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Meditation 588
Another Reason for the Failure of Prayer

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In Meditation 585, I suggested that the argument that "God cannot be tested" is not a good excuse for the fact that properly conducted studies do not show that prayer has a positive impact. As I pointed out, there are bible passages that suggest he can be tested. Admittedly there are also passages that suggest he can't, but if believers can cherry-pick from the bible, so can I to counter their claims.

The argument that "God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no" does not solve the problem of why prayers have no discernible effect. A believer would have to accept that God bases his proportion of yesses and nos to produce the same outcome as no prayer at all.

But there is a clear statement available to believers in the bible of why God does not answer their prayers. It's all in Isaiah 59.

  1. Lo, the hand of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
  2. Rather, it is your crimes that separate you from your God, It is your sins that make him hide his face so that he will not hear you.

This is why their God does not answer their prayers. As most Christians would have it, we are all sinners. And God has pretty strong feelings about sin. As an illustration, in the third chapter of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, we listen in on the various sermons given at a Catholic school retreat to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis Xavier:

      -Yes, a just God! Men, reasoning always as men, are astonished that God should mete out an everlasting and infinite punishment in the fires of hell for a single grievous sin. They reason thus because, blinded by the gross illusion of the flesh and the darkness of human understanding they are unable to comprehend the hideous malice of mortal sin. They reason thus because they are unable to comprehend that even venial sin is of such a foul and hideous nature that even if the omnipotent Creator could end all the evil and misery in the world the wars, the diseases, the robberies, the crime, the deaths, the murders, on condition that he allowed a single venial sin to pass unpunished, a single venial sin, a lie, an angry look, a moment of wilful sloth, He, the great omnipotent God could not do so because sin, be it in thought or deed, is a transgression of His law and God would not be God if He did not punish the transgressor.

A wonderful theology isn't it? A moment of wilful sloth is a foul and hideous enough sin to get God's knickers totally in a knot. But it does explain why God does not answer prayers. He has hidden his face because we are all sinners.

In the unlikely event there is such a god, that is.