Mark 11:24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.” Although I’d heard many people praising God for all kinds of answered prayers as to health, grades, direction in life, seeing a relative become a Christian, etc, prayer never seemed real to me. The more I heard about answered prayers, the more I wondered whether prayers were really being answered prayers rather was the ‘answer’ the culmination of contributing factors with the most logical outcome being the final result?
Sam Harris asked a simple but profound question in his book, Letter to a Christian Nation, “If God answers prayers, then why wouldn’t he occasionally heal an amputee? I’m aware of no one who has ever claimed that God regrew a missing limb.” And as I thought about it, I’d never heard of an answered prayer for other conditions such as Down syndrome, congenital birth defects, scoliosis, a cleft palate, paralysis from a severed spinal cord, missing teeth or any number of other physical maladies. Yet, many Christians I knew believed that God not only answered their prayers but also believed that God had cured them of various physical ailments. Were Christians wrong as to experiencing answered prayers?
Matt 21:21 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” In every church I’ve been a part of, the power of prayer and the ability to be healed was paramount. Yet, following Harris’ thought, regenerating an arm or a leg would be a trivial thing for an all-powerful God. All God requires is to have faith and believe.
Everyone takes John 3:16 at face value: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There’s no ambiguity – believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life. So, should we not also take promises within the Bible regarding healing and answered prayer at face value as well? Consider:
Ask, and it will be given you. (Matthew 7:7).
Nothing will be impossible to you. (Matthew 17:20).
Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24).
If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:14).
Christians often say to the effect, “God always answers prayers, but sometimes his answer is No.” Or “God may answer your prayers, but not immediately. You must therefore be patient. To which, Jesus says in John 14:13, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Jesus’ words are clear and the only condition is to ask in his name.
Christianity is, unfortunately, replete with not just false teachers – but fake faith healers as well in which Christian faith healers seem to illuminate the falsity of answered prayer. Benny Hinn is certainly high on the list for being a faith-healing fraud. Of particular irony is that Hinn’s mother was diabetic, and his father died of cancer. Yet, millions of Christians have tuned in to Hinn’s televised Miracle Crusade, supported his ministry and watched a charlatan claiming healings from God who himself never healed an amputee. It brings the possibility of answered prayer down to little more than a make-believe story.
Answered prayer appears to be little more than the probability of a given outcome within a normal distribution. In my own deconstruction from Christian faith, Calvinistic determination and unconditional election have been bigger obstacles than prayer. Even so, I find fake healings, the inability of Christians to ascertain the validity of prayer along with God never healing an amputee to be problematic. Does prayer provide anything other than a self-fulfilling sense of rightness with God and justification for one’s beliefs? Perhaps my lack of faith blinds me, and I can’t see the forest through the trees. But as to prayer – it seems best stated that intellectual honesty and a child-like faith appear to be incompatible.
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