Atheist “Sporkfighter” was responding underneath my blog article, “The Nature & Function of Prayer: Reply to Two Atheists” (3-22-19). His words will be in blue.
[Me] He urges us to pray in order to involve us in His actions. That’s how He likes it to be.
How could you possibly know what God wants?
I wouldn’t if He hadn’t revealed it in His revelation (the Bible).
He’s also revealed how we should acquire and treat our slaves, how we should submit if we are taken into slavery, and when to stone our wives and children.
How do you decide which parts of His revealed Truth to live by and which to ignore?
I’ve written about slavery in the Bible at length, too, in one of my 30 critiques that atheist luminary Bob Seidensticker completely ignored:
The Old Testament law was very strict at first. But things develop, and that changed. When Jesus ran into the woman caught in adultery, He saved her from being stoned by saying, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” You must have missed that part of the Bible.
Back then you at least had to do something wrong to be stoned by your own parents. Now you simply have to exist in the womb of your mother, and you can be torn limb from limb and sucked into a vacuum cleaner. And about half the country thinks that is fine and dandy (the Supreme Court agreed in 1973!), and most of those look down their noses at the Old Testament system of law.
You want to bring up Old Testament slavery, when we have the exact same concept believed today: a mother owns her own child (so much so that many absurdly claim that it is part of her own body) and can murder him or her at will, should she so desire. Any reason whatsoever will suffice.
What a strange world we live in. How much moral progress we have made, huh?, since the time of those backward, troglodyte Hebrews in the desert. How much more compassionate we are towards even the most helpless and innocent and vulnerable among us.
Are we gonna play Bible hopscotch now: with you jumping to all sorts of different topics? That’s what Bob loves to do. But it’s a fool’s game and not serious discussion.
[Robert H. Woodman] Prayer is not for God’s benefit. Our prayers do not inform God of anything of which He is unaware, nor do our prayers compel Him to do anything that He would otherwise not do or that He would do only with reluctance. God is not a vending machine or a slot machine, but many people “pray” to God as if that is the purpose of prayer.
Matthew and Luke disagree with you.
Matthew 17:20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
Luke 17:5-6 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
I answered this objection in one of my replies to atheist Bob Seidensticker. Like the other 29, he left this completely unanswered:
In pointing out that elsewhere the Bible says otherwise, all you have shown is that the Bible is internally inconsistent.
Jesus also tells the story (not a parable, which don’t have proper names) in Luke 16 of Lazarus and the rich man, in which two petitionary requests (in effect, prayers: 16:24, 27-28, 30) to Abraham are turned down (16:25-26, 29, 31). Since Jesus is teaching theological principles or truths, by means of the story, then it follows that it’s His own opinion as well: that prayers are not always answered. They have to be according to God’s will.
Here is the passage (mentioned above) where St. Paul’s petitionary prayer request was expressly turned down by God:
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh [Dave: many Bible scholars believe this to be an eye disease], a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;  but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The prophet Jonah prayed to God to die (Jonah 4:3): “Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (cf. 4:8-9). God obviously didn’t fulfill the request, and chided Jonah or his anger (4:4, 9). The prophet Ezekiel did the same: “O LORD, take away my life” (1 Kgs 19:4). God had other plans, as the entire passage shows. If we pray something stupidly, God won’t answer. He knows better than we do.
It’s perfectly consistent. What you need to understand is the nature of ancient near eastern Semitic hyperbole. I give an elementary introduction to it in this article of mine: “All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary?
I see that you wrote elsewhere (in June 2017), in reply to a comment by Carl Sagan: “You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe”:
It’s been my experience that Carl Sagan is correct. I’ve never known a theist to be convince[d] by evidence presented to him. Those who have left their religion have had to come across reasons on their own and in a way that doesn’t raise their defenses immediately.
I’m 57 and my family is atheist going back at least two generations…I’ve had quite a few discussions about religion and why there’s no evidence to support the idea…probably spoken to five hundred people on the subject. Granted, that’s not the entire human race, but it leads me to say that statistically speaking, the chance of arguing someone out of a religious belief approximates zero. As for the variety of theist, I don’t expect that to matter much.
Why are you here attempting to persuade me, then (and doing a lousy job so far, as I have already dealt with your flimsy, garden-variety objections many times over, with atheists splitting virtually every time I give them a solid answer)? You have your experience; we Christian apologists (I am a professional, published one) have ours with atheists as well.
As I mentioned, Bob Seidensticker is a prominent atheist polemicist on Patheos, who gets a million comments under his articles. He challenged me directly, to answer his endless arguments (real or so-called) against Christianity. So I did, thirty times. But alas, he is nowhere to be found. I had to send out a notice to the Missing Persons bureau.
If you ask why I seek to convince atheists, I do because I seek to convince anyone of the truths of Christianity and of Catholic Christianity in particular. It’s called evangelism, and a desire to share the Gospel and truths of Christianity out of love and compassion; to share the joy and peace and fulfillment that we have discovered as followers of Jesus Christ. And we apologists specialize in giving reasons for why we believe as we do, and why alternate worldviews are less plausible and filled with fallacies and shortcomings and internal inconsistencies.
There are atheists who have become Christians. My favorite writer, C. S. Lewis, was one of them. But even short of such a dramatic change of mind, I think it’s important to show atheists that we (on the whole, at least among the properly educated and committed Christians) think and reason and value evidence and science just as they do, and that good, plausible answers can be given to their recycled, tired arguments against Christianity and Jesus and the Bible.
Engaging in these arguments in a public venue is also a way to encourage Christians that atheist objections are by no means invincible; quite the contrary. I have collected scores and scores of my interactions with atheists on my web page devoted to that. I also have a very extensive web page about science and philosophy.