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The Power of Prayer

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by cvanwey, May 4, 2019.

  1. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    Funny, I was just thinking about that yesterday. I looked up what Richard Dawkins had to say about it in The God Delusion. He was:

    Informative:
    "Such experiments, if done properly, have to be double blind, and this standard was strictly observed. The patients were assigned, strictly at random, to an experimental group (received prayers) or a control group (received no prayers). Neither the patients, nor their doctors or caregivers, nor the experimenters were allowed to know which patients were being prayed for and which patients were controls. Those who did the experimental praying had to know the names of the individuals for whom they were praying -otherwise, in what sense would they be praying for them rather than for somebody else? But care was taken to tell them only the first name and initial letter of the surname. Apparently that would be enough to enable God to pinpoint the right hospital bed.”

    Had a sensible view of the whole project (it was a very silly thing to do):
    “The very idea of doing such experiments is open to a generous measure of ridicule, and the project duly received it. As far as I know, Bob Newhart didn't do a sketch about it, but I can distinctly hear his voice:
    What's that you say, Lord? You can't cure me because I'm a member of the control group? . . . Oh I see, my aunt's prayers aren't enough. But Lord, Mr Evans in the next-door bed .. . What was that, Lord? . . . Mr Evans received a thousand prayers per day? But Lord, Mr Evans doesn't know a thousand people . . . Oh, they just referred to him as John E. But Lord, how did you know they didn't mean John Ellsworthy? . . . Oh right, you used your omniscience to work out which John E they meant. But Lord . . .
    Valiantly shouldering aside all mockery, the team of researchers soldiered on, spending $2.4 million of Templeton money under the leadership of Dr Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. Dr Benson was earlier quoted in a Templeton press release as 'believing that evidence for the efficacy of intercessory prayer in medicinal settings is mounting'. Reassuringly, then, the research was in good hands."


    He summarised the results:
    “The results, reported in the American Heart Journal of April 2006, were clear-cut. There was no difference between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not. What a surprise. There was a difference between those who knew they had been prayed for and those who did not know one way or the other; but it went in the wrong direction. Those who knew they had been the beneficiaries of prayer suffered significantly more complications than those who did not. Was God doing a bit of smiting, to show his disapproval of the whole barmy enterprise? It seems more probable that those patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered additional stress in consequence: 'performance anxiety', as the experimenters put it. Dr Charles Bethea, one of the researchers, said, 'It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?”

    He explained the reaction of many Christians (sensibly pointing out that God is unlikely to be fooled, but also (in a "grotesque piece of reasoning") saying that suffering is good, and so God would not want to alleviate it.
    “It will be no surprise that this study was opposed by theologians, perhaps anxious about its capacity to bring ridicule upon religion. The Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne, writing after the study failed, objected to it on the grounds that God answers prayers only if they are offered up for good reasons.37 Praying for somebody rather than somebody else, simply because of the fall of the dice in the design of a double-blind experiment, does not constitute a good reason. God would see through it. That, indeed, was the point of my Bob Newhart satire, and Swinburne is right to make it too. But in other parts of his paper Swinburne himself is beyond satire. Not for the first time, he seeks to justify suffering in a world run by God:
    My suffering provides me with the opportunity to show courage and patience. It provides you with the opportunity to show sympathy and to help alleviate my suffering.”


    Makes fun of theologian Richard Swinburne for saying silly things about the study:
    “He rightly suggests that if God wanted to demonstrate his own existence he would find better ways to do it than slightly biasing the recovery statistics of experimental versus control groups of heart patients. If God existed and wanted to convince us of it, he could 'fill the world with super-miracles'. But then Swinburne lets fall his gem: 'There is quite a lot of evidence anyway of God's existence, and too much might not be good for us.' Too much might not be good for us! Read it again. Too much evidence might not be good for us. Richard Swinburne is the recently retired holder of one of Britain's most prestigious professorships of theology, and is a Fellow of the British Academy. If it's a theologian you want, they don't come much more distinguished. Perhaps you don't want a theologian.”

    And anticipates the reaction of Christian Forums:
    “Other theologians joined NOMA-inspired sceptics in contending that studying prayer in this way is a waste of money because supernatural influences are by definition beyond the reach of science. But as the Templeton Foundation correctly recognized when it financed the study, the alleged power of intercessory prayer is at least in principle within the reach of science. A double-blind experiment can be done and was done. It could have yielded a positive result. And if it had, can you imagine that a single religious apologist would have dismissed it on the grounds that scientific research has no bearing on religious matters? Of course not.”

    Finally, Dawkins finished the chapter by saying the most sensible thing possible about the idea of investigating prayer scientifically:
    “Needless to say, the negative results of the experiment will not shake the faithful. Bob Barth, the spiritual director of the Missouri prayer ministry which supplied some of the experimental prayers, said: 'A person of faith would say that this study is interesting, but we've been praying a long time and we've seen prayer work, we know it works, and the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started.' Yeah, right: we know from our faith that prayer works, so if evidence fails to show it we'll just soldier on until finally we get the result we want.”

    Which is more or less what @FIRESTORM314 is saying.
    While at the same time, saying:
    It is of course true that we can't "stop prayer from working" to find out the results of this; but by using "an exercise in imagination" (otherwise known as a hypothetical question) we can identify what Christians believe the effects of prayer to be. Apparently Firestorm believes that prayer does some quite specific and measurable things, and I would be interested in seeing evidence of them.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
  2. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    Deuteronomy 6:16 "You shall not put YHWH your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.

    Luke 4:12 And Yeshua answered and said to him, "It is said, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT [YHWH] YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

    Exodus 17:7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested YHWH, saying, "Is YHWH among us, or not?"
    Its just as bad to test YHWH to see if He answers prayer or not or to say, "Does He exist or not".
     
  3. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    Yeah. Excuses.
     
  4. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    There are many examples in Scripture about the effects of prayer and what those prayers actually did. Why don't you go meditate on a few of those examples?
     
  5. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    It is called obedience.
     
  6. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    Psalms 34:8 -- taste and see
    Malachi 3:10 -- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord. (CEV)

    Seems scripture is inconsistent.
     
  7. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    This has nothing to do with testing God. It is about walking in faith with Him to experience His goodness (something atheists never do).

    This verse is not about testing God in order to find out if He exists or if He answers prayer. A different Hebrew word is used for test here than in Deuteronomy 6:16 & Exodus 17:7. Malachi 3:10 refers to seeing if YHWH will bless the tither for his obedience and Deuteronomy 6:16 and Exodus 7:17 refer to testing YHWH in a negative sense.
     
  8. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    Taste and see is exactly a test. Taste this milk and see if its bad.

    Seeing if YHWH will keep his promises is a test.
     
  9. FIRESTORM314

    FIRESTORM314 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

    Well - it says here. Jesus is very satisfied with the outcome.
     
  10. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that YHWH is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. ​

    The man that truly trusts in YHWH will never come to the conclusion that He is bad. It is only people that have never tasted that say all manner of evil against Him.
     
  11. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    If that's how you feel, Firestorm314, then so be it. Goodbye.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  12. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    Because there is no evidence that the miracles reported in the Bible are anything other than stories in a book.
     
  13. gaara4158

    gaara4158 I prefer you trust your reason.

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    Do you understand how problematic that is for people who need demonstrations before they believe something?
     
  14. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    Trust needs to be gained, and trust can be lost.
    What you are saying is that there is nothing God could do that would make you distrust Him. Therefore, your judgement of God as a trustworthy moral being is flawed. Especially since there are many examples of God behaving in ways that you would certainly condemn if it was someone else doing them.

    I've been reading Richard Dawkins lately, and this reminded me of something he said in The God Delusion. A study was conducted with Israeli children. When a brutal story was read to them from the Bible (the battle of Jericho and Joshua) they answered follow-up questions that showed strong approval. But when a very similar story was told to a different group of Israeli children, changing "Joshua" to "General Lin" and "Israel" to "a Chinese kingdom, three thousand years ago" the children were quick to condemn the barbaric actions that their peers had supported Joshua taking.

    Interesting, don't you think?
     
  15. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    The man that truly trusts Hitler will never come to the conclusion that he is bad. (Sorry, Godwin.)

    So the bible says "test god" regardless of whether you say the conclusion is inevitable. If we fail to come to your conclusion, you can conveniently say we are not to test God.

    That's playing tennis without the net.
     
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  16. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    I totally agree, but you can't gain trust without starting a relationship first. I can't even begin to trust my wife if I am constantly going around saying my wife doesn't exist.

    Correct.

    The latter was condemned because the children believed that "General Lin" was not being led by the God of Israel. Therefore, his actions were that of a man, not of a divine being. Both can say "kill the children as well", for example, but only YHWH has valid reasons for commanding such since He knows the future.
     
  17. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    Yes. Do you understand that true faith does not need demonstrations?
     
  18. Tinker Grey

    Tinker Grey Wanderer Supporter

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    Do you understand that that is exactly why one should not claim that they "know" by faith?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
  19. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

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    What say you, in my case? I asked for some type of genuine viable contact for decades. Can you blame me for giving up on the idea?
     
  20. gadar perets

    gadar perets Messianic Hebrew

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    I don't claim to "know" by faith, but "believe" by faith. Are you saying faith is immoral and wicked?
     
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