|The Prayer Illusion|
If I had to offer evidence as to why the Bible is a farce, Exhibit A could be the Biblical concept of prayer. And once a person prays, anything or nothing can happen, and the Bible neatly categorizes the prayer results in a way that cannot be challenged. It will either be seen as answered prayer, purposefully-witheld-by-God prayer, or a prayer failure on the part of the one praying. It is an unverifiable process. Religious folks pray and pray and pray; and no matter what happens, they see God at work. Seriously, I would expect something better from a benificent, all-powerful, and all-knowing God. The illusion of answered prayer is substantiated by it's supporters as follows:
1. First of all, the Bible promotes prayer. Jesus prayed. In Luke 11 he teaches the disciples how to pray. And later, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul promoted the idea of "prayer without ceasing."
Prayer is promoted as the way of taking hold of God's deliverance, sustenance, and forgiveness. It is the believers way to tap into the supernatural: his way to move mountains and receive miracles. Indeed, Mark 11:24 records Jesus as saying, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." The Bible says that faith is the key to prayer. You have to believe before you can receive. 2 Corinthians 4:18 and 5:7 admonish believers to fix their eyes not upon what is seen but what is unseen and to live by faith, not by sight.
The Bible claims that Jesus said that those who have faith could speak to mountains, and they would move (Matthew 17:20-21). They could speak to a fig tree, and it would die (Matthew 21:19-22). He said that nothing would be impossible for them.
Adherents are taught to pray "in faith" and expect God to answer the prayer.
2. If the supplicant remains faithful but sees no tangible results to his prayer, it is okay. Because, as some Christians believe, we are to pray according to God's will. For these folks, lack of prayer results may well be God saying, "Not now" or "I know what's best for you, and your request isn't it." But for another segment of Christianity, God's will is expressed in his Word (the Bible); and one must meditate upon it, speak it out of his mouth, and believe that he will receive the promise. There are texts to back up either path of belief. This is very convenient, because if no answer to prayer is visible or forthcoming, it can be rationalized, actually, as a prayer answer or a prayer failure.
3. Ah! Prayer failures and guilt. The Bible handles these possibilities quite well. If no answer is seen to the supplicant's prayer, and he chooses not to believe that God is saying, "No or not now," the Bible offers a Cornucopia of reasons why the supplicant may be at fault.
Maybe the one praying did not have enough faith. The story of the woman with an issue of blood promotes the idea that faith itself can bring deliverance and healing. In Mark 5:25-34 the story unfolds. Jesus is passing through a crowd, and this woman with faith simply reaches out and touches the hem of his garment. It says that Jesus felt "virtue" flow out of him. And the woman is said to have been healed. The inverse impression is left to condemn those whose prayers seem unanswered: their lack of faith causes them not to receive. And in Matthew 14:22-31, Jesus' disciples are out in a boat; and a storm arises. The disciples are afraid they are going to die, and they see Jesus out walking on the water. Jesus calls Peter to walk out and meet him; and when he tries, he begins to sink into the water, afraid he was going to drown. Jesus puts out his hand and saves him. And while he was about it, Jesus chastised Peter for having such little faith.
There are many verses in the Bible to cover other possible reasons for prayer failure. Luke 11:25 teaches that if you are not forgiving others, then you are not forgiven by God. And the implication here is with regard to what could impede one's receiving what he prayed for.
1 Timothy 2:1-15 implies that all kinds of things can block prayer: anger; disputing; immodest or too expensive clothing, hairdos, or jewelry; women who want to have authority over men; or women who will not be silent. Lucky for women though, it goes on to say that they can be saved by bearing children. :-)
Jesus and the Bible give many instructions about what we should do and shouldn't do. And for those who harden their hearts and do not trust Jesus, the stamp of "disobedient" is placed upon their sinful flanks (Hebrews 4:6); and they await death and judgement (Hebrews 6:1-8).
It's Christianity's bulletproof failsafe doctrine of prayer. The Bible covers every conceivable result, short-circuiting any attempt to challenge it, and the believer is left to continue striving to "pray continually." In my book, I call this phenomenon the surrender of our sovereignty. I personally decided to take back my sovereignty with a simple decision not to believe the historical fiction known as the Bible, written 1000 years B.C. in the court of David or Solomon, revised, edited, changed, embellished, canonized, revered, and exalted among Christians to be the Word of God.