Mark Owen

The power of prayer

Answered prayer - it always gets a good press. Headlines splashed in newspapers, stories related on the TV news.

Remember those miners trapped deep beneath the Chilean earth? Every one of them rescued. What a story! Their godfearing families and friends prayed for them - and their prayers were answered.

But wait!  What about those miners in West Virginia?  They too were prayed for by godfearing people far and wide. I remember the prayer services and those endless commentaries from America's religiously-inclined TV pundits. Sadly the miners still died notwithstanding the prayers.

The simple fact is this - taken over a long run of events 50 percent of prayers will be answered and 50 percent will fail.  Probability is the operative factor here, not prayer.

And consider this. While the good church people of West Virginia prayed unsuccessfully for their miners, at that same time in China another group of miners were in trouble. I doubt that their families and friends prayed to the Christian god but in the event many were saved. Evidence of divine intervention? No! Evidence of the arbitrary nature of life's events.

Christians are quick to latch onto the positives and equally ready to ignore the negatives.  After all, the positives serve to strengthen faith. It is not without good reason that the churches urge their followers to regular 'fellowship' with like-minded people. Faith is a delicate plant, with shallow roots, and it easily withers. The security blanket needs a recharge every so often.

Recently there was much ado about an Australian 'saint' - Mary MacKillop. We were assured that Mary was responsible for miracles when people prayed to her and a couple of miracles were trotted out. But were we ever told about the thousands of sick people who prayed for a miracle and whose prayers were not answered? Of course not!  And neither are we told of the unanswered prayers of those who seek solace at Lourdes.

Believers pray and when an answer comes, they rejoice. but when an answer doesn't come they trot out some feeble excuse, e.g. 'It wasn't GOD's will.'  Have they forgotten the promise of the Christ-god: 'All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them.' (Mark 11:24)? Is this, perhaps, yet another of religion's lies?

During the night of 30 July 1997 Thredbo Village, an Australian ski resort, was rocked by a landslide that buried 19 people beneath an avalanche of snow and rubble. All over the nation, as rescuers toiled to release them, prayers were said for those trapped. In the event just one man, Stuart Driver, survived while 18 died.  Faith's score - Prayer answered - 1; Prayer unanswered - 18.  Not much of a testimony to the power of prayer.

Mark Owen, 2008 -