Posts Tagged ‘prayer’


God does not answer prayers

July 6, 2009

(Today, I’m writing this on the Wii, which is somewhat of a pain in the butt. It’s a bit like a laptop, inasmuch as it’s a bit slower to operate than a standard computer, and it’s not like a laptop inasmuch as everything takes longer to load and the Visual version of my blog inputter is broken, meaning I have to do everything in HTML. Plus the text input thing only has two lines, making it somewhat of a Word Processer From Hell.

But I digress.)

I was thinking about God, and Christianity, and prayer (I do that a lot, as I was once a Christian myself). Specifically, I was thinking of one doctrine – never heard in my church, but touted in a few others – on the subject of prayer.

It goes like this: “God always answers prayers. He just answers them in one of three forms: Yes, No, and Wait.”

Forgive my impertinence, O Mighty Pastor, but having thought it over, I believe you are incorrect.

When you pray, what do you hear? Is there a Great Cosmic Voice that booms down from the heavens, offering you the word “Yes”, “No” or “Wait”? If you’re most people, probably not. The only thing that you get is an oppressive silence that you have to try to interpret – or just to wait and see what happens.

In other words, there is no answer. Or, if you want to be liberal about it and say that God’s silence is an answer, then that answer can only be “Wait”, since you must invariably wait until something happens (or doesn’t happen) to find out what the “actual answer” was.

Of course, this is a dodgy proposition at best, since prayers, when they are finally “answered”, are almost always answered in the vaguest ways possible. You ask for some financial help? Something you need to buy is on sale. Need a new car? After two weeks of searching, you finally find the one you need on Craigslist. These kind of events are so vague that you can’t even know for sure if they were the answers to your prayers. What if that sale was the result of a poor Hindu woman begging Vishnu to have pity on her? What if the owner of the car cast a spell on it to make it look more attractive to buyers? Or what if – as it happens sometimes – your purchase of his car was just a matter of two people with similar needs taking initiative at roughly the same time? You could ask God, but it won’t do you any good: he only answers in “Yes,” “No” and “Wait.”

By and large, though, the greatest complaint I have about this claim is that it is not backed up anywhere in the Bible. In fact, the Scriptures are fairly clear about what you should expect from a prayer: Knock and the door will be opened. Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find. If ye have faith even to the size of a grain of mustard, you shall command a mountain “Move over there,” and it shall move.

If you talk to a Christian about this, though, it breaks down fairly quickly. None of them will claim to have moved a mountain – and if they did, no one would have a reason to believe them. Very few have even professed a miraculous recovery from an injury or fatal disease (at least when the malady was previously confirmed by an independent party). Why? you ask them. Their response: “Because I didn’t have enough faith.” Which again contradicts scripture. Faith as a grain of mustard, remember? In order for someone not to have enough faith for their prayers to be answered, they would need to have no faith at all. In other words, they would need not to believe that God exists or that he can do miracles. But they must believe, because they continue to pray for them.

So which is it? Does God answer prayers? If so, he seems to do this in a tumultous and unpreferential fashion. Or do some people who pray – the “Yes, No, and Wait” people in particular – not actually believe in the being they are praying to?