Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Does God Always Answer Prayer?

In Ray Comfort's latest post, "God Always Answers Prayer," Ray claims that every prayer is answered; however he also thinks to think that God will not allow an audience with a non-believer. While these two viewpoints clash with each other, I want to examine Ray's main point that prayer is always answered.

According to Ray, God responds to every prayer request with a "yes" or a "no." I assume these are metaphorical "yeses" and "nos," for if Ray really did hear God say "yes" and "no" to him, I would suggest he should be treated for schizophrenia. One can reasonably assume that a "yes" answer is the result of when a prayer comes true, and a "no" answer is when a prayer does not come to pass.

Here's where the dilemma arises; if both of two possibilities, a "yes" and "no" answer, imply that "God did it," then there is no way to falsify such a claim. If you pray for a raise and you get it, then God's will was at work. If you pray to get better from an illness, but you only get sicker, then God's will is still being done.

The French Philosopher Auguste Comte believed society progresses through three stages of defining their beliefs. The theological phase would give rise to the metaphysical phase until society reaches the positive stage. The theological stage would consist of beliefs centered around religion that are untestable and unverifiable. In a theological world view, Ray's statement makes a bit of sense, but from a positivist perspective, statements which cannot be falsified are senseless. Positivism has since become part of the foundation of modern science.

Using Conte's model, one can clearly define Ray's statement as backwards and unscientific. However, to be fair, we should look at the shortfalls of Conte's ideas on positivism to see if they would affect the conclusion.

Many have noted that positivism fails in relation to complex, non-objective systems such as human behavior. So many in the social and historical sciences reject positivism, but this doesn't apply to Ray's statement. Also, the religious may reject to the idea that there are no abstract principles beyond observation; but by Ray's own admission, the effect of prayer is observable. If we were to assume the effect of prayer were unobservable, then the result of prayer would never manifest itself in reality.

To qualify as a delusion, an idea must be held with conviction, be resistant to evidence to the contrary, and be impossible to falsify. Ray's belief that prayer is always answered meets all three criteria. Therefore, I don't believe I am being harsh on Ray when I say his belief is delusional in nature.

So no, there is no reason to believe every prayer is answered.


  1. My favorite response to this is from the Why Won't God Heal Amputees? group ( That if you define God always answering prayer as yes, no, or wait, then you can pray to a jug of milk and have your prayers always answered. As it turns out the jug of milk answers at the same rate as God.

  2. I enjoy praying to my TV- although it does occasionally answer my prayers, if those prayers involve episodes of House or Lost.

  3. PF, your TV always answers your prayers with a yes or a no. If it answers "yes," then you get episodes of House or Lost, but if it answers "no," then you get reruns of Friends.

  4. Have you folks ever tried praying for courage, strength, and wisdom to face what life brings you? Have you ever prayed the Rosary? Have you ever prayed for your friend's or family's well being with a humble and contrite heart?
    Then you are excused from being experts in this field. It's like listening to a bunch of fat, drunk guys sitting on a sofa, watching their flatscreen TV, critiquing the performances of professional athletes.