As my friend Harvey says, “Something to think about.”

Answered prayer vs. random chance or human intervention

July 1, 2008 From d-C

On a previous discussion on this subject, orDover said (edited for flow):

The entire problem with answered or unanswered prayers is the vagueness. You can be the sort of person who asserts that every good thing in your life, including your daily meals, is an answered prayer. However, at that point you move into a hazy area where anything, from your father’s work ethic to the happenings of the universe, could be attributed to prayer.

In the world of scientific studies, for finding to have significance, they must rise above the statistical noise. This means that these findings must have a positive percentage above what you would expect from random variation. Unless you go the above mentioned route where ever little thing is a round-about answered prayer, then god never rises above the statistical noise. In other words, 500 people have stage III cancer. The average survival rate is 30%, which means in order for answered prayers of the 500 cancer patients to rise above the statistical noise, god would have to save around 40-50% of them (and even then, that wouldn’t be that impressive). These sort of studies have been done, and god never rises above the noise. So the effects of prayer are either so vague that we can’t notice them, or no more significant than random variation of given events. It’s not that answered prayer isn’t tangible or obvious, it’s never more significant than random chance.

When I look at that, I conclude that it is more likely that god doesn’t exist then that god is meagerly behind mundane everyday events that would occur the same way given random variation with or without a godlike presence. God is either on the sidelines not doing much, or isn’t there at all.

And then there is this:

From Edward Fudge at gracEmail


There are seasons to our lives, as the Preacher observed more than 3,000 years ago, then went on to name 28 different ones (Eccl. 3:2-8). I add two more, since there are also times for change and for remaining the same. The decade 1972-1981 was a season of many changes for Sara Faye and me. At one point when we were intensely seeking God’s guidance, I asked a friend his thoughts about how to balance our own efforts and waiting on divine intervention. He smiled, said he had no clear answer but observed that he thought God found it easier to guide a moving object.

He meant, of course, that God doesn’t want us to just sit and do nothing but that he does ask us to trust in him to guide our steps (Prov. 3:5-6). Somehow, while we busily do the things we know and are able to do, God brings everything together and makes it all work out. Interestingly, the most crucial actions, events and details that determine the actual outcome often transpire entirely outside our realm of control.

I was reminded of this truth the past weekend as we celebrated with my California brother Benjamin the publication of his children’s book Enrique Speaks With His Hands. Like most new authors, Benjamin had worked hard for two years submitting his manuscript to dozens of publishers while the rejection slips piled up. Then one day he received a phone call from a publisher who was very interested. The funny thing was that Benjamin had never contacted this publisher. It had heard about him from one of its established authors whose relative had crossed paths with Benjamin as strangers in an airport and ended up talking about the children’s manuscript. The stranger mentioned it to his relative who mentioned it to his editor and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why do you suppose God works in such roundabout ways? Perhaps the results give us some clue. It’s what we call a “God thing” and we give him thanks. It wouldn’t have happened if we had done nothing, which encourages us to think and work as best we are able. And it gives us reason to discuss God’s wondrous workings with our friends — something that gives God pleasure (Mal. 3:16-18).


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