Christians love to talk about prayer. “There’s power in prayer.” “Prayer changes things.” “I am praying for you.” These are all common expressions among Christians. They can also quote Bible verses that talk about prayer. Some examples…Luke 18:1, Philippians 4:6, James 5:16, and one of the favorites of Christians I know Jeremiah 33:3:
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
For many Christians their personal experience of “answered prayer” is a reason they believe in God. It can be very encouraging to think that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being is watching out for you and giving you what you ask for. It is like having your own genie in a bottle!
Yet, I find some problems with the concept of prayer. Prayer is basically a person talking to their god (whether audibly or mentally). They usually spend some time giving thanks and sending praise, but the biggest aspect of prayer is asking. Christians ask god to keep them healthy, give them wisdom, or meet their needs.
I do not necessarily have a problem with the act of praying. Rather, I want to point out the problems of using “answered prayer” as evidence of god. And the problems it creates for some of the attributes of their god.
It seems Christians got carried away when naming the different attributes of their god. One such attribute is omniscience. This means possessing all knowledge. I have heard more than one Christian say things like, “God knows the end from the beginning.” “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has occurred to God?” I really doubt that omniscience is even possible. (Here is an excellent video talking about the impossibility of omniscience.)
So, if god does know the end from the beginning (foreknowledge), then he already knows all things that will happen. Your prayers cannot change that. You could respond that God looked ahead and saw that you prayed, then changed the outcome. Yet this creates another problem. If God gained knowledge from looking ahead at what you would do, then he did not possess all knowledge before that time.
Another attribute of the Christian god is omnibenevolence. This means that god is all-loving. God is also referred to as a father or parent. Let me give an example and you tell me whether or not a loving a parent was portrayed:
I am a father of a young son. I tell my son often how much I love him. One day my son starts complaining of headaches. I attempt to make them go away through over the counter medicine. The headaches persist. After the continued pain, I take my son to the doctor. The doctor runs a battery of tests. Then, he breaks the news to me…He has brain cancer! Now I know what caused the head aches. It is going to cause him severe suffering and death. Now let’s suppose I have a cure for the cancer. I have the antidote locked up and only I have the key. It is 100% effective, works instantly, and is pain free. Yet, I decide that I will not give my child the medicine unless enough people come to my house. Then, they have to tell me how awesome I am and beg me to give him the medicine. Well, I still decide that was not enough and just let him die.
The above story was purely hypothetical. In the story, would you consider me a loving father? Absolutely not! I do have children and I would do anything within my power to prevent their suffering. Nobody would have to ask! I just do not understand Christians’ thinking when asking somebody to pray for a child who has a terminal illness. According to their theology, he knows (or could create) a cure for all possible diseases. He has the power to do it. He is supposed to love this child beyond all human love. Yet, God lets children die of terminal illnesses every day. It is terrible when children die of diseases that have no known cure, but even worse are the thousands of children who die of preventable diseases! So, God allowing such suffering without intervening or only intervening if enough people beg, creates real problems with the idea of god being all loving.
I want to continue this, but this post has run long enough already. Look for part 2 in the near future!