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"prayer doesn't work"

Many are tired of ineffective prayers to end mass shootings. Familiar platitudes such as “thoughts and prayers to the families” seem hollow.

“Prayer doesn’t work.”

Agree or disagree with that statement, rational analysis concludes that prayers have failed to stop mass shootings.
Critics who say, “Prayer doesn’t work,” have some political agenda. They want stricter gun control, or more mental health resources, or increased school security. They want something to stop the shooting and save lives.

If somehow prayer miraculously ended mass shootings, critics may not admit prayer works. But there’d be less data to support their criticism.

So, consider the critique: “Prayer doesn’t work.”

Throughout human history prayer was a petition. To pray meant to request the intercession of some greater power, be that power a king, a tribal leader, a tyrant, or a god. Many have petitioned some higher power to stop the shooting, but to no avail.

In the Bible prayer is both petition and conversation, both speaking and listening, both gaining and giving.

The Old Testament records God instructing King Solomon, “If my people, will humble themselves and pray, then I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Solomon wrote that prayers are heard when humans humble themselves. Another Old Testament
king learned humility the hard way. King Nebuchadnezzar discovered four things humble people know:

1) God is eternal, with no beginning and no end.

2) God owns the universe, and created it for His purposes.

3) God does as He pleases, even with people.

4) God is beyond human challenge, His ways are above and beyond us.

The New Testament records Jesus teaching His followers to address God as Father and to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

But on our earth God’s will is rejected. It’s rejected when we choose conflict, excuse theft, redefine human sexuality; rejected by all who refuse to see the image of God in the least among us.

In his book After Disbelief,
Yale law school dean Anthony Konman writes that our culture has developed an allergy to God. We think the idea a fable for credulous fools and share a contempt of religion—it’s bad for our health. We think of God as some monstrous force from which children must be protected. The very idea of the divine is a danger, like a virus.

Our culture rejects God. Then we self-righteously conclude that unanswered petitions prove “Prayer doesn’t work.”

Dan Nygaard