Monday, November 30, 2009

Letter From a Skeptical Friend: Part 3

In part 3 of our series of letters interacting with Wizard, he raises a question regarding prayer. As always, my response to Wizard (and hopefully some interaction) follows in the comments section. The following was written to us by Wizard:

The next thing I would like to focus on is prayer. The Bible makes it plain that prayer is something that makes a difference. I have no philosophical problem with prayer playing a vital role in a closed future. However, even in a closed future system, prayer should have a noticeable impact. When studies are done on prayer we see that there are no differences in the healing rates of those who have people praying for them and those who do not. I can add from my own personal experiences that prayer for other people seems to make no differences whatsoever. Here is what I do not expect. I do not expect God to be a genie. I do not expect God to give Christians health, wealth and prosperity. However, I do expect based on the Bible's own claims that there would be a marked difference that the prayers of the saints make over against the prayers of other religions or the non-prayer characterized life of the atheist. Specifically I am referring to James 5:14-20 and Matthew 21:22.

1 comment:

  1. I want to address this idea that your prayer for other people "seems to make no difference whatsoever." I don't know if the problem with this objection is noticeable to you or not, but your perception that it "seems" to make no difference is flawed. As you mentioned, we are in a closed system with no counterfactuals. There is no "would have been" in the universe we live in. So there is no potential for "changing" things in any real sense. Therefore, the idea that you can perceive whether or not your prayer makes a difference is flawed from the outset. You do not know what would have been, had you not prayed for said person, because it had always been predestined that you pray for them, and therefore that God would always respond to your prayer in the affirmative or in the negative, as His will dictated. The only way to quantify answers to prayer is to have in hand the counterfactuals, which of course, do not exist.

    You refer to studies regarding prayer, but you will have to be more specific (can you site any real studies that we could scrutinize?). Throughout the years, I have heard references to all sorts of studies: some studies showing that prayer actually heals more people, some studies show it makes no difference. Personally I wouldn't put much stock in any of these studies, since they're only as reliable as the ones doing the research. Also, I suppose if your basic assumption is correct, then the other question that has to be asked about these studies is, were the people praying in the studies Christians? It is one thing to profess belief, but if the success of the study depends on the people being real, believing Christians, well shouldn't that make us skeptical of any results such a study comes up with? After all, the success of the study depends on a fact which many churches have not been able to settle (identifying the regenerate believers among us).

    A few articles that I've found helpful dealing indirectly with this subject (and maybe someone could suggest other articles which deal with this same issue):

    What Do Answers to Prayer Depend On?, Part 1
    What Do Answers to Prayer Depend On?, Part 2
    Prayer and Predestination


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