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About prayer


Can humans assess God's will through prayer?

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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 methrough 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: 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:

    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. This is God the Father who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibeneficient. 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 Americans say that they have prayed to God in the previous week.

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 Is an abortion 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 control, 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-FEB-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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