The Implications of Prayer Experiments

Experimental studies have been done on intercessory prayer. The results are tantamount to prayer being a failed hypothesis.


If we expect certain gods to answer prayers, these experiments are clear evidence against their existence. If we expect the God of classical monotheism to answer prayers-as theists insist-then failed prayer is strong evidence against the existence of God (By the way, insisting that prayer isn’t merely about asking God for help in time of need is a red-herring).

Also, if God doesn’t answer prayers, she’s not worthy of our time or worship. Given all the horrific suffering in the world, the least God could do is answer prayers. Not doing so means that “God” is probably a dick or weak. For all we know, God has a mysterious good reason not to answer prayers. But for all we know, God also has a mysterious good reason to answer prayers. Thus, appealing to unknown reasons changes nothing; it also explains nothing.


One could say that God used to answer prayers but not anymore. However, this position is ad hoc and raises a million questions. It also appears to be a position that is inconsistent with the nature of an all-just entity.

Secondly, one could object by saying that we can’t test the supernatural with science because science is concerned with the natural. My response is that if the supernatural interacts with the natural, as theism posits, then science can test the supernatural.

Finally, a person could appeal to the mystery of God. But I already dealt with that in this post. Also, bringing out the mystery card almost always becomes a case of special pleading. It’s also not clear how appealing to mystery could possibly help when we are talking about very general facts (and general concepts). The upshot is that if we make our concept of God too abstract and mysterious, then the concept is useless and not worth our time.





8 thoughts on “The Implications of Prayer Experiments

  1. I think that there is a logical inconsistency. If we assume that the God ought to answer every prayer, we would live in a contradictory and a chaotic world. I can pray for event A to happen while another may pray to the same God for the event A not to happen.

  2. God is not beholden to us. Just because we ask, He is not bound by His position as God to give us what we want. Obvious example. If a child asks for pizza for breakfast, or ice cream, the parent who loves his child with all his heart, will likely say no, that he will give his son or daughter what they need to make them healthy and strong, not what they want to tickle their taste buds.

    Treating God like a venting machine, gives no answers as to His existence . . . because He is a person.


    1. How do you explain children with cancer? Has God given the 1 year old what they need to become ‘healthy and strong’? Or the parents that pray after the death of their child, whose prayers are never answered and never recover?

      1. The problem with this reasoning about children and cancer is a short-term approach to life. If you believe that life ends at the grave, then of course all deaths are tragic. But if you believe that life extends beyond the grave, then sad circumstances, things we call tragic, are not actually all, tragic.

        Because God is not a vending machine, but a Person, someone who trusts Him as a good God will grieve at the loss of a child, but with hope. There will be a reunion some day. Understanding this is based on having a relationship with God, not on trying to manipulate Him to do what we want.


  3. worldofwonders, we pray because of the relationship with God I mentioned. We are followers of Jesus, so our desire is to want what He wants, do what He would have us to, look at life as He would look at life. When we pray, it helps us re-align our priorities. And we have a good Father we know who cares about our problems. So we can tell Him and be comforted, even if He chooses to do something other than what we had hoped. I mean, He has the big picture of life, so why should He put aside what He knows, to do what we, from our tiny, limited perspective, thinks is good? He wouldn’t. But it’s still comforting to know that when He says no to something we desire, His way is better than our way, if not now in the immediate, certainly in the long term.


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