Monday, August 5, 2013

The Power of Prayer


I’m atheist (among other things), so when I saw the movie Jesus Camp, I thought it was like watching an alien world.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about a Christian camp where children come to learn to be better Evangelicals.  There’s one scene where a speaker comes and talks about praying for the president to place anti-abortion Supreme Court justices on the bench.

I was perplexed.  I found that the father of one of the kids in the movie was fielding questions online, so I sent one in:

If God hates abortion, why doesn’t He take care of the problem himself?  Why do you have to pray for it to happen?


“Good question,” he said.  He explained that God and man work together on Earth.  That God has to have permission to create a miracle.  When enough people pray for something, then God will make it happen.

The answer blew my mind because there was a logical consistency to it.  It made sense.  Then, I realized something.  If that were true, the following has to be taking place:
Imagine you need a job, but you have no skills or experience.  One day, someone at your church hands you a slip of paper.  It’s an offer of work: fifty thousand dollars a year.  You sign a confidentiality agreement and are whisked away to a secret location.  In a room are hundreds of men and women, sitting at prayer all day, every day.  You’re handed a list of things you are supposed to pray for.  They are:

·         May the rich continue to be rich, and the poor continue to be poor.

·         May wars continue to destroy thousands of lives every year.

·         May children be born with horrible birth defects, die young, be enslaved, raped, abused.

·         May governments work against each other so we will never live in harmony.

·         May businesses continue to abuse their workers.

·         May The Rapture not come.

·         May everything continue to be as it is.

If prayer works the way the Evangelicals work, there must be thousands of rooms like that all over the world.  Or, maybe Tim Minchin is right.

Final note: I sent him another note, thanking him for providing such a fascinating answer and asking another question: Why pray for something as small and fallible as “righteous judges” when they could ask for something big?  Why not pray for human biology to change so women only get pregnant when they want to?

He called my question absurd, accused me of not being serious (I was), and said something disappointing that, frankly, I don’t remember.

And that was the end of my contact with Evangelicals.

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