Archive for October, 2011


More on Prayer…

October 7, 2011

In the last several blog posts I have drawn analogies between parenting and prayer. We’ve skimmed the surface of various problems that people encounter when petitioning God.

Basically, I’ve claimed that God always answers prayers but the answer is sometimes no which can be annoying. In fact, answering the question, ‘why didn’t God respond to my prayer’? by saying, ‘God did answer. He said no!’ is very annoying. It may well be true but it’s not very pastorally sensitive in certain situations.

I also contended that, like any good parent, God will also answer prayers with ‘wait’ or (happily) ‘yes’.


My friend Doug is a scientist. He has a huge problem with the above analogy. What makes a theory scientific? Philosophers of science debate this issue vigorously. Often philosophers of science will mention things like repeatability, empirically observable, and predictive. These criteria make a theory constitute real science.

The debate occurs because these types of demarcations that are meant to differentiate scientific knowledge from other forms of knowledge end up eliminating certain branches of science. For example, elements of paleontology (as well as other historical sciences) are not repeatable.

One more criterion for scientific knowledge that is often mentioned is falsifiability. For a theory to count as scientific it has to be falsifiable; it has to be vulnerable to future discovers that can contradict or overthrow the theory.

Herein lies my friend Doug’s problem with my prayer analogy. How do you ever know if prayer is working or not? If God doesn’t answer the believer can say, ‘well, I guess he said ‘no’. If the believer receives an answer they can say, ‘God said ‘yes’.

The above analogy can cover any result that your prayer gets which makes the effectiveness of prayer impervious to falsification.

Now there are some studies on prayer that indicate its effectiveness. But I’ll leave those aside.

I think the answer to my friends critique of the above analogy is to simply state, ‘prayer is not a scientific theory’ even though its effects may be empirically observable, repeatable and predictive (eg. if a person starts honestly praying to God there will be change in their life) .

Christian prayer is a person approaching their heavenly Father, through the work of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray is connecting with the ground of all being and the creator of all things for relational purposes. Again, Prayer is the language of relationship with God. Once we realize that the above analogy makes perfect sense even if it is annoying.

Here’s a concluding thought, ‘Do we pray for relational purposes or functional purposes’? If we pray solely for functional purposes (eg. to get stuff or make things happen) the above analogy will always irk us. But if we pray for relational purposes it will make perfect sense and line up with our experience.

God Bless


Go Bless