What do you say to someone who claims that prayer is a waste of time because supposed “answers” to prayer are simply result of confirmational bias?
The way I see it, either God exists or he does not. If he exists, either he listens to and answers prayer or he does not. I believe that God exists. I have massive and incontrovertible evidence that God exists. I will be happy to share with you this evidence. In fact, I am attaching a set of notes on the existence of God. Existence of God Notes Existence of God PPT If you are interested, we have a ten hour class on this topic. I believe that from the evidence for design alone, it borders on irrational to reject the existence of a Creator. I will let you decide, of course.
On the second question, I believe that God does in fact answer prayer. My “proof” for this is much weaker, to be honest. I believe that any rational person, when looking at the evidence, will be forced to the only logical conclusion, which is that there is a God–an intelligent Creator. However, the empirical evidence that God answers prayer is not as overwhelming. The evidence is more indirect. I will give you a couple of reasons below why I believe that God answers prayer. Let us, just for a moment, assume that he does answer prayer. Then clearly prayer is not a waste of time. If he does answer prayer, then it is definitely not simply confirmation bias. Now, if God does answer prayer, does that prove that everyone who ever believed that God answered such-and-such prayer, that they were correct? I say no! Has anyone ever allowed confirmation bias to convince themselves that God answered prayer when it is really just a coincidence? I say absolutely yes!!! I am 100% confident that people occasionally convince themselves that God answered prayer X but it is really just a coincidence. For example, one is late to work, and prays for God to turn the red light green. The light turns green. Therefore God answered that prayer. Next time, the same thing, but the light does not turn green. Right, but that is because God was trying to teach me patience. Such “logic” might drive unbelievers crazy!!!! Does this ever happen? Yes, it does.
Nevertheless, if the answer to both questions above is yes, then prayer is not a waste of time. God asks us to pray and, like Jesus said, we can ask God in his name and he will answer (John 14:13). Remember, this is not proof, it is just a logical statement.
1. God certainly exists (at least it is certain to me.)
2. If that God answers prayer, then prayer is not a waste of time.
Now, let me consider the other option:
1. God exists. but
2. God does not answer prayer.
If this were true, then prayer would be a total waste of time, and any human belief that he answers prayer would be due to something like confirmation bias.
OK. Only one more thing to talk about. Given that God exists (obviously, he does) then why should I believe he answers prayer? This is a harder thing to “prove” as I already said.
Let me share with you why I personally believe that God answers prayer.
1. Because the Bible is inspired by God. and
2. Because the Bible says that God answers prayer (John 14:13, James 4:1-3, 1 John 5:13-14
It comes down to this. Is the Bible inspired by God? What is the evidence? There are literally thousands of articles at my web site showing solid reasons to believe that the Bible is inspired by God. If these arguments are true and reasonable, then it is definitely worthwhile to pray.
The evidence the Bible is inspired includes:
Evidence for biblical miracles
Evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Evidence of the reliability of the Bible in general
Evidence from foreshadows and prefigures on the Bible.
I can give much more on each of these forms of proof that the Bible is inspired by God. Please write back if you want more of this sort of evidence.
So, here is the bottom line. If the Bible is inspired by the God who created the universe, then you would be very wise to pray to that God.
Notice, I did not include evidence from my own experiences of God answering my own personal prayers. I could give dozens and dozens of such stories, but my experience is that this kind of evidence is mostly convincing to the one whose prayer was answered. So… I will keep this “evidence” to myself. I suppose that a person who says “No” to either question above will believe that it is mere confirmational bias.