Does God intervene in nature? Part 6 of Why Pray?

Does God intervene in nature? Part 6 of Why Pray? December 9, 2021

Miracle or answered prayer?

Many consider answered prayer to be a miracle, but many don’t go that far. A miracle can be defined as a surprising and welcome event that can’t be explained by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. “Surprise” means an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing.

The majority of miracles of Jesus were healings through the individual’s faith, exorcisms, raising people from the dead, and control over nature.

Resurrection of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus
Painting by Giuseppe Porta on Wikimedia

Does God still do miracles?

Opinions vary. I believe God created nature to do what it does. I don’t think God created nature to be fiddling with it a hundred million times a day for prayer requests to find some lost item or to heal some ailing creature. Not that I don’t shoot off those little arrow prayers when I lose something, and am thankful when I find it. And then I stop thinking someone stole it, which is always a source of amusement to my wife.

Nature does what it does. The earth is in a constant state of change, and in changing The natural world regularly wipes out many people with mudslides, earthquakes, fire, rock slides, polluted atmosphere, disease, volcanoes, floods, violent storms, and destroys churches and other religion’s building. I strongly suspect the people involved were all people of faith and goodwill. Statistics don’t support the notion that God protects us from all of this. Statistics do support that working safely and preventing accidents and taking precautions against disease, do work.

People in earthquake prone California and San Francisco are well protected by buildings built to withstand earthquakes. But people who build in fire and flood prone areas are getting their homes and businesses destroyed more frequently as fire and 100-year floods happen every few years because of Climate Change. Nature bows to our effort.

The definition of miracles

The Catholic Church is the notable authority when it comes to miracles. It investigates claims of miracles and finds very few throughout history. Their criteria for a miracle healing, is very strict.

The Catholic Church’s exacting definition of a miracle, from an article in the Baltimore Sun:

“At the sanctuary of Lourdes, only 65 [1%] of the more than 6,000 healings claimed since 1862 have been authenticated as miracles.”

“In the case of a healing, the recovery must be sudden — “instantaneous” is a word often used — attributable to a divine intercession and unexplained by any other measure, medical or scientific.

“The scrutiny not only by priests and church officials but also by doctors, scientists and people outside the Catholic faith is unrelenting.”

Little miracles

I consider my lovely wife a miracle. My wife says she prayed to get a husband like me. Sometimes you get what you pray for, and sometimes she gets the consolation prize. I wonder which she got since I know she won’t settle for substitutes.

It’s difficult to assess miracles and answered prayers. For example, I was once entering pre-med, on my way to becoming a psychiatrist. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that didn’t work out for lack of funding. Most psychiatrists today spend their time prescribing medications, not counseling-coaching people about personal and spiritual growth and attitude change that I like to do. So if I had been on my knees fervently praying for years to become a psychiatrist, would I count this failure as a win or a loss?

We think in binary terms with yes-no answers. We forget to think in terms of short-term failure, but long-term gain. This makes it very difficult to assess the effectiveness of prayer.

Take Home Points

Sometimes we’re praying for a miracle, and sometimes just petitioning God for things we need. Miracles are interventions in nature. Other petitions are interventions in our life for little miracles. The petition is the same. Sometimes it’s a bigger win when God doesn’t give us what we think we want.

Pray and keep communicating with God. It works.

Next in the series

Is prayer a conveyor belt of miracles?  Part 7 of Why Pray?

Pray and keep communicating with God. It works.

Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world a better place.

– Dorian

Other Patheos writers on prayer

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