Hey, Christians;

I have a single, simple question for you.  It may at first seem frivolous, but I assure you that I am dead serious and consider its implications profound and its answers revelatory of the Christian mindset. 

If I believed in a compassionate, all-powerful God who answers prayers, I would pray every day for Him to eradicate all human disease.

My question is predicated on the a priori assumption that you do not do this.

My only question for you is: WHY NOT?

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claim to have irrefutable evidence for their claims

When Jesus presented Himself as the Son of God, some did indeed follow Him and trust Him and a movement did indeed begin. However, the vast majority of His own people rejected Him, even to the point of torturing and killing Him. Any disciple of Jesus reaching out to atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, etc., etc., should expect much the same response. Some certainly will turn and follow Jesus as Lord, while the majority however (sadly) never will. Any professing Christian who thinks, "Bam, I've got an absolutely brilliant apologetic argument that no one is going to be able to refute and I'm going to win over the whole world and be the awesomest evangelist ever in all history, even better than Jesus Himself," is delusional.

[Jesus said,] "All men will hate you because of me...A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! (Matthew 10:22-24)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:18-21)

Yearning for the eradication of all human disease is obviously a good desire. The all-powerful God does indeed have the power to bring such a thing about.

I'll give two answers why Christians may not pray daily for something like this: one Biblical and one which is an honest critique of Christian culture.

First, the Bible. God has given us a "big-picture" overview of his plan for the cosmic history of this world. In the first chapter of Genesis we have the creation of the heaven and the earth. Jump to the last couple chapters of Revelation and we have the new heaven and new earth that come after the return of Christ and the end of this world as we know it. Notably, the climax at the end of the story includes Rev 21:4, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Based on this, and other verses, I see God's plan to ultimately bring about the eradication of all human disease, together with the eradication of death, pain, suffering, and all the consequences of the Fall and sin of man, at the final end of the age. No sooner, and no later. (Of course, this happy state will not be enjoyed by everyone, but only by those who are together with God. That's another matter, beyond our present scope.)

So, when I both pray and labor to "hasten the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:11-12) in doing so I am at least implicitly (if not even explicitly) seeking the day in which all human disease, as well as many other problems, will be ultimately eradicated. Knowing that "all human disease" will not be entirely eradicated before that day, many Christians, myself included, nevertheless continue to pray for cases of individual healing as the need arises, and also give money to various causes including those to help find cures and ease the suffering of those with debilitating and life-threatening diseases. All of those forms of compassion exhibit Christ-likeness in different ways. For example, often it requires a bigger act of love and sacrifice to open your wallet for a cause than to lay hands on the sick and pray for their healing. For a disciple of Christ I think it is not a matter of either/or but rather both/and.

Now, as far as modern first-world Christian culture goes, I am a very strong critic. I would have to honestly say that probably the most common reason that most professing Christians don't pray every day for God to eradicate human disease is simply because they generally don't pray about much of anything beyond personal, immediate needs for themselves and their own family and friends. Even getting Christians to pray for the "lost heathen" around the world requires herculean effort, and only a relatively tiny number will come to a prayer meeting to do so. So by and large it is not a matter of Christians being "too heavenly minded to be of earthly good", but rather it is a matter of them being quite apathetic toward any such major issues in *either* the spiritual or the physical realm. Anyone who shows up to engage on this forum is probably a statistical outlier.

Hey Zachary,

Even getting Christians to pray for the "lost heathen" around the world requires herculean effort, and only a relatively tiny number will come to a prayer meeting to do so

Yea, look at me. Some very august public servants have called me that "evangelical atheist wicked little thang". So, clearly, the prayers are not forthcoming.

All good humor aside, that is an excellent post and I appreciate it. The view you've presented is one I've seen many times. We can chat more about this in my group, "Welcome All Adherents" if you want to join (or anyone else does).

- kk

I agree with Zachary Harris. Another thing I would point out is that individuals have different things that touch their hearts. Some have a heart for the poor, the widows, the orphans. Some have a heart for those afflicted with the slavery of substance abuse. Some have a heart for the imprisoned, and truly enslaved (think human trafficking) and still others have a heart for the infirm, the ill. 

Much like secular individuals focus on various outlets of good: the environment  what we eat and where it comes from, peace, animal cruelty, etc. 

We are admonished to pray for all of the individuals, but just as a person may feel more concerned for stopping animal cruelty than they care about the poor, so we Christians have things that strike a chord and become very important to us. 

"Anyone who shows up to engage on this forum is probably a statistical outlier." I totally agree with this as well.

Atheists are angry at Christians a lot of times for the hypocrisy. Rightly so. So am I. There is a lot of apathy in the Church, most people don't wish to become "mature" Christians, which is a shame. The idea that one could be "proud" to be saved, when it is something that is freely given through grace and through no work of their own is absurd. I'll stop my rant right there.

A lot of prayers concerning illness also end with "but Your will be done." As we (maybe I should just say I in case I am alone here) believe that the Lord uses trials and tribulations to prune away and shape us into maturity. 

He has certainly done so in my life.

Too busy praying for wealth & fame.  Oh, and aunt Clara who's dying of pancreatic cancer, and for my team to win!

Hey Gallup's Mirror,

I sympathize with where you're going with this. The key to this discussion, imo, is understanding that different forms of apologetic will emerge depending on the Christian. Your objection will work for many. But for some you'll end up in the weeds of doctrine and theology and it is not clear to me that there is an inherent, internal inconsistency here.

To show one, we need to do controlled studies of prayer to show that no prayer is answered. Now, I know studies have been done along these lines and we all know what they showed: events due to chance alone, nothing more.

Having said that, I don't know if there has been a sufficiently sophisticated methodology out there to test this against all prayers (by, say, allowing for a large enough sample and a random choice of what to pray over).

- kk

Hey Dale,

For any reasonably sophisticated Christian this wouldn't work well as an apologetic, though I don't know that this is your intent.

If not, even so, the answer would be pretty standard.

God does not answer all prayers. And you need an understanding of predestination and original sin to understand how/why they say this. For some Christians, God is not Santa Claus.

- kk

If god is just going to do whatever he wants to do anyway, then why bother praying?

To satisfy that deep seated need in humans to lay important matters into others' hands, thus absolving themselves from the weight on their shoulders and clearing their conscience.

Not unlike a servile dog sniveling in front of his master when he did something bad.

Praying isn't going to change anything, but you can make yourself believe that. It's self hypnosis. Moral swindling.

But no matter how unintelligent and indoctrinated people are, they know no prayer in the world will cure all diseases, or regrow a limb. And it is at this point, that when you question them, they'll start to become defensive and make up impetuous and desperate drivel in the hope the person across is just as gullible and morally starving as they are.

Hey Sarah,

I think that's an excellent intro to this subject. My own understanding of original sin was that the god YHWH loved humanity enough that he wanted us to have free will. The free will is what led to original sin. In my understanding sin to a Christian really means just living or acting outside YHWH's will, not necessarily something that makes you "bad", just fallible as it is impossible for a human being to live and act totally within a god's will.

- kk

Prayer = Because God already knows what you want….. he just wants to see you beg for it.

Go ahead… beg. I just have a moral objection to the “god” who wants you to beg. You don’t see anything wrong with that?

I do!  Christians have "reached out" to me the most when I have been going through a difficult time. It has been intimated that the trials I have gone through were there for my own good, to bring me to God.  I think that is beyond cruel, especially when the Christians in question didn't even know my history or what I was going through at the time.  

So, I am supposed to bear crushing burdens so I get to the point where I am open to give up my life and will to God?  If I believe in God, then I do get the comfort of knowing He is with me and I will not suffer in the afterlife, surely, but that means nothing when the current situation is nightmarish and I don't believe.  There have been times when I have been close to a breaking point when, just to try to mitigate the distress I was in, I could see a path down which that all made sense.  That is what they are waiting for, for the seeds they have planted to take root during the darkest moment.  This is vicious if you ask me.

Hi Sarah - what you are discussing here is what is known as the Problem of Evil. This might offer some ideas.


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