believer: GOD!…HELLO!…I’M PRAYING HERE!
      GOD?:
      Believer: Wonder what I’m doing wrong?

      • Rudy R

        So why prayer? Because God wants to have a conversation with us.

        Is this a two-way conversation? If so, how do you tell the difference between your voice in your head and your god’s voice?

        • RichardSRussell

          “If you talk to God, you’re praying; if God talks to you, you’re schizophrenic.”—Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist

        • Steven Watson

          If “God” talks to you, you are much, much more likely to be schizotypal. Not the same thing at all!

    • Damien Priestly

      Conversation? So God interacts…and prays or talks back to us? We are supposed to listen? Conversation requires two reasonable creatures capable of communication. Praying only seems to have one creature ever communicating (and it’s not a God).

      Also God’s Will include the Book of Revelation…None of us in our right mind wants that to be done, if it is “willed” by God !!

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Psychology and psychiatry call that ‘schizophrenia’…no?

        • Steven Watson

          More likely schizotypy. Not the same thing at all.

    • Susan

      Prayer is not primarily asking. It is not a college student sending off a quick email home to Dad and asking for more money.

      Yet, miracles are claimed by christians. Miracles at Lourdes (that do not rise above the statistics), miracles of healing preachers (that do not rise above the statistics) and miracles of carkey finding (that do not rise above the statistics).

      brings our praying more in line with God’s desires for us and through us than our own sometimes poorly considered desires.

      “Dear God, please don’t let my baby suffer to death with cancer.” Is that poorly considered? No.

      Give us this day our daily bread.

      “Dear God, please don’t let my children starve to death.” (Silence. Or at least nothing that rises above statistics.)

      We should not ask for ourselves extravagantly.

      Asking that babies don’t suffer to death with cancer or starvation is not an extravagant request.

      Christians claim hits when it’s convenient and cold-bloodedly dismiss the copious misses when it’s convenient.

      Don’t even try to mention Free Will at this point or I’ll forking tear your face off.

      What christians have are grandiose claims, no evidence that supports those claims and weaselly excuses when that is pointed out.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      That’s YOUR ‘interpretation’, that stands in bald-faced opposition to what your ‘bible’ and ‘jesus’ tell you in black-letter text.

      How does it feel to be an 69apostate and false prophet?

    • Anri

      What does god’s voice sound like when you two are having a conversation?

      • Greg G.

        It sounds like it is deafening.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Knowing Don, I’d describe it as stupefying.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        The ‘adult’ trombone from Peanuts movie

      • Wile F. Coyote

        I asked Don Camp this exact question a number of times on the Debunking Christianity blog before his recent banishment from it. He always remains silent. Trying to be “god”-like, perhaps.

    • Mutale

      “So why prayer? Because God wants to have a conversation with us. ”
      noah didnt have to pray to communicate with god , neither did abraham or moses god just showed up and talked to them so why now do you have to pray to do that?

      • You don’t. God does show up now and then, as with Abraham, Moses, etc. He has done so with me and with many people I’ve talked to. Prayer is just a regularly scheduled meeting with God. It is a lot like having coffee in the morning with a friend. In fact, there were some years when I did just that. I would go to my office early, brew a coffee and enjoy God’s presence as I conversed with him. It was a pretty incredible time.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You don’t. God does show up now and then, as with Abraham, Moses, etc

          So it’s been at least 6000 years, then…no?

          Why would you believe that nonsense?

        • No. I said that God does show up in dramatic ways today. God does speak without our speaking first.

        • nydiva

          O really now. Then why do you hang out on atheist blogs speaking for your imaginary god? We have mass media now. Your god should stepped from behind the curtail and reveal itself.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I said that God does show up in dramatic unverifiable ways today.

          FTFY.

        • They were also unverifiable in the case of Abraham and Moses. But that was not the point of the encounters. They were personal.

        • nydiva

          O gee well that settles it. Just claim a miracle is personal and that’s it. No need for verification. As I recall from your time on Debunking Christianity when challenged for evidence of a miracle, you resort to the same line of circular reasoning. Why point to something as a miracle if you can’t verify the claim?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Thank you for making my point for me.

          It’s just that these just-so stories *claim* to be ‘history’.

          It’s all myths, all the way down, as far as we can tell based on the evidence.

        • What evidence? The most you have is lack of evidence for a personally experienced event which would not actually produce evidence. In that case your conclusion seems tenuous at best.

          But wait! Perhaps I was too hasty. Actual events are causes that produce effects of some kind. The effects of Abraham’s encounters with God are played out in the flow of his life and in the fulfilled promises God made to him, promises which are even today being fulfilled.

          The effects of Moses’ encounters with God are played out in the creation of a nation of people called Israel.

          So explain the persistence of the Israelite people through history – 3500+ years of it – without Abraham as the beginning point and the encounters with God that precipitated it.

          Explain the nation Israel and all of their national laws and their appearance in the land of Canaan without Moses.

          I know there are hypotheses that scholars have suggested to explain them, but the hypo

        • Greg G.

          What evidence? The most you have is lack of evidence for a personally experienced event which would not actually produce evidence. In that case your conclusion seems tenuous at best.

          Absence of evidence where there should be evidence of presence is evidence of absence. If there was a large population of Israelis in Egypt for 400 years, there should be evidence but there is not.

          If there was a mass of people capable of subduing Canaan wandering the Sinai for a few decades, there should be lots of evidence but none has been found in over a century of searching by Christian and Israeli archaeologists.

          Explain the nation Israel and all of their national laws and their appearance in the land of Canaan without Moses.

          The Bible says the Israelis eliminated the Canaanites because of the way they lived. But Israeli archaeology has shown that there was no big cultural shift around that time. But it does show many sites with similar culture and the major difference being that some had pig bones and some did not. Did the Israelis slaughter the Canaanites because of their culture, then take up their culture?

          So it seems that there was a religion within the Canaanite culture that had a dietary restriction and the Hebrews grew out of that. They took their laws and history from the cultures around them and made up their own version.

          There are many texts for several centuries of the second millennium BC that tell of the Habiru, a name given to marauding tribes. Perhaps they borrowed from one or more of those texts, even transliterating “Habiru” to “Hebrew”.

        • Or perhaps the “Habiru,” whom the city rulers in Canaan reported attacking them (See the Armana letters), were actually the Hebrews. It was happening at the right time. The descriptions of their incursions are similar to the attacks in the book of Joshua.

          Greg. If there was a large population of Israelis in Egypt for 400 years, there should be evidence but there is not.

          But in fact there is, and it is at the very place where the Bible would lead us to look, in Goshen in lower Egypt and at the city of Avaris. Archaeologists are finding extensive ruins of houses that were uncharacteristic of Egyptian architecture. See https://www.archaeology.org/issues/309-1809/features/6855-egypt-hyksos-foreign-dynasty

          There is more to what researchers are finding at Avaris. But you can search if you’re interested.
          The problem, of course, is that this was the location of the Hyksos people and kingdom during the same years as the Bible would lead us to believe the Hebrews lived there. But that should be no surprise. Both the Hebrews and the Hyksos were Western Semitic people. They were both Asiatics. Both were keepers of herds.

          One of the intriguing puzzles regarding the Hyksos is they appear in Egypt out of nowhere, but with technologies that surpassed those of Egypt, and they disappear back into the Levant without a trace. All of this happened in the time frame of the Hebrews coming to Egypt as a small family and leaving Egypt as a large population – as the Hyksos did by the way. The years would be from about 1899 B.C. to 1550 B.C.

          Josephus identified the Hebrews with the Hyksos. That is probably mistaken, but it would be an easy mistake. It would have been difficult to distinguish them apart.

          Greg. They took their laws and history from the cultures around them and made up their own version.

          That is way too sketchy an answer. You need to explain how the Canaanites and Hebrews end up being so dissimilar rather than similar. It is probably true that the Canaanites and Hebrews shared a Western Semitic and Mesopotamian heritage several hundred years before Abraham. But the Canaanites were occupants in the land of Canaan long before the period of the Hebrew patriarchs. The Ebla tablets describe commerce between Ebla and Canaan in the late 3rd millennium. That date is earlier by centuries than the date for the migration of Abraham to Canaan.

          However, in the biblical narrative Abraham and his son and grandson lived among the Canaanites for hundred or more years as a rather small band of people. If they picked up some of the Canaanite culture, it would not be surprising, just as it would not be surprising that they blended in with the Hyksos after coming to Egypt. The Hysos and Hebrews were of a similar culture and ethnic origin.

          Greg. Did the Israelis slaughter the Canaanites because of their culture, then take up their culture?

          That is a hard sell. First, the Israelites did not completely eliminate the Canaanites. The two peoples lived alongside each other for centuries. Second, the religion of the Canaanites was not monotheistic. Though for centuries the Israelites were tempted to adopt Canaanite gods, the the prophets continually spoke against that synchronism as well as the merging of the two cultures. There seems to have been a tension there that would not have allowed what you suggest even if the Canaanites had been eliminated.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for the link to the article on the Hyksos. Even if the Hyksos were from the Levant, they came in large numbers with advanced technology then collapsed, which couldn’t be more different than the story of the Israelis in the Old Testament, which means the Old Testament is fiction either way we look at it.

          You need to explain how the Canaanites and Hebrews end up being so dissimilar rather than similar.

          But they were not dissimilar when they should have been most dissimilar. The time period when the Israelis came from Egypt and moved into Canaan, there should be a time of distinct cultures. There is no sign of a disruption of culture then.

          That is a hard sell. First, the Israelites did not completely eliminate the Canaanites.

          It’s like the OT authors were using similar sources that Manetho used in the 3rd century BC about Theban pharaoh Ahmose crushing the Hyksos but put it in Canaan instead of Egypt, perhaps even transliterating “Ahmose” to “Moses”.

          Even the scenarios you present mean that those OT stories are fiction.

        • MR

          Not to mention that they Hyksos were rulers, not slaves. He’s just grasping at straws…, or straw men. Whatever it takes to cling to belief.

        • I do not think the Hyksos were the Hebrews. But the Hyksos were similar enough to have allowed the Hebrews to blend in, especially as they were similar in ethnicity and culture, both peoples being shepherds, at least so we assume based on the pictures of them on the walls of temples and palaces. They also dominated lower Egypt and disrupted the native Egyptian hold on that area.
          When the Hyksos were forced out in about 1550 B.C. they left a body of Asiatics who remained in Egypt. Those Asiatics were subjected to slavery because of the fear that they would be an encouragement for the return of then Hyksos or a non-Egyptian and non-loyal group who would be a threat to the Egyptians. Texts and murals in Egypt attest to that growing xenophobia.
          That shift in Egyptian political culture is what is described in Exodus 1.

          Greg. The time period when the Israelis came from Egypt and moved into Canaan, there should be a time of distinct cultures. There is no sign of a disruption of culture then.

          Why? When the Hyksos left Egypt they largely dispersed in the Levant. Their culture as it merged with Canaanite culture should have caused a disruption, but it did not. The reason might have been that there was not much difference. The Canaanites were Western Semitic people as were the Hyksos. The new technology the Hyksos brought with them to Egypt had in the several hundred years between the Hyksos migration to Egypt and their expulsion begun to be adopted region-wide. The pottery, which is usually an indicator of culture, was already beginning to evolve due to imports from the Mediterranean area. (We see that in the pottery unearthed at Jericho.)
          Shorty after the expulsion of the Hyksos, Egypt began to extend her influence and military presence in the Levant as a buffer of protection from further invasion from the north; the Armana letters document that. Things were radically changing, and there was a mixture of cultural influences. Like a pot that is stirred, differences were hard to distinguish. The Hebrews would not have added anything to that cultural change that had not been added before they came into Canaan.
          But in fact there was one change in culture that does mark the arrival of the Hebrews on scene in Canaan. Dr. William Dever says in a NOVA article: “We know today, from archeological investigation, that there were more than 300 early villages of the 13th and 12th century in the area. I call these “proto-Israelite” villages.” These villages were not built on top of existing settlements, as most of the cities in Canaan were. They were new. They were in the time frame of the biblical narrative. They indicate that these people were not city dwellers but rather pasturalists.
          To be fair to Dever, he speculates that these represent a group of disaffected Canaanites who separated themselves from their city dwelling brothers and established a new culture and a new religion. There is little real evidence for that, however. By 1206 B.C. the Egyptian Merneptah stone records a group of associated but dispersed people called Israel in Canaan. That fits the archaeological finds of small villages.
          The exodus itself is described in grandiose terms. What probably happened in my mind is an exodus that was more spread out over time ranging from about the time of the Hyksos expulsion in 1550 B.C. to the middle of the 13th century B.C. The Tempest Stele for example describes one of the plagues mention in the biblical narrative and is dated to just after or just before the Hyksos expulsion. See http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/linguistics/science-tempest-stela-ahmose-worlds-oldest-weather-report-01826.html
          The story of the exodus is compressed by the later biblical historians into one moment in history. I think that the evidence from texts and archaeology so far is that it was series of exoduses and a more gradual settlement in Canaan than our typical assumption is.
          My more detailed analysis is here on my blog of several years ago: https://biblicalmusing.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-people-in-search-for-history-pt-5.html

        • the religion of the Canaanites was not monotheistic.

          Ditto the Israelites’ religion.

        • What evidence do you have for that conclusion? The best you have is lack of evidence for a quite personal encounter with God for which we would expect no concrete evidence.

          But wait! Every event that is an actual event is a cause for which there are effects of some kind. In the case of Abraham’s encounters with God the effects were a nation of people, the Israelites, who have persisted as a people throughout 3500+ years of history. We know them today as the Jews.

          In the case of Moses’ encounters with God the effect was a nation with laws, traditions, religion, territory, government, and leaders, a nation that was very real and is verified by texts and archaeology.

          So explain the nation of Israel and her history without Moses and Abraham. Explain the laws of the Old Testament without Moses. Explain the Passover and the temple and the other holy days without Moses. Explain the Old Testament history without Abraham and Moses. Explain the persistence of the Jews throughout history as a distinct people despite multiple attempts to eliminate them without the promises God gave to Abraham and Moses in those encounters.

          I know that modern scholars have come up with hypotheses for some of these things, but the hypotheses have no concrete evidence to support them. The better and most parsimonious explanation is that the history contained in the Old Testament including the encounters with God and his promises are largely historical.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Next time you see the person who taught your dumb ass to use a computer please punch them in the face for me. No one should subject us reasonable people to your idiotic drivel.

        • Lark62

          I’ve had more meaningful conversations with a dining room chair than I ever had during “prayer” with an all powerful deity.

          The chair at least exists.

    • Lark62

      Jesus supposedly gave the Lords Prayer for people to recite by rote immediately after ordering his disciples not to recite prayers by rote. Not very bright, this Jesus.

    • Michael Neville

      So why prayer? Because God wants to have a conversation with us.

      A conversation consists of two or more people talking to each other. Prayer is one or more people talking to God and getting no response. None. Nada. Zip point zero. That’s not a conversation, that’s someone or someones imploring a haughty superior who doesn’t deign to reply. What’s more, theists realize that’s how it works since they interpret their gods’ responses as “yes, no, not yet” based on what happens after they pray.

      • Otto

        …since they interpret their gods’ responses as “yes, no, not yet” based on what happens after they pray.

        My Magic 8 Ball was more reliable…and eloquent.

      • How do you know we get no response? Talk to seasoned prayers and they will tell you otherwise.

        Theists who are seasoned prayers do not often report that God leaves them with a
        yes, no, not yet. Their experience is that God begins to shape their praying as they listen to him. He shapes their prayers into what he desires in the particular situation. So these prayers usually find themselves praying differently at the end of the conversation than they did at the beginning. Praying in concert with others is also like a conversation. In that case the people praying often come away with the same sense of direction God has given others in the group.

        Now, I have to be honest. Not all Christians pray like this. They pray what I call “I hope so prayers.” They do not wait to listen; they simply present their requests (or praise) and go on with life thinking they’ve prayed, and that is all they need to do. So to them, your characterization of prayer answers is apt. But you need to read more deeply about those who pray differently. I suggest a couple of books: Praying Hyde by A.W. Tozer and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Theists who are seasoned prayers do not often report that God leaves them with a
          yes, no, not yet. Their experience is that God begins to shape their praying as they listen to him.

          So ‘seasoned’ pray-ers are demanding that their ‘god’ roofie them into compliance despite their own wills?

          That’s pathological and twisted.

        • Seasoned pray-ers understand that their will is not always the best thing. Remember the idea of prayer – at least for the request kind of praying – is to join with God in his wise purposes and to go out from that time of conversation renewed in purpose to accomplish God’s purpose in the situation as far as it lies within us to do. Our desire may be for healing, but as Paul discovered God had a better idea, a way that Paul could better accomplish God’s purpose, though Paul would do it through suffering whatever limitation the “thorn in the flesh” represented. And Paul was satisfied with that. I was not an answer that was contrary to his will.

        • nydiva

          Our desire may be for healing, but as Paul discovered God had a better idea, a way that Paul could better accomplish God’s purpose, though Paul would do it through suffering whatever limitation the “thorn in the flesh” represented.

          Years ago, I was watching a movie about the founder of the Anabaptists. Can’t remember if I was still a believer at the time, but the thing that stuck me was this: Between scenes where Roman Catholic priests were brutally torturing the founder, his wife was begging god for help. She was pleading for her husband’s deliverance. It was dramatic. I remembering thinking how I would have helped the man if I could, so what was god’s reason for radio silence. Soon an awful thought filled my head; neither god doesn’t exist or it ain’t good. No amount of special pleading like Don Camp’s post above could erase those thoughts from my mind.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Seasoned pray-ers understand that their will is not always the best thing.

          Again, that’s NOT what your ‘bible’ says…making you an 69apostate and a false prophet again.

          How does it feel to be overriding your supposed ‘god(s)’ statements merely for your own emotional comfort?

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Well sure, you could believe all that supernatural nonsense,…

          OR…

          …you could stand solidly on the ground on your own two feet with your head squarely between your shoulders and face the world as a pragmatic, rational, critical thinking and whole mature person who can accept not knowing all the secrets of the universe, but is curious and enthusiastic to examine new empirical evidence exposed every day by physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, philosophy, sociology, etc.

          Upon examining the world through this non-dogmatic lens, one can find that the solutions to many perceived problems can be found through knowledge and hard work in this actual life, rather than fervently praying for solutions to numerous deities or hoping for salvation in some imagined blissful paradise where all things will allegedly be revealed.

        • MR

          This. It’s about becoming a mature adult who doesn’t need fairy tales to get through life.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          It’s also about owning agency in that human beings are merely another fragile mammal fighting for survival in a very inhospitable universe and that it is imperative in that as we are by far the worst polluter and most destructive of any species ever known, that we take responsibility and seek workable solutions in the here-and-now.

          Spending time and energy in worshiping supernatural entities has certainly benefited those false prophets and proselytizers who promise fairy tale dreams to their gullible followers and threaten violence upon non-compliance. Contrast this pious formula forever mired in myopic stasis, to advancements in medicine, social sciences and technology and one would usually ascertain that the latter one might have some merit over the former.

          But then someone like Don Camp comes along and spins his wondrous stories about angels and demons, gods and prophets, and miracles and prophecies, citing dubious authors long dead who are mysteriously endowed with some divine telepathy lost to the ages but forever enshrined through scripture in his sacred tome. How is any of that relevant or productive in producing 21st century solutions to 21st century problems?

          The sad fact is, we are on our own. Our lives are brief and death is permanent. If we continue to waste time counting on some ethereal fairy godmother, then we deserve our fate.

        • MR

          The sad fact is…

          Only if you find it sad. I think that’s part of the poison of religion, to make us despise the time we have here and to put our hopes in something that will never happen.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          It’s sad precisely because of what you are saying. We still have far too many human beings who turn to superstitious dogma for guidance and use their beliefs politically to hinder and/or stifle much-needed progress. When global leaders are complicit and accept the dogma over reason, the die is cast.

        • So you’re saying that there’s no point in praying. It’ll happen if God wants it to, and your praying (or not) has no effect.

        • I don’t think praying changes God’s purposes, but praying does change who might be involved in the answer. It could be me if I pray. If I do not, God will find someone who will.

          Of course, there are times when God answers without anyone being involved. But most often God chooses to use men and women, whom he created to be his agents, in accomplishing his purposes in the world.

        • And “Ask and you shall receive” is wrong. Jesus was wrong.

          At every turn, those supernatural claims are failing.

        • Take the whole body of what Jesus says about prayer. Grabbing a sound byte here and there is bound to be an incomplete picture.

        • Take the whole body of what Jesus says about prayer.

          You mean the whole contradictory body? You do realize what you’re doing, I hope: you don’t like what Jesus says here, so you want to mix it up with some more pleasing things he says there. You’re banking on the Bible’s contradictions–perhaps not a smart move.

          No, it’s not a sound bite, it’s Jesus’s message taken in its context. And now you have a new problem, explaining why the perfect word of God is contradictory. Go.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          Are you God? You seem to dictate a lot of what God does despite no God saying they do any of these things.

        • I think I said “I think.”

        • Greg G.

          I think Don means that if you pray persistently, you can change God’s mind.

        • Ah, perhaps so. But in that case, God deviating from his Perfect Plan® probably isn’t for the best.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Great, so how do we show that these seasoned pray-ers are, in fact, receiving messages from god? How do we discern between legitimate and imagined interactions? Can seasoned pray-ers don’t harness their unique contact to have prayers with testably greater impact?

        • nydiva

          But you need to read more deeply about those who pray differently.
          But you really need more special pleading to deny the reality that there’s no god who answers prayer. Hey guys, ever notice how the Bible is never enough? One has to do a lot of extra Biblical reading to be convince the stories therein are true?

        • Otto

          How do you know we get no response crystals can’t heal? Talk to seasoned prayers crystal healers and they will tell you otherwise.

          Tell me why this is any different.

          The point is this type of thinking can lead one to believe all sorts of things.

        • Greg G.

          Theists who are seasoned prayers do not often report that God leaves them with a
          yes, no, not yet.

          The “yes” happens as frequently as chance would allow for the prayer to happen without prayer and how close the pray-er is will to accept as an answered prayer. The “not yet” is indistinguishable from a “no”. The seasoned pray-ers are very good at remembering the yeses and near yeses and forgetting most of the noes. That is called “confirmation bias”. It’s why many religions believe prayer is effective. Even pigeons are susceptible to it as Polytropos mentioned about the Skinner box.

        • Pofarmer

          If anyone plays on line video games you can quickly get a sense of confirmation bias. You will almost always overestimate your kills and underestimate your deaths. Often, I’m off by a factor of 3 or more if I try to guess. And that was something that just had seconds ago that I was actively involved in. LOL.

        • And we’re still back at: the claims Jesus made for prayer are wrong.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Hmmmm, I guess I have to repeat myself.

          I’ll take “No True Scotsman fallacies” for $600, Alex.

          Also, why does a god so desperate for a relationship with us only respond if we pray the right way? Is god not capable of replying to unseasoned pray-ers and teaching them how to pray properly?

        • Doubting Thomas

          God helps Christians learn to pray like he helps starving kids not starve. All the responsibility is on people to do something and god is given a free pass. In Don’s case, it only took him 25 years to figure out how to pray. If only the starving kids had 25 years to figure out how to feed themselves….

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        ‘My Canadian Girlfriend’ by Mant’i T’eo 😉

    • Greg G.

      So why prayer? Because God wants to have a conversation with us.

      RichardSRussell posted “Really, when you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers: Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!”—Rabbi Gellman

      Then the person who prayed goes away thinking feeling God’s response was “I’m so proud of you that you believe in me.”

      • It is not at all about God being “proud” that we believe in him. It is about joining with God in his purposes in the world.

        Way back in the earliest story of man and God in Genesis 2, we are told that God gave mankind a mission to be his partners in bringing order to the world. We do that through both prayer (conversation) and action. Many times when we pray we recognize that God is calling us to have an active part in the answer. For example, if I pray for relief for starving children in Africa, I am almost always moved to give to that effort. So to the Rabbi’s list of prayers, I would add “Yes: as I agree with God and act.

        • Greg G.

          Way back in the earliest story of man and God in Genesis 2, we are told that God gave mankind a mission to be his partners in bringing order to the world.

          Who put the disorder in the world?

          For example, if I pray for relief for starving children in Africa, I am almost always moved to give to that effort.

          The giving to help is very commendable. Do children die of starvation while you are praying or does it commence again when you finish?

          Edit: Hit “Post” instead of “blockquote”.

        • The world was not yet completely ordered when God gave mankind that mission in Genesis 1:

          28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

          That would be possible if we looked to God for the wisdom we need to subdue the earth and rule over the animals. But we did not and do not do that. We chose and we choose rather the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is to say, trial and error mixed in with our varied and conflicting personal desires for personal gain.

          If there is any fundamental error in how we today deal with the challenges of global warming and the conflicts with personal interests of energy companies and individuals who choose not to give up their luxury or financial power, this is it. If we looked to God for direction – which is pretty plain in the “love your neighbor as yourself command – we would not have this problem. And this problem is huge. It may well spell mass extinctions that will radically affect mankind.

          But instead we continue to look to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as our way through this mess. Good luck.

        • nydiva

          If we looked to God for direction – which is pretty plain in the “love your neighbor as yourself command – we would not have this problem.

          No it is not pretty plain. Christian history is replete with Christians disagreeing about the nature of god much less on its teachings (directions) on any number of issues. If there is any fundamental error, it’s folks like you who quote the Bible as evidence that it is true. Human are imperfect, but attempting to follow the will of their imaginary friends (various gods) has caused more problems than it solved over the centuries.

        • Greg G.

          So God wanted the world subdued but couldn’t do it himself. Come on, Don, you are reading a fairy tale.

          God told two people who did not have knowledge of good and evil to not eat the fruit of a particular tree. Since they didn’t know the difference between good and evil, they could not know that obeying God was good and disobeying God was evil. Yet God made subduing the earth harder and multiplying painful. It is obviously fiction but not good fiction.

        • Yeah, that part is always conveniently forgotten. They didn’t know what “wrong” is yet they’re blamed along with their descendants? Come on. I have never received any answer that’s remotely plausible to this.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Yes, it’s like putting a toddler in a room full of forks and electric outlets and blaming the kid when one inevitably gets jammed into the other. Except god didn’t just have a reasonable expectation of the consequences, he knew what would happen.

        • It always struck me that way too.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Sounds like what a ruler/priest would command if he wanted a mandate to commit war & 69genocide, if I’m being honest about it.

        • the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

          Hmm–the serpent as Prometheus. It’s almost like he’s the actual hero in the story.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          The world was not yet completely ordered when God gave mankind that mission in Genesis 1

          So god didn’t know how people would behave when he created them?

        • Yes and no. Typically theologians declare God is omniscient and knows everything past and future, both actual and potential. But some, C.S. Lewis for example, think that God knows only what actually happens and not until it happens.

          “If God then is omniscient, he must have known what Abraham would do [Genesis 22],without any experiment. Why then this needless torture?” But as St.
          Augustine points out, whatever God knew, Abraham at any rate did not
          know that his obedience would endure such a command until the event
          taught him: and the obedience which he did not know that he would
          choose, he cannot be said to have chosen. The reality of Abraham’s
          obedience was the act itself; and what God knew in knowing that Abraham
          “would obey” was Abraham’s actual obedience on that mountain top a that
          moment. To say that God “need not have tried the experiment” is to say
          that because God knows, the thing known by God need not to exist. (The Problem of Pain, 101)

          However, since God is omnipresent, he knows the future by experience. He is there when it happens, though he doesn’t know what will actually happen until it happens. That allows free will. In the above event from Genesis 22 Abraham’s future had been known by God from our perspective because he was already there, but Abraham had not yet caught up with his future. When he did and when he chose to obey God what was potential became actual. That is what God knew.

          That mean God knew before it happened that man potentially might resist him and rebel. But at the same time he knew that man potentially might obey him and go on to develop as a race to live in harmony with him. But he did not know what man chose until it happened.

          God does know what will happen ahead of us, however. We travel along through time in a single direction toward the future. We might guess about the future, but we cannot know it. God is in the future already, so he knows our future, but without determining it. He can tell us in our present what will happen. That is why we call God’s knowledge omniscience. And it is, from our point of view.

          If God knows in advance of the event what will happen, that would make his knowledge determinative. There would be no actual free will. It would also make God responsible for all the evil that has happened. Both of those things are declared in the Bible to be not true. So omniscience cannot be as absolute as the usual definition has us believe.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          But some, C.S. Lewis for example, think that God knows only what actually happens and not until it happens.

          God is in the future already, so he knows our future

          Can you please square these in clear, unambiguous language?

        • We travel through time on a one direction line from past to present to the future. God is not bound by time. He IS present in our past, our present and our future. Since he is present in our future he already knows what we will choose because he has experienced our future choosing, as he did when Abraham actually chose to obey God. (See Genesis 22)

          He therefore knows what we have chosen at that future date. He knows it because he is there when our potential choice become actual.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          This doesn’t reconcile them, it only expands on the latter quote. How can this be true and god have the limitation referred to by CS Lewis?

        • Explain the limitation as you understand it.

          This part of the quote seems to explain it to me: “The reality of Abraham’s
          obedience was the act itself; and what God knew in knowing that Abraham
          “would obey” was Abraham’s actual obedience on that mountain top a that
          moment.”

          What he means is that God does know know what will really happen until it happens. Sometimes that seems like knowing in advance, but that is our perception. There is no advance for God. He is eternally present. He is present in our past, our present , and our future. He is there when we choose one thing over another tomorrow or in 2020 or in 2030.

          When our future and God’s present converge in pour present, as they did for Abraham, the potential became reality when Abraham chose to obey God. Then God can say, “Now I know.” But he knew what Abraham would do the day before because God was already present in Abraham’s future experiencing Abraham’s obedience. If we have a difficult time understanding that it is because we don’t understand God’s eternal present.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Explain the limitation as you understand it.

          The quotes speak for themselves.

          What he means is that God does know know what will really happen until it happens. Sometimes that seems like knowing in advance, but that is our perception. There is no advance for God. He is eternally present. He is present in our past, our present , and our future.

          And you make the same error here. God being “eternally present” is irreconcilable with the idea that he doesn’t know what will happen until it does, because there is no “until it happens” on god’s timeline. Everything on our timeline is in his present.

          I’m all ears if you think you have a way around this problem. Just note that nothing you’ve said so far makes any progress in that direction. To the contrary, your every word has made the issue more impenetrable.

        • L think the issue is whether there is a real existing past and a rel existing future. Current work in physics tells us that there is and that it might even be possible for us to travel through time. Google “is time travel possible.” If there is a real existing past and a real existing future, God, who is nit bound by time or physics, can be in all three at the same moment.

          IRespective of this q

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I agree this is interesting, but it’s all a red herring. God existing in all locations on our timeline is irreconcilable with him finding things out at the same time we do.

        • epeeist

          Current work in physics tells us that there is and that it might even be possible for us to travel through time.

          Citation required

        • epeeist

          You seemed to have missed out the bit in which Kip Thorne shows that a wormhole that would allow time travel would collapse as soon as it has formed.

          In any case it looks as though one needs huge amounts of negative energy in order to produce a wormhole in the first place and that the ability to produce a macroscopic wormhole is extremely improbable

        • nydiva

          I think the issue is whether there is a real existing past and a real existing future. Current work in physics tells us that there is and that it might even be possible for us to travel through time. Google “is time travel possible.” If there is a real existing past and a real existing future, God, who is not bound by time or physics, can be in all three at the same moment.

          If, If, If… Everything you wrote is rank speculation and special pleading. This is a great example of religious faith, making it up as you are confronted with the irrationality of your beliefs

        • Of course, it is speculation. There is nothing wrong with that if there is data to suggest that it might be true – time travel for example – or if it is consistent with the biblical information – if it is theology.

        • nydiva

          Definition of Speculation: Reasoning based on inconclusive evidence; conjecture or supposition. n. A conclusion, opinion, or theory reached by conjecture. (source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.)

          You are attempting to justify your theology (biblical mythology by its very nature is conjecture and presupposition) with science to give it validity. Nothing you said about the nature of your imaginary friend is even remotely demonstrable. You have a conflict reconciling an omniscient god with free will and so you special plead the problem away. Or so you think you are.

        • Just as physics, when it comes to the unknown such as worm holes and time travel, is conjecture, so theology, when it goes beyond the clear statements of scripture is conjecture. That does not mean there is anything wrong with conjecture as long as we recognize it as conjecture. New information may change our conjectures, but meanwhile they are the best guess we can make based on what we know.

        • nydiva

          Just as physics, when it comes to the unknown such as worm holes and time travel, is conjecture, so theology, when it goes beyond the clear statements of scripture is conjecture. That does not mean there is anything wrong with conjecture as long as we recognize it as conjecture. New information may change our conjectures, but meanwhile they are the best guess we can make based on what we know.

          There is no comparison between scientific investigation and divine revelations and you know it.

          A quick paraphrase from Wiki sources: “The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge characterized by five basic steps: observation and hypothesis, prediction and modeling, testing and error estimation, result gathering and presentation, conclusions, law formation plus one feedback step.” Create a new hypotheses or predictions if the first one fails.

          Not so with theology which rests on mainly on “scripture.” Divine revelation definition: communication of knowledge to man by a divine or supernatural agency.

          So far, the supernatural has yet to be demonstrated. So you can’t equate your religious conjecture about the nature of your unevidenced god with scientific theories.

        • NY There is no comparison between scientific investigation and divine revelations

          That is true. Divine revelation is absolute. Scientific investigation is tentative.

        • nydiva

          That is true. Divine revelation is absolute. Scientific investigation is tentative.
          Yes, divine revelations (take your pick: the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, The Vedas, The Book of the Dead, etc.) are absolute nonsense based on faith. Scientific investigation is built on empirical evidence and is provisional (rather than tentative) as more information is gathered that confirms or refutes a theory (e.g., the theory of evolution has come a long way since Darwin who didn’t have access to DNA information).

        • Cool! I sense a scientific experiment coming on.

          Give us an example of divine revelation that’s absolute. Explain what “absolute” means in this context. And only give us claims that you can back up with compelling evidence.

        • God is not bound by time. He IS present in our past, our present and our future.

          Now you’re just making shit up. Or can you point to a Bible verse to support God as a Time Lord?

        • he doesn’t know what will actually happen until it happens. That allows free will.

          Where in the Bible does it say that? Or are you just making up your own dogma?

        • if I pray for relief for starving children in Africa, I am almost always moved to give to that effort.

          Why? Sure, you could send them $100, but you just nudged God to help. What’s the point of your donation compared to what God could do??

          Julia Sweeney made this point but with the opposite conclusion: she’d already done a great thing–pray to God–and this diffused any additional desire to do anything tangible.

        • God is helping as I and others give and still others deliver that help. If everyone responded that way, there would be no starving children. I cannot speak to how Julia Sweeney prayed or responded to any nudging of God.

        • So then everything has a natural explanation. Faced with totally naturalistic forces, you’ve created a naturalistic worldview–people are moved, they give money, needy people get help.

          What’s the point in God? I suggest you just drop that hypothesis.

        • I think I also said that God does answer prayer apart from us when we cannot accomplish that particular end.

        • So it’s your hope that God answers prayer. Give me a reason to think that that actually happens.

        • Well, as for me, the reason I think so is that God promised to do so. But the proof is in the actual answers. And there have been plenty over my life. Perhaps the most important answer was when I asked that he would tech me to pray. And he did.

          Bob, you and Greg seem somewhat puzzled about prayer. Sometimes it sounds like you think God is our sugar daddy and will give us what ever we ask. At other times it sounds like you think God is unimportant. The truth is he is neither.

          To understand prayer there are several fundamental truths you need to understand. First, God made mankind in his image to have governance in the world as his agents. We are the only creatures even remotely capable of that. We have the ability to make the world a wonderful well-functioning home. We also have the ability to destroy the world.

          Second, we are created with freewill. The two trees in the garden of Eden represent that freedom to choose. We could choose to look to God as the source of wisdom and truth and to wait upon him for direction. Or we could choose to go it on our own, rejecting God’s wisdom and truth. The latter is what we chose and continue to choose.

          In that choice we choose to make ourselves the arbitrators of what is good and right; we end up serving all too often our own appetites physically, emotionally, and psychologically rather than loving our neighbors as ourselves. The consequence is that we are destroying the world in almost every way possible. We allow people to suffer when we could do something about it. We build weapons rather than seek reconciliation. We argue our ideas against others rather than seeking God’s wisdom.

          So prayer is seeking God’s wisdom and direction and provision, but not for ourselves, rather in fulfilling our mandate as his agents. When we pray for something that is purely for our benefit, that is missing the point of prayer. We should not expect an answer. When we ask for God’s intervention to accomplish his purpose, it is likely that God will call those who are his agents to answer that prayer. When the prayer requires more than we can do, we can expect that God will intervene himself.

        • Sometimes it sounds like you think God is our sugar daddy and will give us what ever we ask.

          In the first place, I realize (as you kinda do, too) that God doesn’t answer prayers.

          In the second place, Jesus says that he will. So the Bible is wrong about a fundamental aspect of Christianity.

          Second, we are created with freewill. The two trees in the garden of Eden represent that freedom to choose. We could choose to look to God as the source of wisdom and truth and to wait upon him for direction. Or we could choose to go it on our own, rejecting God’s wisdom and truth. The latter is what we chose and continue to choose.

          God punished Adam and Eve for making a moral error when they hadn’t yet eaten the fruit of the tree that gives them moral knowledge. You need to rethink that story.

          In that choice we choose to make ourselves the arbitrators of what is good and right

          No one else is going to do it.

          And when you look around at the social improvements made—vaccines, improved food yields, technology that makes life more comfortable, and on and on—it’s always people behind it. Don’t whine about all that God has done for us when he’s done nothing.

          The consequence is that we are destroying the world in almost every way possible.

          If you’re talking about the US, the core of the problem is conservative Christians. I like your attitude, but I already get it. It’s the Christians who are the problem.

          So prayer is seeking God’s wisdom and direction and provision, but not for ourselves, rather in fulfilling our mandate as his agents.

          There’s an enormous gulf between what Jesus says prayer does and how you say it works. Yes, your approach is more realistic, but that doesn’t change what Jesus said about prayer.

          When we pray for something that is purely for our benefit, that is missing the point of prayer.

          I think you need to get right with Jesus. “Ask and you shall receive.”

        • Bob And when you look around

          And when I do I also see wars, neglect of the poor in favor of the rich, and the misuse of technology to harm people (sometimes unintentionally). I see runaway pollution of the oceans, over fertilization of farm lands, and excessive CO2 due to our industrialized culture and the deforestation of Africa, South America and North America. I see the threat of new strains of bacteria immune to our antibiotics and over population that makes the spread of disease more likely. But primarily I see people looking out for themselves and their good rather than the good of others.

          This is happening in India, where there are few Christians, just as much as in the United States. In fact India is producing more pollution than the United States and has less concern for it. They have more poor and more population crowding. I know. I lived in India.

          China is little better. And there are few Christians who have any influence on the direction of the country.

          It is a human problem. Not first of all a political problem.

          Prayer is the alignment of ourselves with God and his purposes. As we are aligned we may ask and receive. But we also are changed ourselves. And when it comes right down to it, it is we who need changing most.

        • Yes, I agree that humanity does some sucky things. And yet every improvement in society comes from humans, so I guess we’re our best bet. God has done nothing.

          Prayer is the alignment of ourselves with God and his purposes.

          If God doesn’t exist (and there’s no good reason to think that any supernatural exists), then let’s drop that useless avenue and focus on where we can actually do some good. Is my $100 best given to a televangelist? Or to an organization like CARE or OxFam or the American Cancer Society?

          As we are aligned we may ask and receive. But we also are changed ourselves.

          Yes, this is the best spin Christians can put on prayer. Nevertheless, that’s not what Jesus promised. Your savior made a mistake—don’t run away from that fact. Deal with it. Your supernatural claims are flawed.

          I like your concern for others and for the planet, but appealing to God obviously does nothing.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          In that choice we choose to make ourselves the arbitrators of what is good and right

          What is the alternative? Even if there’s a god, we must conclude that it is actually good, right? How does this happen without us making the determination?

        • Edited out

        • Greg G.

          If everyone responded that way, there would be no starving children.

          Wouldn’t that make the Bible wrong? The first three are Jesus quotes. I wonder why Luke omitted that line?

          Mark 14:7 (NRSV)7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.

          Matthew 26:11 (NRSV)11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

          John 12:8 (NRSV)8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

          Deuteronomy 15:11 (NRSV)11 Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

        • Jesus knew that only a few would follow God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. The result in this case and many others is that the design God has for the world is not yet being done.

          In this in between period – between the creation and the new creation – God allows us to follow our own inclinations and the rule of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One of the results is that we can see in technicolor the results of our disobedience of God. That should cause us to turn to God when we see the dysfunction of our own self-centered way. But the rule of self is strong, and few are willing to turn away form that.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus knew that only a few would follow God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. The result in this case and many others is that the design God has for the world is not yet being done.

          Instead of God making just enough poor people that would be supported, he made excess. It’s like he intended for them to suffer unnecessarily. Maybe it’s the “Go forth and multiply” directive without the “don’t go overboard” version of it.

          Maybe the author of Mark just stuck an allusion to Deuteronomy in Jesus’ mouth. It is typical of Mark to season his Odyssey parallels with OT verses. Odysseus returns home incognito. The woman who washes his feet was his nanny and she recognizes him by a scar on his leg.

          In Mark 14:3-9, the woman recognizes Jesus and washes his feet. Jesus states that the woman would be spoken of in memory of her, which means she will be famous, which coincides with the name of Odysseus’ nanny, Eurycleia, which means “broad fame”.

        • God doesn’t make poor people. Where do you get that? We make poor people. Maybe it jus feel good to pass the buck to the bad-ol’-God.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          God created people knowing not all would obey his command, so how is god not responsible the inevitable consequences?

        • Because he’s Quantum God! He both knew and didn’t knew the consequences (depending on which is needed to get him out of a fix).

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          He’s a slippery one, that god.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Prayer is not primarily asking.

      That is the sort of dumb and contradictory things believers have to say when their religion conflicts with reality. Your Bible disagrees with you.

      Ask and you will receive (John).

      Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew).

      Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark).

      He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do (John).

      • Greg G.

        James 4:2-3 (NIV)You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

        A prayer explanation with a built-in excuse for its failure.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Yup. It’s an escape hatch for reality not matching religion.

          If you want to know if the Book of Mormon is true, you have to read it with an open mind and you’ll receive a burning in your bosom. No burning does not equal not true. It equals no open mind.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          ‘a burning in the bosom’

          if I feel that, I’m heading to Emergency Care for a possible heart 69attack.

        • Greg G.

          Or for the antacids.

      • Take the whole body of promises and conditions, but the one from Matthew will do for now. It implies persistence, which is implied in other places as well, in praying. Persistence allows for a conversation. Most mature Christians experienced in prayer recognize both the promises and the conditions.

        Among those conditions are praying inn Jesus’s name. That is much more than a tag at the end of prayer – as it often seems – but a asking for what Jesus would desire in the authority he has given us.

        Another is praying “Thy will be done.” That is a recognition that it is God’s will we are praying for, not ours.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Take the whole body of promises and conditions, but the one from Matthew will do for now. It implies persistence

          How? Be specific, and show your work.

          “It’s *obvious*” and “it’s what I *feel*” are invalid answers.

        • nydiva

          Most mature Christians experienced in prayer recognize both the promises and the conditions… Another is praying “Thy will be done.” That is a recognition that it is God’s will we are praying for, not ours.

          Too bad those 200 Tutsi families who were slaughtered in a Roman Catholic Church during the Rwanda genocide didn’t know this. According to Delusional Don’s theology, it was his imaginary friend’s will that the Hutu priest of that parish help the Hutu army murder these men, women, children and infants. How dare these Christians pray for help in a desperate time of need. They obviously didn’t realize it was god’s will they should be praying for, not for rescue from their enemies.

        • gemini bowie

          Shouting at the sky is not a “conversation.”

        • Of course not.

        • gemini bowie

          Then don’t claim that it is.

        • Lark62

          Nonsense. “mature Christians experienced in prayer” are simply those who have realized that all prayer will be met by silence, so they’ve learned to keep prayers vague and nonspecific so they can claim success as they handwave away clear and specific biblical promises

        • Have you been a seasoned prayer? If not, then you are speaking about something you know nothing about. Red the books I’ve referenced. They are the experiences of seasoned prayers.

        • Lark62

          I was a christian for decades. Prayed daily, read some of the books you recommended. Sincerely believed.

          All the sincere belief in the world cannot turn make believe into reality.

        • I was a Christian for 25 years before I discovered prayer. I do not mean that I did not pray. I did. But I prayed like many others do: I asked and left it at that. There were moments when I felt the presence of God, but they were rare. It was a one way conversation that was less than satisfying.

          Then I became aware of others who found prayer to be a real encounter with God. I wanted that. So I set apart a day to pray and seek some direction. That direction led me to read about prayer in books written by men and women who were encountering God and were seeing pretty amazing answers to their prayers. So I followed their advice and example and began to pray. I’ve mention two such men, John Hyde and Andrew Murray.

          When I went to seminary a few years later and in the second year took a class on prayer. It was a disappointment. I discovered that the professor had not really found prayer to be much more than a praise and ask experience. He had not really encountered God. So I am not surprised at your experience. But there is more to prayer than he was experiencing or than you experienced.

        • Lark62

          That is one incompetent deity you worship, if it lets sincere believers struggle for 25 years before they get the magic decoder ring.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Winner.

        • nydiva

          He had not really encountered God. So I am not surprised at your experience. But there is more to prayer than he was experiencing or than you experienced.This is the go to straw man whenever someone challenges the truth claims of Christianity. What do you know about another person’s experience? So your superior faith and experience gives you the ability to read another person’s mind especially when they disagree with your Christian experience? How convenient.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you brainwashed yourself. cool.

        • Doubting Thomas

          His power of self delusion is impressive. His inability to recognize the delusion….not so much.

        • Pofarmer

          The God Virus.

        • Jennny

          So…what? You’re negating the experience of us non-religious commenters here and our daily lived experience of not needing to believe in fairy tales from an old book.People have different experiences, and yours don’t cancel out or erase other people’s. Keep that in mind. Respectfully, me, a x-tian for 50yrs, now free of the choking restraints of my faith. That’s my experience.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Oh, you see, Don’s anecdote is *soo much more* convincing than all our *data*.

          /s

        • Phil Rimmer

          I was a Christian for 25 years before I discovered prayer.

          A truly incompetent religion.

        • Greg G.

          Or as Hamilton Burger always used to object, “It’s incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Or a slow learner.

        • Ficino

          When I went to seminary a few years later and in the second year took a class on prayer. It was a disappointment. I discovered that the professor had not really found prayer to be much more than a praise and ask experience. He had not really encountered God.

          Wow, you are a real adept, more spiritually advanced than your seminary prof and well equipped to judge whether the prof had really encountered God, as you think you have done.

          Lots of stuff bouncin’ round in yer head.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I was a Christian for 25 years before I discovered prayer.

          Soooo, did you just have 69shitty teacher / role models, or were you just a little 69shit who refused to do what your religion prescribed?

          My bet is you had a severe emotional distress and took refuge in supernatural fantasy, and would enjoy examining your life history to demonstrate just that.

        • I was a Christian for 25 years before I discovered prayer.

          Did you discover that it works the way Jesus promised it does? If not, then Jesus has some ‘splainin’ to do.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’ll take “No True Scotsman fallacy” for $500, Alex.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Quite a few people here HAVE been ‘seasoned’ pray-ers.

          Their prayers went completely unanswered to any rational viewer, which is how they realized it’s all hooey and abandoned religion.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Nothing you said refuted my point. You just rambled on like someone better suited for a straight jacket than a blog discussion.

        • Pofarmer

          As Sam Harris says, Don is “Playing Tennis without the net.” He’s just going to make up whatever he needs to not challenge his belief system.

        • Ficino

          Most mature Christians experienced in prayer recognize both the promises and the conditions.

          The “mature” Christians have learned to reinterpret, for they’ve learned that NT promises aren’t fulfilled. That’s a scorpion on my child’s plate, but as a mature Christian I’ve learned to call it a fish and feel good about that.

        • Another is praying “Thy will be done.”

          And if that were consistently Jesus’s message about how prayer should work, you’d be good. Unfortunately, it’s not.

        • Greg G.

          Persistence allows for a conversation.

          But look what Jesus says immediately before teaching the Lord’s prayer:

          Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

          h/t Lark62 (IIRC)

        • Babbling like the pagans is not the same as serious persistence. Notice that Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh three times before God answered by saying that his strength would be most evident in Paul’s weakness. Babbling is rote repetition with the idea that the repetition itself will get God’s attention. Persistence is serious asking in the face of silence, asking until there is a reply.

        • Greg G.

          Notice that Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh three times before God answered by saying that his strength would be most evident in Paul’s weakness.

          So God didn’t remove the thorn. Paul gave up and said “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

          Babbling is rote repetition with the idea that the repetition itself will get God’s attention. Persistence is serious asking in the face of silence, asking until there is a reply.

          Repeating the Lord’s Prayer in unison is babbling rote repetition.

        • richardrichard2013
        • Greg G.

          I think Matthew probably didn’t like public prayer so he made Jesus back him up on it. Some of the responses remind me of the Sermon on the Mount scene in Life of Brian where men were reinterpreting what Jesus said the moment he said them.

        • Steven Watson

          Thats the ENTIRE NT trajectory from Paul to Revelations; one rewrite after another!

        • It could be. But it need not be. It depends on the worshiper. If the motive is to get God’s attention by repetition, reciting the Lord’s prayer is as pointless as babbling. If it recited thoughtfully, it becomes personal and purposeful.

        • Greg G.

          How many times have you had some new insight while praying the same prayer thoughtfully?

          Then there are rosary beads, a method to pray a certain number of times.

    • Ficino

      So your child prays for a fish. But God doesn’t give your child a fish. God withholds, so that in the end your child will reinterpret the biblical promises and, with hungry belly, console himself/herself with the thought that maybe the desire for food needs to be brought in line with God’s desires, whatever they may happen to be. So yes, your child is backed into receiving a stone, or maybe a scorpion, and thinking it’s all he/she deserves anyway so it must be good – hungry belly and all, Thy will being done in the hunger.

      That’s the way prayer works. Show me otherwise. Meanwhile, the biblical promise stands nullified time and time again. Your product doesn’t deliver on what it’s cracked up to be.

      ETA we ALL prayed for a young brother who had cancer. Even little kids prayed. Rod died anyway. NT promises are empty. That was the beginning of my journey out of the cult into simple, human life.

    • Matt. 6:8 is helpful; thanks for pointing that out.

      Prayer is not primarily asking.

      Well, kind of. You could argue that it’s primarily about receiving. “Ask and you shall receive,” after all.

      It changes our praying

      right. You need to change your idea of prayer from what Jesus clearly stated to something more vague, where every failure on God’s part to deliver is actually, somehow, a failure on your part.

      “Thy kingdom comes and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” That request is to be the heart of our praying.

      You do know how it looks to us outsiders when you try to trump one Bible verse with another, right? At best, your argument is that the Bible is contradictory, so other contradicting verses must be taken into account. At worst, you’re just cherry picking verses that mirror your attitude, hoping that we don’t notice.

  • eric

    Whenever prayer comes up, it brings a smile to my lips to remember that the US court system dismisses all suits based on imprecatory prayer (i.e. suits where the plaintiff claims someone harmed them by praying for bad stuff to happen to them) because it doesn’t pass the ‘reasonable person’ standard – as in, no reasonable person would think it works.

    • Mhm. Standard rules of evidence also prohibit claims based on miracles, witchcraft, psychic powers etc.

    • Pofarmer

      Have they tried it with William Barr?

    • gusbovona

      Do you have a citation for this? I did a quick online search and didn’t come up with anything.

      • Greg G.

        https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/praying-for-god-to-harm-someone-is-not-illegal/ says the judge ruled that imprecatory prayer was legal. The complaint was that the preacher was inciting the congregation to violence.

        • gusbovona

          That link doesn’t mention the “reasonable person” standard.

        • Greg G.

          It’s a different thing. The preacher wasn’t so much praying for God to do the harm. He was praying to the congregation to motivate some person to do the dirty deed. A reasonable person would think that would work. You suggest things to enough people, there is someone who will take action. It’s like the guy who shot up a pizza place because somebody said the Democrats met in the basement. The place didn’t even have a basement.

  • Jim Jones

    I asked a question. Let’s see what happens.

    If a member of a religion other than Christianity prays and their prayer is granted, who granted their prayer? Why?

    • Anonymous

      Is it Krishna?

    • Santa Claus?

      • Jim Jones

        Now I’m thinking about a hot girl Tooth Fairy Halloween costume!

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        How about Tyrion Lannister’s favored ‘god’?

        😉

        • Mutale

          thats the god i hope exists

    • Doubting Thomas

      It appears he responded to you with “What do you think? Why?”

      Not answering questions is one of the apologists’ favorite tactics. Remember, he “refuses to play by atheists’ rules.” Since he’s playing by Christian rules, expect a lot of avoidance, evasion, redirection, equivocation, and finally, banning.

      • Michael Murray

        Ah going to Hell is like blocking on Twitter by @God. No you are not going to follow @God. I guess prior to blocking @God puts you on mute. So everyone else can see you running around and praying but @God doesn’t get your posts. I’m starting to get the hang of this Twitteology.

      • Jim Jones

        I got weird Christianese bafflegab. No idea what it means.

    • epicurus

      The answer is clearly Satan.

      • Greg G.

        Say it like Church Lady.

  • Michael Neville

    …we’d refuse to play by atheists’ rules.

    But Christians insist that we play by their rules.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Authoritarians are like that…

  • Jennny

    Matt:7v9, where jesus said good fathers give their children bread, not a stone, fish and not a snake etc was one of the many dissonances I dare not confront…till I did and deconverted. How could anyone not see the complete fallacy this claim is? – along with all the others about the efficacy of prayer and further claims of its wondrous outcomes.

    • Greg G.

      Son: Dad, can you find me a rock that I can skip across the pond?
      Dad: Here’s a slice of bread.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Son: Dad, can you find me a rock that I can skip across the pond?
        Dad: Here’s a chunk of sourdough bread.

  • Lark62

    A man staying in a hotel in Jerusalem watched the same elderly man pray daily at the Wailing Wall.

    One day he met him and asked what he was praying for.

    “World Peace” was the answer.

    “How’s it going?”

    “It’s like talking to a bleepin’ wall.”

  • RichardSRussell

    Do you think that’s all there is to prayer? Has it occurred to you there might be more to it?

    “Really, when you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers: Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!”—Rabbi Gellman

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Imma stealing that 😉

      • Greg G.

        Wait a minute. I already stole it.

        • Maltnothops

          ”Oops!”

  • Pofarmer

    This basically leads to my favorite argument at Godisimaginary.com and it’s also been alluded to regarding Free Will. If God is Omnipotent and Omniscient, than God already knows exactly what will happen. Therefore prayer is useless.

  • MR

    As I’ve said a dozen times, when Christians are sick they still hedge their bets and go to the doctor. Deep down they know.

    • Michael Neville

      Unfortunately this is not entirely correct. Every so often we hear of a child dying of a treatable disease or injury because the parents prayed rather than take the kid to a doctor.

      • smrnda

        I sometimes wonder how much of that is belief in prayer, and how much of that is adults willing to sacrifice their own kids to remain members in good standing with a cult? The motivation of some people to refuse medicine seems to be just that – they know they might die, but can’t die having broken the rules.

      • Anonymous

        Funny, I never hear stories of an adult dying of a treatable disease or injury because the adult refused treatment for themselves based on “faith”.

        I wonder if that’s because adults are less newsworthy, or because adults are less willing to risk their OWN lives? To be fair, either explanation seems plausible.

        • Michael Neville

          It does happen occasionally. Jamie Coots, a snake-handling preacher, got bit by a rattlesnake and refused medical treatment

          On February 15, 2014, Jamie Coots was bitten on the right hand during a service at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name church in Middlesboro. After the bite, he dropped the snakes but then picked them up and continued the ceremony. Later, he was driven home; when paramedics arrived his relatives refused medical treatment for him, saying it was inconsistent with his religion. He died in his home.

        • (Whoops–you beat me to it.)

        • There have been adult Pentecostal snake handlers who refused treatment after being bitten and died. Getting treatment shows no faith, apparently.

          But of course it leaves the rest of us with proof that “faith” doesn’t do much to cure a snake bite.

  • gemini bowie

    The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.
    — Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    To stop an annoying conversation, I will offer advice on correcting any confirmation bias the christian (or other religious) may have – write down all of your prayers, date and time, then note when a prayer was answered, date and time. No one has ever taken me up on it.

    To really stop said conversation, “Have you prayed for world peace? How is that working out for you? Oh, god must want us to kill each other over worldly possessions. Got it.”

    Edited for inclusiveness

  • Michael Murray

    Heals the sick and he heals the lame
    Says you can do it too in Jesus’ name

    Yep. Sure Van.

    • Michael Neville

      I am Jesus’ little lamb
      Bet your fricken’ arse I am.

  • Michael Murray

    Your view of Christians here seems to be that we’re mindless and stupid.

    That seems like a really dangerous line of argument to take in a live discussion. OK in this case as Gilson has control of both sides of the argument. But really ?

    • RichardSRussell

      He left out deluded and useless.

  • The way that I’ve seen it explained is as God sees the future, he knows people will pray to him for things and thus plans accordingly beforehand. Yet of course due to his omniscience prayer is unnecessary since he would already know their needs anyway. Not to mention such foreknowledge raises further questions like how that gibes with free will etc.

    • epicurus

      Funny how God has great foreknowledge when it comes to prayer and salvation, but in Genesis He couldn’t foreknow man would need another human partner.

      • Right. He grew in the telling it seems. Much of the Bible clearly shows he was originally conceived as more of a deity like Zeus (including having a body) than the God of the philosophers. That stops few people though.

        • God’s omnipotence and omniscience are later retcons, just like much of Superman’s power set.

        • Right. The original God is portrayed as quite human.

  • eric

    Combining Don Camp’s position (below) with Gilson’s position (above) leads us into a catch-22. Prayer is supposed to be a conversation, not a request for things. But if I pray to converse, but don’t hear, then it’s natural to ask God to answer. But uh oh! Now I’m asking for something. So I’m doing it wrong.

    So I guess I’m supposed to converse with God, but not expect to hear anything back from him because that expectation is a bad/wrong use of prayer???

  • 3vil5triker .

    That’s not how prayers work though. Most prayers are not for outright miracles but for divine assistance. What this does is that it increases the pertinent stats of the recipient of the prayer so that they can better perform a specific task. Of course, this does not insulate them from failure in cases where the task at hand is beyond the capabilities of a specific person, even with the divine assistance buff. It could also be the case, as with sporting events, that the other team is also using prayer to boost themselves, thus negating that particular advantage.

    And it can always be the case that you simply rolled a one, even with the divine assistance enhancement.

    Now, when you pray for a specific outcome, it works differently. What happens is that in response to the prayer, a parallel universe is created where that particular outcome has been pre-ordained since that universe’s inception, making it a part of God’s plan from the start. So the prayer gets answered, its just that you may not get to see the results depending on which universe you’re in.

    • Michael Murray

      Ah the Quantum God. He is a superposition of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Yup. Particle, Wave, AND, complete bulllsheet.

      • Phil

        Nothing falls in to place until the collapse of the hand waving function.

    • Feed me Seymour

      Are you having some sort of competition with Deepak Chopra?

      • 3vil5triker .

        Well, for one thing, I’m speaking in coherent sentences. You could use the scenarios I laid out as the premise for a fantasy or sci-fi story. I’m also poking fun at all these elaborate explanations for how prayer works that are also unfalsifiable, rendering them useless. Funny thing is that going by their own standards, Christians cannot really refute my theories on the way prayers work. How is “all prayers are answered but sometimes the response is no” any better than “everything you pray for actually happens just not in the universe you inhabit”?

        On the other hand, Deepak Chopra just throws out science related terms and mixes them with new age mysticism and vomits out a word salad. And he uses the word “quantum” a lot.

        So that’s a no.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          In the harmonius state of pure being, your words flow in the ether of understanding founded on cycles of truth. At the level of quantum fact it is perceived that all dice rolls occur in the imagined belief of God.

          Hows that?

        • 3vil5triker .

          Oh its perfect… almost. It just need more quantum…

        • Feed me Seymour

          Sorry if I offended you, it was not my intention. It was a gentle poke at the wording of your comment. I do actually understand where you’re coming from and fully realize that you and Chopra are nothing alike. Cheers.

        • 3vil5triker .

          Eh, none taken. I also got to dump on Chopra, so that’s a plus.

  • Quinsha

    Sorry, posted in the wrong blog.

    • Greg G.

      Is your California house near the fire?

      • Quinsha

        No, we are in Sacramento. Might get some smoke, but that is all

        • Cozmo the Magician

          wish I had some smoke.. but it is still illegal here O_o

        • Karen the rock whisperer

          Um, the joke falls flat for those of us from California, even if we’re not in fire danger. So much loss! News sources are suggesting that the culprit in our big Northern California fire might again be the major Northern California power company that a) caused the last super-destructive fire in Northern California and b) ***supposedly*** shut down its power lines and definitely denied tens (hundreds?) of thousands of customers power in anticipation of an extreme wind event… except that one of their power structures might still have triggered the fire. We Northern Californians are not happy. But we’d be glad to direct you to one of our cannabis dispensaries if you’re here.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          eeek, tbh I ws not aware of the latest fuster cluck fire. I can see where my comment might have been perceived as insensitive. But I worry not, my innocent comment will likely be far surpassed by some fundie nut blaming gays, Hollywood, comic books, or even yes indeed… legalized pot.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    And oddly enough, even with all that hyped up talk about prayer, the bible ALSO says there is ONE and ONLY ONE prayer you should ever use … the so called “lord’s prayer” which basically is a ‘praise god, and pass the bread’ prayer. No asking for a cure for grandma’s kidney stones. No seeking out a parking space at Gregs Guns & Ammo. No pleading that the gays won’t be allowed in the parade with normal folk. No asking that your bigly orange bigot get another 4 yrs. Nope. That prayer has NONE of that.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    I remember as a child, I was taught to pray at bedtime. It didn’t involve kneeling (my bedroom floor was hardwood, that would have been cold in winter!) but after I was settled in bed, my mother would encourage me to pray. As I got older, the number of people I prayed for grew and grew, and my list of “Dear God, please take care of Daddy and Mama and Grandma Ida and Grandma Katie and Aunt [] and Uncle [] and (repeat for several aunts and uncles) and my teacher and [friend] and [friend] and [friend]… got really long. But in the early grades I was obsessed with the idea that if I didn’t pray for them, they might die overnight. I have no idea where that came from, but it made going to bed a difficult experience. Every. Night.

    Prayer. GAH.

    • Anonymous

      Did you, as a child, learn that old classic, “…if I should die before I wake…”? If so, that might be where little you got that idea.

      Then again, it’s not a far stretch to think that “…and who do you want God to protect?” might have lead you to immediately think “protect from WHAT?!?”

      I get it. I had a similar experience with childhood prayer, and yes, GAH.

      • Internetgrouch

        When I was small I used to pray “quiet” as in I stopped after “…if I should die before I wake…” to pray silently that Jesus would not kill me while I slept. I knew better than tell my parents what I prayed ( they asked) and they thought it was “cute.” But I really thought jesus was a monster that killed children in their beds. Christianity, so full of doom , gloom, judgement and wrath disguised as love, sometimes it is better just not to believe.

        • “Rock-a-bye baby
          On the treetop.
          When the wind blows
          The cradle will rock.
          When the bough breaks,
          The cradle will fall.
          And down will come cradle,
          Baby and all.”

          Maybe in centuries past they were more comfortable with death.

  • Doubting Thomas

    In the comments section of the original article, the author says he keeps a prayer journal of answered prayers. I wonder why he doesn’t keep a journal of the unanswered ones?

    It’s an impressive demonstration of confirmation bias at its finest. Record the hits and forget the misses.

    • Prayer is more than asking and getting. It is a conversation, and it doesn’t always go my way. The author who keeps a prayer journal is simply keeping track of the prayers that went his way. The other prayers were answered in one way or another. Maybe a no was the answer. Paul received a no. The point is that there are really no unanswered prayers.

      • Phil

        So Jesus lied when hes said ask and you shall receive.

        • The problem of taking a small quote out of context is that you miss the point. If you are referring to Matthew 7:7, the context implies that the one asking is asking for something that is good for him. That is not exactly like asking for a train for Christmas or for a new car. Do you really know

        • Phil

          How do you know all that? Sounds a bit convenient to explain the ineffectivness of prayer

        • How do I know that? I read the whole piece. Reading skills are taught in school these days, literally from 1st grade through high school. It is a central piece of the Common Core State Standards. But when I was teaching Language Arts to 9th graders, it was obvious that not everyone had acquired the skills. The consequence was that they misread and missed the point all too often. One of those skills is context. It is nearly impossible to understand the point of any piece without considering the context. And that is what you have done when you pull one little phrase out of its context. So consider the context.

          The passage is not intended to imply that prayer is ineffective. It is intended to encourage persevering prayer and to engage in the conversation with God that is at the heart of prayer. The whole teaching about prayer by Jesus and virtually every example of praying involves relating to God. It is not simply telephoning in our requests.

        • Snarky! Though the actual reason you “know” all that is because you’re cherry picking your Jesus. Man up and look at all of Jesus’s claims about prayer and find a single explanation. “Jesus’s supernatural claims are bullshit” is hard to beat.

        • Greg G.

          Seasoned pray-ers know that Jesus’ theoretical claims about prayer don’t match up with the experimental data.

        • Phil

          Ah the old deflection and insult gambit. I was simply asking how you personally know the supposed mind of your god and what it intended through it’s perfect , multiple variation, infallible texts.

        • Doubting Thomas

          If you are referring to Matthew 7:7, the context implies that the one
          asking is asking for something that is good for him. That is not exactly
          like asking for a train for Christmas or for a new car. Do you really
          know that these are really good for you? They may be what you want, but
          are they truly good?

          Parent: “Please god don’t let my child die of cancer.”
          God: “No.”
          Don: “See….God answered your prayer.”

        • Parent: “Please god don’t let my child die of cancer.”

          Well there’s your problem–you might as well have been asking for a train for Christmas.

        • Greg G.

          The problem of taking a small quote out of context is that you miss the point. If you are referring to Matthew 7:7, the context implies that the one asking is asking for something that is good for him. That is not exactly like asking for a train for Christmas or for a new car. Do you really know that these are really good for you? They may be what you want, but are they truly good?

          What could be better for you than conversing with the Lord face to face, or rather, spirit to spirit in Heaven? There should be only one prayer: “Take me to Heaven now, oh Lord!”

          Or is Heaven not as good for you as Earth? But if Earth is better, then why do Christians die?

        • Heaven is actually an intermediate destination for the children of God. The final destination is a renewed earth, the “new heavens and earth” We will enjoy God in heaven after death until we are resurrected to enjoy him and the new creation when he makes all things new.

          Of course, it would be better to be with him and the saints who have gone before in heaven. Paul actually said that this was his desire. But he follows with the willingness to remain and complete the work God had given him here. His prayer and the prayer of all the people I know old enough to be seriously contemplating their death is “May I complete in my generation your purpose for me.” We will have eternity to enjoy God’s immediate presence. We have only this life to complete his purpose here for us.

          Christians die because that is God’s appointment for all men. We are given this one life to find him and the reason for our being and to finish the work he has given us to do.

        • Heaven is actually an intermediate destination for the children of God. The final destination is a renewed earth, the “new heavens and earth”

          Is the uniform Christian position? Or is this just your position?

        • Pretty much standard for a very long time. The confusion is that many people do not distinguish between the intermediate “heaven” and the merger of heaven and earth in the eternal new heavens and earth. You can find the idea of a new heavens and earth in the Old Testament and the new. You can googe “new earth” or look in wiki.

        • Yes, I realize that there’s heaven up in heaven, and then some sort of new perfect world here on earth (for a thousand years?). It’s getting them to coexist that’s the problem. Just because you’re good with it doesn’t mean that that’s the clear meaning in the Bible.

      • Doubting Thomas

        Are you so dim as to not recognize that yes and no are the only responses regardless of what you pray to? Try praying to your refrigerator and your prayers will be answered just as often and in the same manner as your prayers to god.

        • You’ll never convince mature and experienced prayers of that. They experience answers to prayer all the time.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Yes, but that’s not because I’m wrong. It’s because you’re delusional and have the reasoning skills of a slime mold.

        • They experience answers to prayer all the time.

          In other words, they experienced answered prayer occasionally. Jesus promised it reliably. There’s your problem.

        • I would say regularly. But they are probably praying differently then you expect. They pray and listen. In the listening they may understand they should change their prayers. Or they may understand that they should persevere until they do receive an answer. Mature and experienced prayers do not expect or experience answered prayer only occasionally.

          They are also not praying for the things you might expect. They are not asking for baubles. They are serious prayers for what they understand are kingdom issues.

        • I would say regularly.

          But would you say “reliably”? I’m sure not. Prayer doesn’t actually work the way Jesus promised, and you’ve failed to confront that directly.

          But they are probably praying differently then you expect.

          Who cares? I’m only interested in whether prayer works the way Jesus said it does. Clearly it doesn’t. The problem we have now is getting you to admit it.

          They pray and listen. In the listening they may understand they should change their prayers. Or they may understand that they should persevere until they do receive an answer. Mature and experienced prayers do not expect or experience answered prayer only occasionally.

          Right—in my recent posts, I’ve responded to the “Well, the mature Christian does it this way” response. This is just human tap dancing to avoid the problem that Jesus was wrong.

          They are also not praying for the things you might expect. They are not asking for baubles. They are serious prayers for what they understand are kingdom issues.

          And even then they’re disappointed! It’s like Trump (correctly) saying that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not get punished. How little does God have to actually do before you’ll notice that he’s not there?

      • Prayer is more than asking and getting.

        Yeah? Tell Jesus. That’s not how he described prayer.

        • All prayer should be understood in the light of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Subsumed under that general principle we may ask and expect to receive.

        • All prayer should be understood in the light of the Lord’s Prayer … Subsumed under that general principle we may ask and expect to receive.

          Wrong. Don says that; Jesus didn’t.

          I understand why you don’t want to confront this unpleasant truth directly, but you realize that we can all see you flailing and running away from the consequences of your religion, right?

  • s clark

    leave them alone, let them pray alone, they will come home, dragging their tails behind them.
    All that self masturbatory public televangelism unanswered prayer confirms there is no god.
    they will soon get sick of praying for god to heal cancer, stop African kids dying of starvation, let me win the lottery, end road carnage, stop wars and torture, the interrogations, rapes and pillagings…….no wait that was the religious inquisition by god’s church and the prayer warriors. don’t forget world peace.

    During the last 2,000 years god and his people still love watching humanity die, suffer and beg. prayer always has and always will do absolutely phark all

  • John Grove

    Reminds me of when Kirk Cameron said, “Learn to go around or circumnavigate a person’s intellect”

    Christianity in a nutshell, “Circumnavigating intellect for over 2,000 years”

  • Steven Watson

    Ye gods! I can’t un-read what I just looked over. The man is a barking loon, don’t give him anymore oxygen!

    • And a thin-skinned one at that. Don’t expect a lively discussion of all points of view at his blog.

      Now you know why I put on hip waders before I sit down at my computer every morning.