The Power of Prayer

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 21, 2010 in Funny,Video

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Evolution SWAT July 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

TheThinkingAtheist has an awesome channel! Thanks so much for posting this Lukeprog.

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G'DIsraeli July 21, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Reminds me of “Candide (Or, All for the Best)”…Only less sharp. Like the rats in the ship drowning, God made the ship, seems like he don’t give a shit. But it’s all for the best *chuckles*

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 1:35 am

What a weird video. It seems to be saying that the world Suzie lives in is not like the world described by Christianity. “There’s lots of bad stuff. Suzie prays to Jesus. But there’s still lots of bad stuff! Christianity refuted!!!” But a sinful and horrible world where a person’s only hope is their personal relationship with Jesus Christ is exactly the world described by Protestant Christianity.

But even if we assume that Christianity is false, Suzie sounds like a psychologically healthy person to me. The video doesn’t even try to make the case that her faith is a negative factor in her life.

I think this is actually even worse than the Invisible God video Luke posted earlier. At least that one had good music rather than a smug narrator.

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NFQ July 22, 2010 at 6:03 am

@Haukur – Does Protestant Christianity not describe a world where prayers make some whit of difference as far as what actually happens in the world?

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NFQ July 22, 2010 at 6:05 am

Sorry for two comments right in a row, that’s awkward but — whoa! this video got flagged, and I have to sign in to verify that I am 18 or over in order to watch it on YouTube! …Maybe it was the gruesome pictures?

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Lorkas July 22, 2010 at 6:20 am

What a weird video. It seems to be saying that the world Suzie lives in is not like the world described by Christianity.

The world described by Christianity is incoherent on the subject of whether this is “the best of all possible worlds” or “sinful and horrible”, it seems justified to me for the video maker to take the angle he does. After all, the first thing God does after creating the world is congratulate himself on how good the world he made is.

This is especially true since there is such a strong philosophical background on the problem of evil that you’re ignoring. All you’ve done is restate the problem and claim that it’s entailed by Christianity, without engaging the philosophical arguments that evil can’t exist in a world in which an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent being also exists. I find it odd that you criticize the video maker for saying, according to your summary:

“There’s lots of bad stuff. Suzie prays to Jesus. But there’s still lots of bad stuff! Christianity refuted!!!”

Yet you turn around immediately and say “The BIBLE says the world is bad! Problem of evil refuted!!!”

Furthermore, the video isn’t really about the problem of evil, it’s about the power of prayer. The Bible also has many, many passages wherein God/Jesus promise to all true believers that if they ask God for anything in the “name” of Jesus, then it will surely happen, yet prayer is utterly useless when it comes to solving any problems other than stress-related diseases (or perhaps it’s better to say “prayer is no more useful than a well-administered placebo [...]“).

Prayer won’t stop an earthquake, it won’t clean up the Gulf, and it won’t move a mountain from place to place. Bluntly, the Bible is about as wrong as it’s possible to be on the subject of the power of prayer. Just one more thing on the list of things the Bible is utterly wrong about.

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 7:21 am

Certainly, Christian opinions on prayer vary but this idea that prayer is for stopping earthquakes, cleaning up the Gulf, moving mountains (literally) and so on seems to be a bit of a strawman. There’s certainly nothing like that in the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed or the Augsburg Confession. Christians pray to Jesus to confess their sins and to be comforted in distress, to serve Jesus and demonstrate their submission to him, to obey Biblical commands that they should pray, to be like Jesus and so on and so forth. I’m not sure if they pray to modify the likelihood that particular external events outside their control will happen. They realize that ultimately they will have to align their will with the divine will, rather than vice versa.

I don’t know – I don’t have a complete philosophical defence of Christian prayer. It just seems to me that the video is trying to tell me that Suzie is a contemptible or stupid or badly functioning person and I don’t see that at all. She looks to me like a rather sympathetic person stuck in a world with a somewhat unsympathetic narrator…

It would help to get a Christian in here to tell us what they think.

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Chris July 22, 2010 at 7:50 am

Haukar wrote: “Certainly, Christian opinions on prayer vary but this idea that prayer is for stopping earthquakes, cleaning up the Gulf, moving mountains (literally) and so on seems to be a bit of a strawman.”

Ok, but this “strawman” comes directly from the gospels. “Mountain move,” “If you ask in faith and believe you have received it, it will be given to you,” “greater things will be done by the one who belives in me,” etc. (I’m quoting from memory here). I agree to literally move a mountain would be absurd, but so is interpreting all these sayings in terms of forgiven sins and spiritual comfort.

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 8:02 am

Yeah, the New Testament is really bullish on prayer.

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Márcio July 22, 2010 at 11:28 am

Suzie is a inspiration and example for all of us. Glorify God In All Things.

Nice video.

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Márcio July 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

And remember that Jesus sufferd more than any of us.

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al friedlander July 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

“And remember that Jesus sufferd more than any of us. Márcio”

Jesus is going to spend an eternity in hell?

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Tito July 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I had seen this video before and really enjoyed it. Coming from a Southern Baptist background, people definitely thought prayer had real impact on the world and events (especially medical outcomes, job decisions, big purchases, dating decision and other things with hard to judge outcomes or ones that are open to randomness).

I think the main point of the vid is people in this mindset don’t have the perspective of the whole world and if they did they wouldn’t be asking for a good night’s sleep, they’d ask for God to feed the tens of thousands of people starving to death that day and don’t realize that all the suffering in the world is evidence that God doesn’t exist or interact with the world because he would clearly address that stuff first.

Instead, I found people retreating prayed topics to matters hard to judge outcome (dodging falsifiability). I think Haukur’s idea is of a highly retreated attitude towards prayer but there are LOTS of evangelicals, at least, that believe god interacts with the world supernaturally all the time and prayer is more productive than any “human effort”. This is where the oft heard (by me anyway) phrase of “Give it to God” comes from.

I think the retreat of prayer targets because of dealing with the reality of the world is best illustrated by
Evid3nc3′s Prayer Video in his deconversion series. I relate to this change VERY much myself and seeing that prayer didn’t work how I was taught to believe was a major factor in kicking off my deconversion process because it’s a measurable claim.

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Zeb July 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

As a Christian I think it is a mistake for Christians to pray for God to intervene supernaturally in the natural world. That is the hallmark of paganism – trying to use God (and/or other supernatural entities) as a tool for power over the world. The hallmark of Christianity is faith in God’s goodness and wisdom. Although some of statements attributed to Jesus do seem to make very bold claims about the power of prayer, the examples of how Jesus used prayer himself and the form of prayer he explicitly advocated (the “Lord’s prayer”) don’t have much to do with affecting the natural world. Rather, Jesus teaches us to defer to God’s will and to ask God to bring his power to bear spiritually. So I think we Christians should be asking God to change us (and perhaps our neighbors, but only in the way he wills to), not to intervene in world events.

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Tito,

Thank you. That’s a very interesting video, I’m listening to the series now.

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

As a Christian I think it is a mistake for Christians to pray for God to intervene supernaturally in the natural world. That is the hallmark of paganism – trying to use God (and/or other supernatural entities) as a tool for power over the world.

Well, we don’t just pray to the gods – we offer libations and so on.

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Lorkas July 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

The fact that not all Christians believe in that view of prayer doesn’t make attacking this view of prayer a strawman, any more than it’s a strawman to attack Biblical literalism just because not all Christians are Biblical literalists.

This sort of argument is designed to take down a particular view of prayer that is promoted both in the New Testament and by certain Christian groups today. Because some people actually do view prayer in this way (i.e. “We need to pray for the Gulf” is something I’ve heard multiple times from Christians), it’s not a strawman, even though it doesn’t apply to all Christians.

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Zeb July 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Lorkas, I agree. But as with so many arguments given by atheists, this is not so much an argument against Christianity as it is an argument for better religious education. And so even if my religious views are correct, thoughtful atheists are doing God’s work by pointing out all the wickedness and foolishness that have intermingled with the true faith, helping push Christianity (or whatever the truest religion is) toward what it ought to be.

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Tito July 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Zeb,

I think it is interesting to people seeking to answer “does God exist” to realize that claims of the power of prayer tend to decrease over time not increase. This goes along with other miracle claims from the bible that seemed to happen regularly and amazingly out in the open in the past, but as the scrutiny of the modern world increases; god has retreated to the gaps, which are now quite tiny. In this case with prayer the gap is an unseen unverifiable “guidance” and “influence” on the inner thought-life of believers. I think it is more likely that god doesn’t exist and prayer is totally ineffective than god does exist but prayer is limited to only things with no measurable impact (or similar to mediation of any kind), especially if the bible is “god’s word”.

Also I could make a very sound argument from the bible that prayer does definitely invite/enable/allow god to interact in the world in real measurable ways from multiple sources throughout the bible. If only “true” knowledge of prayer shows it’s impact is not measurable then we’re back to the problem of communication: why can’t a perfect all powerful, all everything god effectively communicate something as important as the role of prayer and his actions in the world to people seeking him? I know I could and I’m CERTAINLY not god.

Prayer Measurement Comic

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Haukur July 23, 2010 at 1:08 am

This comment on Evid3nc3′s video is the best YouTube comment I’ve seen in a while:

“Not turning into a robot when I prayed for it was the final straw for me too!”

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Tom.R July 23, 2010 at 4:21 am

“Certainly, Christian opinions on prayer vary but this idea that prayer is for stopping earthquakes, cleaning up the Gulf, moving mountains (literally) and so on seems to be a bit of a strawman.” I’ve always wanted to ask how are you suppose to know which part of the Bible to take litteraly and which to take metaphorically.

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ildi July 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

…this idea that prayer is for stopping earthquakes, cleaning up the Gulf, moving mountains (literally) and so on seems to be a bit of a strawman.

I call your strawman and raise you a no true Scotsman:

Governor of parched Georgia to pray for rain

Louisiana lawmakers want day of prayer over Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Gov. Crist tells of hurricane prayer left at Israel’s Western Wall

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