Tag Archives: Jesus

Reddit Young Life Thread

20 Nov

Interesting discussion about Young Life on Reddit.  You can see the whole thread here.

For the most part, the discussion mirrors much of the discussion that has happened here at the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch.  It vacillates between those who attended and think it was fine, mostly positive to those who didn’t like the tone or hypocrisy of some Young Lifers and their beliefs.

The comment I found most similar to my own experiences is below.  It’s interesting, although I attended Young Life over 20 years earlier than this poster, the dynamics and methods they describe are almost identical.  The bolded sentences are my doing, otherwise, this is the post in its entirety and unedited.

Past Young Lifer here. I was really involved in the program back in the early 2000’s when I was on the tail end of a really religious upbringing. I’ve been an atheist for over 10 years now, but I look back on this experience as a mixed bag of pleasant experience as regret.

Young Life was meant to be really open and fun and unlike most traditional church groups, they knew how to not freak people the hell out with a heavy handed approach to faith. Basically, it would be weekly house party (albeit a really, really tame house party) at somebody’s place where kids would hang out, maybe smoke cigarettes in the front yard, play Frisbee, chat, flirt with the opposite sex,etc. Then everyone would head inside. A bunch of guys with guitars would lead the group in singing popular songs (lots of Goo Goo Dolls and U2 back then…. mostly any song about heartbreak, feeling alone or lost). There would be some sort of group game and then a 3 minute talk about how people sometimes feel lost and without purpose (these talks would slowly build on each other throughout each semester and ultimately culminate in a big reveal that there just might be a God out there who loves you and can make you feel better.) There would always be a super strong push to get kids to sign up to go to one of their summer camps.

What Young Life provided was a safe place for kids to have fun and be vulnerable with each other. For teenagers, that is a valuable commodity. It worked really well.

As a kid who grew up in the church, I already knew what the message was. I already knew what the summer camp was trying to do. I realized that this was just a watered down version of what I’d been doing my entire life, but I could see that it honestly seemed to be working on getting numbers up – it seemed like good marketing.

And so I was 100% bought it.

That’s when a few of my more fervent friends invited me to join in to a group called “Campaigners” – and this is where Young Life starts to get a bit weird.

Campaigners would meet at 6am every Monday at the Young Life Leader’s house. We’d sing Christian Praise songs, read scripture, eat bagels – normal youth group stuff. But then we would start talking about who we wanted to bring to the next group, how we should talk to them, why it was important to save their souls. It was mapped out to a creepy level of detail: Jake and I have the same class down the hall from you. I’ll start a conversation about plans for Wednesday in that class and then we’ll bump into you in the hall and we’ll ask them to come with us to the next Young Life. Someone else will ask them later that same day. Maybe a 4th person would contact our target as well – all with one very clearly stated rule: never give away that this was all planned. Unpopular kids looking for friendship and approval were very, very easy targets.

Once they came with you, your job was make sure they had the best time ever. You introduced them to all of your friends. You hung out with them afterward. You took them on family vacations. But then you’d check in Monday morning and report how all of this was going to your fellow Campaigners who would make sure they stayed on the hook. Each week at the open function, they’d be really encouraging them to go to camp this year. They’d bring photos of last year and all the cool stuff they did and tell them that they have to go. And for horny teenage boys, pictures of their crush in a bikini is usually about all it took.

So flash forward to summer camp each year, there’d be a mix of about half Campaigners and half non-religious friends up at a camp in Minnesota with sailboats, zip lines, the best food I’ve ever eaten, disc golf, games, music classes, attractive members of the opposite sex who didn’t have to act church-y, campfires, non-religious sing along….. It was basically a week of pure bliss. And each night after a somewhat ambiguous talk about needing “outside” help, they’d leave you alone for an hour with your thoughts. And in retrospect, it’s crazy how effective that is. You plant an idea and then give someone a quiet moment where that is the last thing in their mind- and then it grows. Kids were converting in droves and I felt like I was part of something important.

Unlike my super creepy church youth group that was all talk, Campaigners was like the Christian SWAT team.

But at the same time, this is the group that ultimately made my faith unravel because they made me see that to be an effective evangelical, you really had to get to know and love the friends in your life – and knowing meant listening and actively engaging. Those things have to come before your agenda. But if the whole reason you’re making friends is to serve an agenda, does that really even count as a friendship? If you are getting together weekly to chit chat about that person’s spiritual progress when that particular topic has barely even come up with them – it’s some fucking spy movie shit and your personality starts to rip. As I got to meet people outside of the flock, I began to realize that when we sang songs about being lost and genuinely bonded in our heart to heart talks that I felt every bit as lost as they did – that the cure we were pitching was every bit as empty as the drugs, drinking and pre-marital sex the prudish church had always been warning about.

We were just teenagers. Everybody felt lost and disconnected. The magic of Young Life wasn’t Jesus – it was creating a safe place where it was okay to be vulnerable.

These days, I’d be really wary of sending any kid off to a camp like that because it is run by really, really smart grown ups who have a pretty good system for indoctrinating kids. These guys are just as good at marketing as any other corporation in our country. Pretty girls in bikinis don’t have anything to do with that brand name t-shirt, but dammit I’m going to buy it because I don’t want to be alone and feeling ugly. Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with zip lines and being vulnerable with close friends, but I want both of those things and if this summer camp can make me feel this good – who is to say it wasn’t Jesus the whole time?

The whole thing was such a mind-fuck – on one hand pleasant, on the other hand just a giant trick that I helped perpetuate.

If I could recreate the Young Life experience I had and remove that religious component, we’d have something capable doing real good in the lives of teens. But that’s the shitty part: it’s hard to do much of anything without hidden agenda. If you aren’t “fixing” troubled kids, if you aren’t helping people see the light – then what you are doing is just a waste of time.

On some quiet days, I’ll sit and think about my time with Young Life – wondering if there isn’t some way an atheist can crack that experience and re-tool it to help kids grow up to be the healthiest versions of themselves instead of fucked up by religion.

So how about it reddit, anybody want to open a summer camp with a highly elaborate system of trained teenage counselors who make it their business that all the forgotten kids in their school feel safe and loved.

Some Good Questions From Chad

27 Mar
Question Mark Graffiti

Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

A reader named Chad, recently left a comment on my About post.  I thought he asked some really excellent questions and thought it might make for an interesting post.

Here’s what Chad had to say:

ChristianAgnostic,

Had a chance to review your background and read some of your posts. Fascinating stuff. Never really met anyone who’s migrated from Christianity to agnosticism but seeing as how you had the misfortune of being involved with two cults (YoungLife and SGM) I find myself thinking, “Geez, no wonder this dude became agnostic.”

My question for you is: Isn’t there a part of you that’s even minimally concerned about the whole ‘hell’ thing? That’s not meant to be a rhetorical question or a preamble to some kind of evangelistic pitch or a “love bomb” or whatever. I’m genuinely curious.

You’ve been brutally honest about your assessment of Christianity so I’ll do the same. I’m a Christian and buy into the whole package. Young earth, Noah’s Ark, inerrancy of scripture. I’m totally on board. I’ve gotta say though, the whole concept of eternity, whether it be in heaven or hell, bums me out to no end. It haunts me every day.

When Christians talk about the weaknesses of the atheist and/or agnostic position, they always bring up the utter despair that atheists must feel about the finality of death. Even articles written by atheists acknowledge this despair. But between you and me, I’m thinking, “Why the sadness? This is one of atheism’s primary *benefits*! When you’re dead, your dead. What wonderful freedom. No need to think about the endlessness of heaven and the tortures of hell? Where do I sign up?” I can’t help but think that atheism, or at least agnosticism, would make me a more relaxed person overall. If it weren’t for the hell bit, I’m tempted to think I’d jump ship in a heartbeat. I totally see the appeal of the atheist perspective…

and yet…I have to think…

There must be some part of you that wonders if you made the right decision. You don’t think about hell at all? Seriously? It’s gotta be nagging at you at least a little bit, no?

So let’s jump in and I’ll do my best to answer.

First off, I want to be clear that I have no doubt that SGM is a cult.  When it comes to Young Life, I do not view them as a full-blown cult, but as an Evangelical Ministry that has engaged in some methods of outreach that are similar to tactics used by many cults.  I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I do not think that Young Life is on the same level as cults such as the Moonies or Jim Jones.   Also, my involvement with these groups are not what led me to agnosticism.  Even after I emerged from these groups, I still was an active Christian seeking to better understand my faith.  It was my study of the Bible, the history of the Bible, and early Church History that led me to conclude that the Bible is most certainly not the inerrant word of God.

As for hell (whether I am worried about it or not) the short answer is no.  I have no reason to believe in a hell because I don’t find any evidence that convinces me that there is an afterlife, let alone an eternal place of torture where an All Knowing, All Loving God sends creatures to be Eternally tortured for his glory and good pleasure.  Besides the fact that hell seems to be contradictory to a God that is loving and Just, I just don’t find any evidence for such a place.  If you think I am uninformed or being cavalier, I can assure you I am not.  Not that long ago I still believed in a literal hell, Young Earth, etc…because I still viewed the Bible as the Word of God.  Not sure if you read my posts on the subject of hell, but here they are if you want to know some of my background on the subject.

Hell,  Hell of A Start,   Hell Hath No Fury,   Hell If I Care,   Hell (for babies?)

As for the despair that some atheists agnostics speak of…I can say I just don’t relate to it.  Sure, if I dwell on the fact that someday I will die and no longer be, it’s a bummer.  But it’s because I currently enjoy a full and satisfying life, surrounded by people I love and projects I enjoy.   I think the bigger bummer, is constantly obsessing whether or not my faith will be good enough or correct enough to please a Heavenly Ruler who will once and for all, bring me to Eternal Bliss or to Eternal suffering.  Since realizing that this is most likely not the case, I do feel free to live my life without the extra burden of wondering whether or not I am doing God’s will.  I still attempt to treat all people with love and respect, but I no longer have the guilt induced teachings of Jesus and the church hanging over my head all of the time.

As for your own struggles,  I assume they stem from the teaching of the Bible.  My only advice would be to study the evidence supporting the idea that the Bible is the true Word of God.  If you find the evidence compelling, then you should be worried.  But if you find the evidence to be lacking, then you should regard the Bible’s teaching on Heaven and Hell in the same way you currently regard the Egyptian’s Book of the Dead teaching on the afterlife.  In other words, in the realm of myths and dead religions that hold no relevance to today.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and questions.

Best Regards-CA

Related articles

Pastors, Porn, and the Myth of the Moral High Ground

19 Mar
Billy Sunday (1861-1935)

Billy Sunday (1861-1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since leaving the Christian faith, one of the questions that has yet to be answered for me is this…

“Why is God so bad at making people good?”

I say this without malice or tongue in cheek.  I say it as someone who was drilled with the idea that a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of God’s word led to a Godly and abundant life.  But I found this to not be true.  For all the talk of morality and the need to make a stand as Christians, especially on issues of sexual purity, the Christian church is full of failure and hypocrisy on issues it proclaims as central to Godly living.

According to Ben Witherington, in a post on pastors and porn, over 50% of all pastors admitted to using internet porn.  Many of these same men (and sometimes women) are proclaiming changed lives and moral living, and yet they can not practice what they preach.  They are just as human and just as interested in human sexuality as the guy next door.

Shaming Those Who Admit It

When I managed a Christian bookstore, I saw firsthand the awkward and heavy-handed way that many Churches dealt with those who admitted to viewing porn.  In one instance, a customer of mine was fired as a worship leader when he confessed that he regularly viewed porn.  He confessed to the elders of the church, and in return for his honesty,  was fired and shamed until he left the church in humiliation.  Not to mention, the shame and embarrassment that surrounded his wife and kids once the gossip, I mean prayer chain, kicked into full swing.

In a twist of irony, about a month after he was run out of the church, I discovered that my boss was using the computers at my Christian Bookstore to view internet porn.  It was ironic, because he was one of the elders of the church that fired this guy.  When I confronted him about the porn pop-ups on the computer, he pretended not to know what I was talking about.  When I showed him the viewing history and the porn images that would upload, he still did not confess.

I went home that night and wrote him a letter, telling him that I knew he had been using the computers for porn.  I also told him if that he didn’t come clean, I would go to the elders of his church and report my concerns.  Within seconds of reading my letter, he was fearfully confessing his porn usage and practically begging me to not tell the elders at his church.

I really had no desire to put him through the ringer, considering he already had told his wife and would only face condemnation from his church.  I accepted his apology and let the whole matter pass.

The Moral Low Ground

I won’t belabor my point, but when it comes to sexual purity, as defined by Christian morals, the church in America has absolutely no moral authority.  The amount of hypocrisy concerning sex, porn, etc…is almost laughable.  But it’s not funny, because the church, while holding the average Christian to extremely high moral standards, and condemning those who fail, often times allows its leaders to wallow in the moral low ground in their own lives.

In my own life,my best friend’s wife committed adultery with a worship leader at my old SGM church.  He was soon divorced, but the worship leader convinced his wife to  get marriage counseling outside of SGM so he could maintain his “Godly” image and continue leading worship.

There was another friend who led worship and eventually became pastor in the Vineyard.  He was a regular user of internet porn and seemed to just give up at trying to overcome it.  So much for the Spirit filled life.

I could list a dozen more, but you get the point.

The hypocrisy of so many church leaders telling people to do one thing while being unable to follow their own advice is staggering.  And until the church quits condemning those who do not follow their views on sexuality, this hypocrisy will contine to erode any shred of credibility it may of had in our culture.

The myth of the moral high ground has been shown for what is, a Christian ideal that is not followed by those who supposedly are leading others  to it.

Is Young Life A Cult?: A Parent’s Plea To Their Son

5 Feb

 

Letters to Aussie MPs - No Clean Feed Please.

Letters to Aussie MPs – No Clean Feed Please. (Photo credit: kattekrab)

It’s funny…but when I wrote my original post, Is Young Life A Cult?, I had no idea how much interest and activity it would generate on this blog.  It eventually led me to start my secondary blog, Young Life Watch, to serve as a single resource for anyone wishing to know more or discuss Young Life.

Another recent trend, has been a lot of comments from Young Life leaders (past and present) that think its unfair that I even raise questions about Young Life’s methods.  Many say that Young Life does not hide it’s agenda and that any parent can find out for themselves what Young Life is really about….

But in the midst, there are real families that are forever changed when their teen gets involved with Young Life.

One of those parents shared a letter they wrote to their adult son and I’d like to share it here as well.  You can see Don’s orignal comments here.

Here is a letter I wrote to my son. It would not surprise me if others can seriously relate to it in many aspects.

As I said in the text, I was not worried about the 60,000 kids that were in Atlanta. I am only worried about you and how your progression into adulthood seems to have been hampered by your participation in YL activities on a regular basis.
It baffles me as to how you can support an organization with members that bash or have bashed your brother and sister on a regular basis because they choose to not be involved in it. It seems to me that the members of such a Christian organization would be respectful of another person’s wishes and feelings and be understanding of them. Do you ever wonder if their choice to NOT participate in it is because of how they have seen it change you or other kids they have known and the decisions you have made based on YL or based on the fact that they regularly see how these members harass people that choose to not participate? You left our house because of YL. There is no denying it. You did not like our concerns and you ran straight to the house of a YL member. Now, you still live there despite their son having moved out? Does it ever bother you that you have never shown us where you live or the fact that we do not even know where you live and who you live with other than by name? This really concerns me in the event of an emergency. Does it bother you that at the age of almost 21, you do not have a place you can show us as yours? Does it ever strike you as odd that those parents would allow you to stay there after their own son has moved out? This is not healthy for you. How much do you pay in rent or groceries or other household stuff? I am fairly certain it is little to none. In that case, how much have you saved towards getting your own place then? It has been 15 months and I know you are no closer to that today than you were the day you chose to leave. What are you going to do/have when their graciousness runs out? I see you doing this and it makes me wonder if I raised you wrong. It looks like you are a moocher that just sucks off of other people to get the easy way through life. You do not want to work hard to get anything and you feel as if you are entitled to the nice things you have. You have never had to work hard for anything you have and I guess that is my fault.
Please do not get my dislike/concern for the YL organization as a dislike for you wanting to live a Godly life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am in full support of you if you choose to live like that and I always have been. My concern is the “material” approach to life you’re your YL/religious lifestyle seems to revolve around. Everything about it, that I have seen, is based on the “coolness” or “niceness” of a place/thing. Look at Atlanta (Hyatt hotel downtown), your camps (Rockbridge, Lake Champion, Crooked Creek, etc). They are all held at beautiful locations but have astronomic attendance costs. I know many kids get scholarships but that is just a way for them to maintain their “awesome” status. I am remembering $600 and up and I am certain it increases every year. I bet some are over $800 now. All of the kids I see involved in YL are always dressed to the nines with the newest styles and coolest shoes, cars, etc. I do not recall Jesus needing stuff like that. He was a very basic man (robes and slippers) and chose to let his actions define Him. Am I correct? How come a YL camp never involves a trip to somewhere desolate, destitute, and/or downtrodden? These trips to “lead teens to Jesus” always involve getting the wealthy teens, as opposed to those in more dire situations that may need it more than anyone. I think it is because NO ONE in YL, from top to bottom, can relate to anyone in a situation like that. Does YL ever talk about tithing? Or do they just worry about how much people can give to them so they can continue their ministry? I see links to give to them all over their websites but no real mention of what should be happening in the church. All of this lavishness flashes me back to the Jim Bakker scandal of the late 80’s. I’d recommend you Google that phrase and see what comes up.
Why is it that whenever I talk about these concerns you have NEVER been able to even SEE/HEAR my side of it? It instantly becomes an argument because you think there is NO WAY I can be right on this and you sit there with a disgusted look on your face like you are annoyed or inconvenienced by my thoughts. Why do these “leaders” or regional directors/area directors have to be involved in everything? I was only nice to that leader guy because we were in public. He has no idea what I wanted to say to him but I know you can imagine. It is very strange, to me, that these 35-45+ year old guys want to hang with groups of guys your age. If you ask me, it is because it is their job to make sure no one that disagrees with YL has a chance to get you to see what is actually happening. I guess their plan is working as they want it because that is exactly what is happening. You never want to hear it. A perfect example of this was the other night when we were texting. All you wanted me to do was watch a live stream of what was going on and hearing “your favorite artist”. You did not even reply that you would read my email to you. It was all about what I needed to do to “see what you were doing there”. Do you know how many times you have told me that? It is the exact response I get EVERY time I say anything about how I feel about it. You actually pleaded with me.
YL has had a direct impact on how much you work. I cannot figure out how you manage to maintain a job despite how much time you are able to take off for these activities. There is fall weekend, the summer camp and the Atlanta thing (even though it is not a direct YL happening) this past weekend. I know that since your first job, many of your jobs have been given to you through a connection to YL so maybe that is how and no one there cares as long as it is because of a YL activity. It amazes me that you continue to pass up opportunities to work full time hours so that you can attend their functions. This Atlanta thing REALLY confounded me. You had just gone to your mom’s for 5 days unpaid and then you throw on top of that another 3-5 days unpaid to go there. How do you function with that much unpaid time off? I cannot grasp it for the life of me.
I wish I could explain to you how heartbroken and distraught I have become over this. I have lost my son and I am scared (but basically have seen enough to know) he is never coming back. I hope you get that and understand that and that you care. I have told you what my other feelings are on it. I cannot be around you and have you involved in it because every time you participate in a YL activity I get nauseous and angry because they disgust me so bad. I am at a loss of what to do other than that. That does not mean I do not love you. I hope you get how serious I am about this, buddy. I cannot have that stress in my life. What happens between us from here on out will be your decision.
I have decided to type this as it affects me so I used the word I a lot. I did that on purpose. That way you could not think that I was influenced in anyway by how your other family members feel about it. They each have their own opinions and feelings. I felt I should only type this from the aspect of how I feel, what I see, and how it affects me. They can each share their views on it with you at their own time if they choose to and in their own way. I will also let you know that YL-(enter your city here) may be saying something to you about an email I sent them. I am sure they will recognize my name as the same as yours. I basically let them know what I thought of them. I asked them to pass on to their “leaders” to leave your sister alone. I am tired of her having to vent how frustrating it is to be repeatedly hounded about becoming a Young Lifer. It is also creepy to her that a college age leader(whose name has been removed) sits in the student section at sports events. It really bothers her and eliminates a lot of the fun she goes there to have. I am certain she is not the only one. On top of that, YLers seem to always want to give their testimony to her at sporting events. She did not pay for a sports pass to hear that only to watch the same girls be some of the nastiest ones in all of her school. Actions speak louder than words. I am sure the same can be said for kids at other schools you guys get placed in.
I know that making a change like this is a HUGE step and it may be impossible for you to see that it can be done. I completely understand how easy it is to trust and believe in people that much, especially at your age. It happens in society every day. Your entire life revolves around/in it. All I can tell you is that I’d be there every step of the way to help you however I could. You do understand and know that right? Like I said before, it does not mean I do not love you. I just cannot have the stress of it in my life.

Love,
Dad

Covenant Life Issues Statement Concerning Amended SGM Lawsuit

16 Jan

Special thanks to thetollingbell.org  for posting CLC’s emailed response the the SGM lawsuit.

Having trouble reading this e-mail? View it in your browser.
Dear Church,We’re writing to update you on a new development in the legal process that began unfolding last fall. The lawsuit that was filed in October has been amended. It now names our church and our school as defendants. In addition it alleges sexual abuse by an unnamed “pastor and teacher” and “children’s ministry worker” (though it does not make clear what institution these persons are connected with nor when the events allegedly occurred).

We’re currently working with legal counsel to investigate these allegations. But our counsel has confirmed with counsel for the Plaintiffs that these unnamed persons are not current employees of the school or pastors at the church. 

It will take time for us to review and investigate these new allegations. We ask for your patience—it’s very likely that this is going to be a lengthy process. Please continue to pray.

We are sickened by the thought of such abuse—sexual abuse in any form is evil and unconscionable. We are grieved by these allegations. We also recognize that we don’t have all the facts. We would encourage everyone to withhold judgment until an appropriate legal process can be completed.

We want you to know our commitment is to do what is right before the Lord throughout this process. We want justice and truth to prevail—whether this indicts past actions or vindicates them. If wrong has been done, we want that to be revealed and for there to be appropriate accountability. We also know that it is possible for people to be wrongly accused, and so we pray that God will protect anyone from inaccurate or distorted or false accusations.

Please join us in praying for God’s will to be done and for our church to walk through this difficult process in a manner that demonstrates our hope and trust are in him. Let us pray that this testing will make us more dependent on God, more compassionate to the hurting, and more effective in sharing the love and tender care of Jesus Christ with others.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV)

Sincerely,

The Pastors of Covenant Life

Covenant Life Church
7501 Muncaster Mill Rd., Gaithersburg, Md. 20877
301-869-2800

I’ll just offer a few thoughts about CLC’s response.

To be blunt….it sucks.  It sucks big time for one big reason.  It sucks because it fails to show any proactive effort to make sure that current members with knowledge of these abuses step forward and speak to authorities.

Instead, it takes the typical defensive “wait and see’ posture that your pastors are doing everything to investigate these allegations, so “you all” just sit tight and withhold judgement until we get back to you.

Where is the sense of urgency to make sure that no stone has been left unturned and the encouragement to speak to proper authorities if you are aware or are a victim of this type of abuse?  It’s not there…

In my opinion, this response seems to indicate that CLC’s pastors wish this whole mess would just go away.

I’m still waiting for Josh Harris to put on his big-boy pants and do something that remotely looks like moral courage…

Dating the New Testament Writings

10 Oct

I may not be dating the church anymore (wink at Josh Harris), but I have continued my study on the New Testament and the historical dating of when the Scriptures were written.

I just came across a fascinating video series,by Xorosater, that attempts to answer when the New Testament Scriptures were written.  I like the series because the video clips are short, but very helpful in illustrating the difficulties of finding consistent evidence that the New Testament writings we have today are actually from the first century.

When I first started reading writings from the early church (over 12 years ago), I was fascinated by the diversity and a little unsettled at how much they actually muddled the water about the authority of the Bible and which books should be considered scripture and which ones should not.

If this is a topic that interests you, check it out and let me know what you think.  I still am a huge geek about the history of the early church and love the complexity and implications of this time period.

The Powerlessness of Prayer

24 Aug
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  The reason why…because of God’s lack of answer to prayer.  In all honesty, God really does not answer prayer in the way it’s promised in the Bible.  The Bible claims that God cares for you and me and wants to answer our prayers.

Matthew 21:22 plainly states

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

But this does not seem to be true.  Millions of Christians have believed that God has the power to save and heal, have begged God to do so, and he has not done it.  Babies have died, beloved parents and relatives have wasted unto death, while God ignores the prayers of those who have asked him to heal those whom they love.

I know many will object that maybe God had a different idea, or maybe we just didn’t believe enough.  But I think, that deep down, even the most earnest Christian does not really believe in prayer as described in the Bible.  They might think God will tip the scales a little more in their favor, maybe send a specialist doctor to save the day.  But most have asked God to heal cancers, only to see the cancer prevail.  Lord knows I’ve pleaded for babies that still went to the grave and left their parents in dismal grief, despite my many prayers.

Most Christians have lived long enough to know that prayer will not save the day…it may bring a little relief, kind of like meditation or silent centering, but it will not result in God’s miraculous intervention in the Biblical sense.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

We’ve all heard of the Christian parents that withhold life saving medical treatment for their children.  They trust God will heal, so they pray, wait, and watch as their children die or are seriously sickened from a condition that could have been prevented by human intervention.  Instead, they obey the Bible’s teaching to seek God for all their needs.  And in the end, many end up at a graveside, a court room, and some will even see the inside of a jail cell.

Why?

Because they took the Bible at it’s word about prayer.

But most Christians see this as extreme and would never do this to their children.  When the rubber hits the road, we say a prayer, but we pay a visit to the doctor.

Worst Case Scenario

Imagine an even more agonizing situation.

Imagine you are a middle aged mom whose elementary schooler has not returned home on time.  After ten minutes past the normal time your child arrives home, you wander next door to confirm that the bus is late.  When the neighbor’s child answers the door, you begin to worry.

Your neighbor confirms that the bus arrived on time, but your child was not seen exiting the bus.  A quick call to the school sends you into a panic. Your child was not seen at school all day.  In fact, the voice mail you ignored this morning was your child’s school calling to confirm that your child was sick and at home.

You slump to the floor sobbing as your neighbor dials 911….

Freeze Frame

Pausing this imaginary nightmare, ask your self this question.  Do you believe in the power of prayer to locate your child safely?

In other words, would you just call the prayer chain at church and trust God that he would lead you to your child?  What if the detective at the police station said they weren’t going to send out a description of your child, instead the officers were going to pray and wait on God to lead them to your child…would you really be ok with that response?

Of course you wouldn’t…you would be doing everything in your power to bring your child home again.  You would want to know that every stone in the county was being turned over in search of your child.  You would talk to anyone willing to listen and get the word out that something more precious than gold is lost and needs to be found.

This scenario reveals that when it matters most, prayer does little to no good when facing real world problems.  It doesn’t heal children who are sick.  It doesn’t save relatives that are dying.  It doesn’t bring children home who have been kidnapped or run away.

In short, prayer has no real power to change reality.