Monday, April 03, 2006

The 'Science' of Prayer

I don't know how many of you are aware of the recent studies and experiments which have tried to analyze the 'effects of prayer' in given situations. So far, the secular scientists have come to the conclusion that prayer in general actually has adverse affects on those prayed for. In one experiment involving several hundred patients with heart problems, they found that the individuals prayed for actually had more complications than the others. This study has been circulated by the media and is presented as evidence that God either doesn't answer prayer, or doesn't even exist.

Sadly, many in the Christian community try to argue against the means or methods used, instead of simply renouncing this nonsense entirely. Here's an example. In this article, the author utilizes a counter-study to try to prove the effectiveness of prayer. The fundemental problem with all these approaches is that they assume God's will can be calculated scientifically. They treat God like a cosmic vending machine; if He fails to give us the snack we want, He must be out of order. Dr. George Grant put it this way:

"The primary difference between biblical faith and heresy is that true religion is a response to truth and false religion attempts to manipulate God. True faith aims at God's satisfaction, while heresy aims at self-satisfaction... They (Cain, Balaam, Korah) believed that not only could they manipulate human society and natural elements with their peculiar approach to moral and ethical standards, but that God would also be forced to conform Himself to the desires and demands of men who act in terms of certain legal strictures: Say certain things, do certain things, believe certain things, or act out certain things, and God will have to respond. In essence, they believed that man controls his own destiny.

To some of us God is little more than a cosmic vending machine in the sky, designed to dispense our every want and whim. To others of us He is a grandfatherly sage who lives to patiently offer us certain therapeutic benefits and baubles from His largess. To still others He is a kind of Santa figure--jolly, unflappable, and determined to bestow goodies upon all mankind. Invariably, though, we moderns tend to see God in terms of ourselves--in terms of our wants, our needs, our preferences, and our desires. We have apparently, as Voltaire accused, "made God in our own image.""--The Micah Mandate, Dr. George Grant (from pgs. 75 & 156)

The prevalent modern conception of God focuses primarily on His goodness and mercy to the exclusion of His other atributes. Here are just a few principles these studies and experiments fail to recognize.

1. God is sovereign. His will cannot be influenced by our desires, efforts, or prayers. In fact, Jesus tells His disciples, "When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."--Matthew 6:8 God knows what's best for us.

2. These days, people are confused about why we should pray. Dr. Grant asserts in his book, The Micah Mandate, that "prayer is [to be] objectively hedged by God's will. As the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession says, "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will." We are not to pray simple in order to get something. We are to pray in order to be something (James 4:3). We pray in order to be conformed to God's will," not to manipulate it.

3. In His sovereign purpose, God may use difficult circumstances to test our faith, and cause us to grow in sanctification. If He allows a loved one to die, He will cause it to resolve for His glory. Also, He disciplines those He loves, and may bring trials into our lives to turn us around.

4. I can just see the bold headlines: "Science Proves That God Doesn't Answer Prayer." This is ridiculous; God always answers prayer, but not always to our satisfaction or according to our expectations. Christians need to learn to accept God's answers, and remember that He is in control, and will "work all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."

Feel free to add to what I've said. I always appreciate comments ;)


SkyStrider said...

Additionally, the "scientists" had no way to keep people from praying for the control group.

Benjamin said...

Ya, the whole thing is ridiculous. To think that we can prove/disprove God through science...

Oh, they also tried this on plants. The plants that were prayed for in a more general manner (i.e. "Thy will be done") apparently did better than the others. How far will science go?...