CAN PRAYER DETERMINE THE WILL OF GOD?
Interpretation of a pilot study:
Interpretation of the results:
There are a number of possible explanations for these remarkable results:
The results could have been a fluke. For example, another group
might replicate the study and find that God told the religious liberals that
he opposed SSM. The probability of this happening is vanishingly small.
Although the number of participants in this study is small, the results are
One group might be lying. For example, they might have determined to their
satisfaction that God disagreed with their stance on SSM, but they responded
with false data, saying that God really agreed with them. We feel that quite
unlikely. We receive about 10,000 Emails a year at this
office. The maturity and ethics exhibited by almost all of their authors
suggest to us that the participants are honorable and truthful people.
One group misunderstood God's response: This is also
difficult to accept, because the answer is a simple "Yes" or "No"
or perhaps "It depends upon the circumstances." Most subjects
reported a yes or no answer. It is unlikely that they misunderstood a
yes for a no and vice-versa.
Assuming that the results are accurate and can be replicated, then
there are a number of possible explanations. Most or all
of the possibilities listed below contradict widely held beliefs about the
nature of God and prayer:
God is deceitful. God is responding in prayer by agreeing with
anyone who communes with him, no matter what their opinion. God lies to some
people and tells others the truth. One visitor to our web site
suggested that God is "more like a friend who lends support,
whatever the question." But deceit is
not a quality associated with the Christian or Wiccan deities to whom most
of the participants prayed.|
||God is being unhelpful: God has an opinion but is unwilling
to reveal his will to those praying to him. Perhaps he doesn't want to
tell people how to think, and would rather that they struggle with the
question. This is unlikely because, if one believes that prayer is an
effective method of communication between humans and God, one would then expect that he would:|
||Tell people in prayer that he does not wish to give an answer.
||Refrain from giving any response at all.
||Tell people to figure it out for themselves.
Multiple Gods are answering: Hindus,
Neopagans and others believe in multiple
Gods and Goddesses. Each has their own properties, areas of expertise,
personalities; some are male and others are female. It is quite
possible that they would have different views on SSM. Perhaps one god
or group of Gods, who oppose SSM respond to prayer from religious
conservatives while others, who favor SSM, reply to religious
Both God and Satan answer prayers: One might postulate that all prayers
are not answered by God. For example, God might respond truthfully to the
prayers of one group of Christians, by communicating that he is opposed to SSM. Meanwhile, Satan or one of his demons might reply to the prayers of
other Christians who merely think that they are communicating with God. Satan or a demon would say that they are in favor of SSM. This
introduces an additional complication: if God is opposed to SSM, if
Satan says that he is in favor of SSM, and if Satan always lies, then
Satan must really be opposed to SSM. That would put God and Satan on
the same side of this topic. That does not make sense. If God favors
SSM and Satan is opposed, the results would be similarly
This possibility is consistent with the theology of some conservative
Protestant faith groups who teach that born-again Christian believers have a
reliable connection to God through prayer, but that others might not. Some,
for example, believe that God has terminated his covenants with the Jewish
people, and that God does not hear the prayers of a Jew. 1
Some conservative Christians feel that when non-Christians pray to
their God(s) and/or Goddess(es), that they are really communing
with Satan or his demons -- not with God.
Still, it would be distressing to moderates and liberals from various
religions to learn that prayer may not assess the will of God and that they may be deluded with false information during
God doesn't exist or isn't answering prayer: Another possibility is some or all of
the participants are deluded. They may believe that they have assessed the
will of God. However, they are really only hearing echoes of their own
thoughts. The "still, quiet voice" that they interpret to be the
voice of God is really their own conscience. Perhaps God does not exist.
Perhaps the Deists are correct -- God created the
universe, wound it up, let it go and hasn't been seen since. Again, these
are distressing thoughts to theists. But they would not surprise
Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, and some other secularists.|
God answers prayer, but most people don't really listen:
Perhaps God does respond to prayer, but he doesn't yell. Perhaps some
people's own ideas are screaming out loud with such intensity that the
individuals cannot hear God's quiet voice. This seems very unlikely,
because almost all of those who felt they had learned the will of
God reported that they were certain or very sure of the answer; i.e.
God had communicated clearly.
God feels that SSM is ethical in some regions of the world and
not in others. Thus, he would give a positive answer to those
seeking his will from, say, the Netherlands and Canada, while giving a
negative response to those from the American South. But this
possibility does not agree with the data. It was religious liberals
who got positive answers while conservatives got negative answers; to
our knowledge, the division did not occur along geographic lines.
Essentially all the responses during our pilot study came from North America.|
||God answered a different question from the one that the
subjects asked: The subjects asked whether God approved of
same-sex marriage in general. He may have answered a different
question: whether God approved of same-sex marriage for the person
doing the praying. This explanation also involves problems:|
||Almost all of the subjects are heterosexual, so one would expect
God to tell them that same sex marriage was not good for them. But
God did not.
||We would find with dozens of subjects praying to God for his
will on same-sex marriage in general, and finding out that he was
lying to half of them. Lying is not an attribute that is
normally associated with God.
||The question is intrinsically unanswerable: Jesus took the
ten commandments and the 613 instructions in the Mosaic code and
distilled them down into two directives: to love your neighbor as
yourself and to love God. One might conclude that all marriages
-- whether same-sex or opposite-sex, are good if they are based on
love, respect, and commitment. Those marriages which are not based on
these principles are inadvisable and outside the will of God. Thus,
one cannot say whether same-sex marriages are good; it depends upon
the relationship between the spouses, as it does for opposite-sex
marriages. Perhaps a better question would have been whether God
favors making marriage available as an option for gays or lesbians who
are in loving, committed relationships. |
Still, if the original question is unanswerable, then one would expect
God to either:
||Give no answer, or
||Respond that the question cannot be answered, or
||Inform the believer that the answer depends upon the individual
Instead, the vast majority of subjects in this study reported that
God gave them a definite answer -- pro or con.
God is fickle and switched his stand during the study:
God could have sometimes favored SSM and other times opposed it,
depending on just how he was feeling on a particular day. There are
instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where God changed his mind. For
example, in the book of Genesis, he created humanity. Then, later,
he became disenchanted with how humans turned out and committed a
massive genocide, killing almost every human
on earth, except Noah and his family. He was persuaded to change
his mind over how many just people would have to be found in Sodom
and Gomorrah before he would refrain from committing mass murder of
the adults, children, infants, and newborns in those cities.
However, a fickle God is not generally seen throughout the Bible and
is not taught by any Christian denomination today of which we are
God operates under a paraconsistent logic: This is a
system of logic in which genuine contradictions can happen. A
proposition can be both absolutely true and absolutely false at the
same time. Perhaps God's will is that same-sex marriage should be
illegal and also be legal.|
God rejects tests: In both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures,
there are indications that God rejects any tests by humans of his powers.
Perhaps the best example is when Satan tried to get Jesus to jump from the
top of the Temple in anticipation of God sending angels to rescue him.
Perhaps God would reject this pilot study's attempt to assess his will as
being a type of test.|
Other possibilities: If you can think of any, please Email
them to us.
We have no plans to replicate this study in the future. We are not really in
the polling business. We hope that some group will repeat this survey with a larger number of
subjects to eliminate the possibility that our results were a fluke. A more elaborate questionnaire, personal interviews,
or even polygraph tests might be needed to prove that the subjects were sincere
in their responses and not lying.
There appear to be only six logical possibilities: That:
||God is acting in a a deceitful manner.
||God is fickle and changes his mind often.
||God is not helpful and is letting people struggle with the question.
||Multiple Gods are answering prayer.
||Satan or a demon sometimes answers some individuals' prayer,
even though they think they are communicating with God. Perhaps
Northrop Frye was correct when he said that most people who think
they are worshipping God are actually worshiping the devil.
||Prayer does not
work at all; what people believe is the voice of God is their own conscience
speaking. They are in a state of delusion.
All of these are disturbing options to most Theists who believe in prayer. They
contradict many of the beliefs taught by Christian denominations about
the nature and attributes of God. Unfortunately, there does not seem to
be any feasible method to figure out which of the above possibilities is
2018: Review of the findings eight years later:
I did a Google search, using the string: praying for god to reveal his will. Google returned almost 90 million hits. I scanned the first 100 hits and none linked to this section on this web site. The vast majority -- perhaps all -- seemed to assume that one can assess the will of God through prayer.
Rev. Bailey Smith, 1980 Religious Roundtable national affairs
briefing in Dallas TX. The exact quote was: "God Almighty does not hear
the prayer of a Jew." Smith later enlarged on this comment by
saying: "I am pro-Jew?I believe they are God's special
people, but without Jesus Christ, they are lost." i.e. they are
routed to be eternally tortured in Hell after death
because of their religious beliefs.
Copyright © 2000 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2018-MAY-28
Author: B.A. Robinson