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About prayer


Can humans assess God's will through prayer?

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The first hurdle: Decide whether God exists?:

  • If no God exists then the answer to whether we can assess God's will is automatically no.

  • If a deity or deities do exist, than the question makes sense and we can proceed.

There are three basic beliefs that people have concerning the existence of a deity:

  • Atheists typically have no belief in the existence of a god, a goddess, or pantheon of deities. Most doubt that it is possible to use prayer to assess her/his/their will.

  • Agnostics typically believe that there is no firm evidence, either of God's existence or of God's non-existence. Thus, they feel ethically bound to remain uncommitted for now. Again, for them, it is impossible to assess her/his/their will because if it were possible then their existence would automatically be proven.

  • Theists, Duotheists, Trinitarians, and Polytheists are, by definition, convinced that one or more Gods and/or Goddesses exist. Since they typically believe that such deity or deities:
    • has infinite powers,

    • is immanent, -- pervading and sustaining the universe, --- and

    • is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient,

then humans might be able to assess her, his, or their will. The question is whether they would respond to prayers or not, on a regular basis.

This web site's official policy is to remain neutral on the subject of God's existence. However, for this section, the author will suspend his Agnostic beliefs and assume that one or more deities do exist. Then we can explore whether a person can communicate with a God or Gods in order to assess their will.

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Conflicting quotations about assessing God's will -- pro and con:

  • Proverbs 3:5 & 6: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

  • Ivanla Vanzant: "In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was prayer. Sometimes my prayer was, 'Help me.' Sometimes a prayer was 'Thank You.' What I've discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my Creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away." 1

  • Monte Wolverton at Plain Truth Ministries: "Methods some Christians use to determine God's will are highly subjective -- arising from the individual's own perception and experience. Such messages are subject to personal interpretation. ....And ironically, in many cases, these perceived messages from God seem to affirm what the individual wanted to do in the first place." 2

  • Bob Seidensticker wrote on his blog at Patheos: "Imagine a world without God, where prayers are unanswered, where prayer is just you talking to yourself, where you only imagined that a loving deity supported you in adversity, where bad things happen to good people for no reason, where only wishful thinking supports the ideas of heaven and hell. Open your eyes, because that’s the world you’re living in." 3

  • Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906): An American social reformer and women's rights activist said:

    Statement by Susan B.Anthony

Note about "God":

To make this section more easily read, we will refer to deity simply as "God" in this essay. This matches the beliefs of most North American adults, who believe in a single deity, who is often viewed in practice as male. They believe that God the Father is omnipotent, omnipresent omnibeneficient, etc. If you view deity as plural, female, male and female, as gender-neutral, as absent, as evil, as lacking in power, please mentally substitute a title or description of your choice.


Prayer is a very popular activity. Polls have indicated that about 80% of U.S. adults say that they have prayed to God in the previous week. However, this may not be a reliable statistic. A similar polling question -- whether the individual attend religious service regularly -- found that on the order of 40% "say" that they do. However, by counting noses, investigators in a few counties have found that only 20% actually do.

There are many reasons why people pray. Two of the most important are:

bullet To seek guidance from God on a specific topic or problem in their life. For example: should they propose to their significant other; what university should they go to; should they accept a recent job offer; is this the right time to buy a new car?

bulletTo assess the will of God on a theological matter: For example:

bulletWhich denomination is the true church;

bullet What is the best ethical choice about the regulation of stem cell research;

bullet Can an abortion be the least worse option in a particular circumstance, or are all abortions unacceptable?

The effectiveness of prayer is rarely scrutinized. We decided to examine the belief that people can assess the will of God through prayer. We conducting a pilot study to test it in practice.

It is our hope that some other group will pick up this topic and develop it further, with a larger number of subjects, better controls, etc.

Topic covered in this section:

bulletHow does God communicate with humanity?
bulletEvaluating the effectiveness of prayer in real life
bullet A pilot study to determine if people can assess the will of God through prayer:

bulletDesign of the study
bulletInterpretation of the results
bulletRaw data from the above study
bulletRaw data (continued)

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Many Ways of Praise," Facebook, 2016-NOV-07, at:
  2. Monte Wolverton, "In Search of God's Will," Plain Truth Ministries, 2004-SEP/OCT, at:
  3. Bob Seidensticker, "Final Thoughts on the Atheist Prayer Experiment," Patheos, 2012-NOV-24, at: In this blog, he described an experiment where 70 Atheists prayed several minutes each day for 40 days, each seeking some sense that God was present.

Site navigation:

 Home > Science vs. religion > here

 Home > Christianity > Christian history, etcPrayer > here

or Home > Religious Information > Religious practicesPrayer > here

Copyright © 2001 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-12
Latest update: 2017-OCT-15.
Author: B.A. Robinson

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