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Can we determine the will of God through prayer?

1999 to 2000: Design of a pilot study

Biblical and other quotations about assessing the will of God:

(From the King James Version; spelling is updated for clarity)

bulletPsalms 86:6-7: "Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you: for you will answer me."

bulletProverbs 2:3-6: "Yea, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding...Then you shall understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom: out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding."

bulletProverbs 3:6: "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

bulletJeremiah 33:2-3: "Thus said the LORD...Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not."

bulletJames 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him."

bullet Arthur Koestler, referring to prayer: "God seems to have left the receiver off the hook and time is running out."

Determining the will of God: a preliminary study

Our web site includes descriptions of many different world religions. Our visitors come from a wide range of faith groups. We attempt to describe all aspects of many "hot" religious topics: often from the religiously conservative, religiously liberal, and other points of view.  We decided that ours was the ideal site to conduct a study of whether prayer can determine the will of God on a controversial question.

We selected a matter about which people tended to have strongly polarized beliefs: same sex marriage (SSM). At the time, the topic was being stridently debated, but no political jurisdiction in the world had legalized marriage by same-sex couples. That was to come later: in 2001 for the Netherlands, 2004 for Canada, 2015 for the U.S., etc.

The two options were:

bullet Whether the state should continue to restrict marriage to persons of the opposite sex, or 

bulletWhether loving, committed couples of all sexual orientations should have an equal right to marry, and enjoy the status, economic benefits, and government services that marriage would bring to them. 

Opinion among our visitors and in society generally was sharply divided:

bullet Most religious conservatives considered same-sex marriage to be an abomination, and an attack on the God-ordained heterosexual family. They believed that marriage must be reserved for opposite-sex couples only.

bullet Many religious liberals, Agnostics and Atheists viewed the question from a human rights perspective. They see no more fundamental and personal human right than the right to marry the person that one loves. They feel that all mature people -- whether homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual -- should be allowed to marry the person that they love with whom they wish to form a lifelong relationships, subject to the usual restrictions concerning genetically related individuals and age.

The two groups often could not even agree on the nature of sexual orientation -- whether it is a chosen, changeable preference or an unchosen, fixed orientation. It is doubtful that a consensus will be reached on the matter of same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future. But we thought that they might be able to assess the will of God on this matter through prayer.

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Details of the study:

We published a notice on our web site encouraging visitors to take part in our study to assess the will of God. We E-mailed a form to each visitor to our web site who had asked to be included in the study. Subjects were thus self-selected. The form asked the recipient:

bulletWhether they were currently in favor of or opposed to same-sex marriages.
 
bulletSome personal data -- their sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and which "wing" of that religion that they followed.

bulletTo seek God's will for same-sex marriages through prayer.

bullet To continue praying until they received a response from God, or felt that the attempt was hopeless.

bulletIf they were successful in assessing God's position on SSM, then we asked:
bulletwhat God's will is, and
 
bullethow certain are they that they correctly assessed God's will.

We received 75 useable responses over the period 1999-JUL to 2000-JAN. A summary of the results and detailed information is available.

Copyright © 2000 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-MAY-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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