December 15th, 2013
06:53 AM ET
Why Christians need Flannery O'Connor
Opinion by Russell D. Moore, special to CNN
(CNN) - On my Christmas list of gifts to buy my evangelical friends, there's a little book of prayers.
This is less predictable than it may seem, since the prayers aren't from a celebrity evangelical preacher, but from a morbid, quirky Catholic who spent her short life with pet peacocks and wooden-leg-stealing Bible salesman stories.
But I think Flannery O'Connor's newly published "Prayer Journal" is exactly what Christians need, maybe especially at Christmas.
The book, recently discovered in the writer's papers in Georgia and now published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reproduces the handwritten notebook prayers scribbled down by O'Connor during her years as a student at the University of Iowa.
The prayers are jarring because they are so personal and raw, clearly not written to "edify the saints" in a published manuscript. They are, well, just prayers.
Part of the rawness and authenticity of the prayers come with the way O'Connor refuses to sentimentalize her personal relationship with Jesus (thought it's clear she has one). She is here constantly aware of her own fallenness and of the seeming silence of the God to whom she pours out these little notes.
O'Connor notes that her attention is "fugitive" in prayer. She confesses that hell seems more "feasible" in her mind than heaven because, "I can fancy the tortures of the damned but I cannot imagine the disembodied souls hanging in a crystal for all eternity praising God."
She is constantly second-guessing whether her prayers for success as a writer are egocentric, or a genuine striving to use the gifts God has given her.
Moreover, O'Connor is constantly aware that she is a sinner, and she can't get around that. Perhaps the most widely publicized sentence in the book is her confession that she "proved myself a glutton, for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There's nothing left to say of me."
Even when she's confessing sin, she seems aware of her sinfulness in doing that. She says of sin, "You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited," but, she immediately concludes, "perhaps that is too literary a statement; this mustn't get insincere."
O'Connor's prayers are hardly "inspirational," in the sense that many American Christians want: a model of the "victorious Christian life" where "prayer changes things" and we've got "joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts, to stay." That's why we need them.
American evangelicalism, my own tradition, rightly emphasizes the biblical truth that the gospel is good news, that our sins are forgiven in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We rightly emphasize that the believer now has a personal connection to God, accessible in prayer through the priesthood of Jesus himself.
But sometimes we forget how hard that is in this time between the times.
Some of our worship services are so clean and antiseptic, led by grinning preachers and praise bands, talking about how happy Jesus makes us, that we forget that the Spirit prompts us to "groan" at our sin and the suffering all around us (Romans 8:22-23). This is especially true at Christmas, with so many evangelicals forgoing the dark longing of Advent to go straight to the tinsel-decked rejoicing of Christmas.
Some Christians, then, can wonder if something's wrong with them when they feel as though God seems distant, or when, despite all the smiles at church, they still feel guilty for the way their hearts don't seem to match up with their hymns.
But the good news isn't that we are all put together. The good news is that though we're wrecked and fallen and freakish, Jesus loves us anyway and has made peace for us with God and with each other. That's not something we always feel. We see it by faith.
O'Connor, elsewhere in her letters, writes of what it means to agonize over one's sin, to wonder "if your confessions have been adequate and if you are compounding sin on sin." She concludes that this agony "drives some folks nuts and some folks to the Baptists," while noting, "I feel sure that it will drive me nuts and not to the Baptists."
Those of us who were "driven to the Baptists" can benefit from a book of prayers that remind us that the Christian life is exactly what Jesus promised it would be - the carrying of a cross.
We can be reminded in prayers such as these to remind ourselves that between now and resurrection we will never be, in ourselves, anything other than sinners. That's why we need a Christ.
It's only when we grapple with the darkness of a fallen cosmos, only when we're honest about the fact that all our efforts look more like Herod's throne than Bethlehem's stable, that we can sing "Joy to the World." Flannery O'Connor wasn't an evangelical Protestant, but we need her.
We need her, especially perhaps, as we pray for peace on earth, goodwill to men, for Christmas in a Christ-haunted world.
Russell D. Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns. The views expressed in this column belong to Moore alone.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Do you know the biblical signs of the 2nd Coming of Christ—“the end of the age”?
1. Money hungry Bible teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3)
2. Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
3. The moon becoming blood red (Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20)
4. Wars (Matthew 24:6)
5. Forsaking of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 24:12)
6. A cold religious system (2 Timothy 3:5, 41)
7. Fantasy in place of Christian truth (2 Timothy 4:4)
8. Deadly diseases (Matthew 24:7)
9. Denial of a worldwide flood (2 Peter 3:5-6)
10. Marriage forsaken (1 Timothy 4:3)
11. Famines (Matthew 24:7)
12. Increase in vegetarianism (1 Timothy 4:3-4)
13. Knowledge increase (Daniel 12:4)
14. Cults/false teachers (Matthew 24:11 & 24)
15. Fear of the future (Luke 21:26)
16. Materialism (2 Timothy 3:4)
17. Increase in travel (Daniel 12:4)
18. Christians would be hated (Matthew 24:9)
19. Men would become rebellious, selfish, greedy, blasphemous, and unthankful (2 Tim. 3:2)
20. Jerusalem would cause political problems (Zechariah 12:3)
21. Mockers (motived by the sin of lust) would say these signs have always been (2 Peter 3:3-4).
22. But here’s the sign that gives us the time-frame: Jesus said that Jerusalem would be in non-Jewish hands “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” That happened in 1967. For the first time in 2,000 years the Jews obtained Jerusalem. The Bible is pin-point accurate.
The first time Jesus came, He came as the Lamb of God to suffer and die for the sins of the world. The second time He comes, He comes to bring Justice to an evil world. This is how the Bible puts it “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). If you want to keep your life, get right with God today.
"The Bible is pin-point accurate."
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!
What the hell is keeping jour beloved jesus myth from returning, isn't he like 2000 years overdue, I know you have an explanation for himself not coming back in a generation? Apologetics=lies. Don't scare the little kids they do not deserve your abuse.
What the hell is keeping your beloved jesus myth from returning, isn't he like 2000 years overdue, I know you have an explanation for himself not coming back in a generation? Apologetics=lies. Don't scare the little kids they do not deserve your abuse.
What the he!l is keeping your beloved jesus myth from returning, isn't he like 2000 years overdue, I know you have an explanation for himself not coming back in a generation? Apologetics=lies. Don't scare the little kids they do not deserve your abuse.
Ecclesiastes 7: 6a For as the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool;...
Thank you fellow Christian. You should post on every story in this blog. He's coming ready or not.
infantile slave mind
Who are you engaging in a conversation when most posting here are pantheistic/polytheists?
Nobody in particular, just feeding the trolls on a daily basis.Your family will starve if twofer does not feed it. 😉
Is that the kind of crap you gave to young children? You are worse than JW, you are dangerous.
And he has a victim...errr, child, on the way
Pious child abuse
Gopher, in case i have not made it clear, you are a coward
"But here’s the sign that gives us the time-frame: Jesus said that Jerusalem would be in non-Jewish hands “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” That happened in 1967. For the first time in 2,000 years the Jews obtained Jerusalem. The Bible is pin-point accurate"
Well, you're 25% correct. There is still the Muslim quarter, the christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.
A lot can change in 1 day... 6 days...6 weeks etc.
These are just warnings so that you prepare.
If the householder knew what time a robber was coming to plunder him, he'd prepare himself. Don't be unwise.
Ask God for wisdom.
Receive his free offer of salvation. You cannot pay the wages for your sin. It's too great. That's why He did it for you.
Just say thanks and ask Him to reveal to you your purpose. Everyone has a purpose so unique that only they can fulfill it.
Ask God for wisdom.
Many humans across a diverse background of culture and ethnicity do this, and believe they receive it. Some of them have no knowledge of christianity. Are they wrong?
such an infantile, fairy tale explanation of the world.
God can't give you wisdom without interfering with your free will.
Interesting point, Christopher. Christians are always pointlessly praying for things that, according their own beliefs, their god cannot even provide. Take the wisdom prayer, for example. If one asks his god for wisdom for himself or for someone else, that increased wisdom will presumable alter their decision-making processes, thus changing the choices they would have made before the divine interference. Not allowed, according to Christian ideas.
Didn't Carrie's mama say the same thing?
Those quarters are still under the Israeli government.
Yo uever been there?
Sorry Toph but the jews return to Israel is just about the biggest example of a self-fullfilled prophecy you could ever ask for.
Oh, right, it's not a problem that Jesus didn't fulfill all the prophecies concerning the messiah because he's going to cover the rest of them the NEXT time he comes. I get it, it all makes sense, and of course it makes sense that he's going to be doing that REAL SOON, he's just been WAITING for this exact period of time. Those other morons who thought it was going to be during their time were all just deluded idiots, because we know for sure it's during OUR time. And guess what? Jesus is going to appear in the clouds EXACTLY WHERE I AM! Who cares that people in Oregon and Florida and South America or Europe think he's going to appear where THEY are. I'M the one who gets to see him arrive!
Of course he's coming here, not where you are!
It's funny because it's true!
These are indeed the last days. Yesterday a poster cited some verses that he incorrectly stated that Jesus said He was coming within 1 generation. I wasn't available to respond, but he had left out the preceding verses which said "Learn the lesson from the fig tree...." Which of course is referring to present day Israel.
Another confirmation is this: Before Joseph appeared to his brothers the second time he bounded Simeon (means hearing) and released him once Benjamin was presented to him.
The last miracle that Jesus performed was restoring the ear of Malcus (sp). Israel has started accepting the gospel of Jesus(i.e. Israel's hearing is been restored), meaning this current generation, the Benjamin generation is here.
Things will look a lot different in the world by 2015.
""Learn the lesson from the fig tree...." Which of course is referring to present day Israel"
Well, of course it does, after all what else could a fig tree POSSIBLY be referring to?
21 is the "get out of confirmation" card, right – as these have pretty much always existed. Unless there are specific prophesies, then it's no different to the ambiguous spiel of fortune-tellers. You know, this war will start on this date and end on this date with the winner being .....
any bible prophesies fulfilled is about the same as your daily horoscope being right. you predict enough things and give it 2,000 years and something will happen that you can twist to fit.
and bear in mind that many of the prophesies were added into the bible decades or centuries after the events had happened just to make it look like a prophesy was fulfilled.
centuries of fraud by power hungry, money hungry men!
Annnny time now, jeeebus is coming, annnny time now
Gopher, get on you knees lest jeebus sees you trying to be a man
gopher is a fine example of why preachers should be ridiculed at every turn
gopher, you are a coward
NO we don't need Ms. O'Connor at all! So... wrong again CNN!
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
December 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
IMHO, Christians need the following passage by Apostle Paul (pretty much what Flannery O'Connor was basically trying to say,) please read to the very end and wonder no more:
The Conflict of Two Natures
"14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
And I close with the following enclosed prayer:
All Scripture Is From:
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
And I close with the following enclosed prayer:
"13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’"
Looks like the miserable troll gets particularly antsy when Christians post. Keep posting your comment and ignore the troll.
A good post!
When did I realize I was God?
Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized that I was talking to myself ...
a book about how to talk to my imaginary friend.
yes, well done Flannery O'Connor. that's a must read ... for the insane or the deluded.
Eh, evidence points to your opinion being silly......
All believers in God are insane and deluded?????
..........And YOU are the sane and enlightened one?
hahhaa. Right. Troll on, lil doggie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What evidence would that be?
Reblogged this on All My Roads and commented:
Like I said yesterday, I'm infatuated with O'Connor. Here's another review of the latest publication of her musings. Like Mr. Moore it has been on my Christmas list since it was released:
You, therefore, pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven!
May your Name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us the food we need today.
Forgive us what we have done wrong,
as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
And do not lead us into hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.
For kingship, power and glory are yours forever.’ — Matthew 6:9-13
The emergence of humans
Your imagination is fertile, keep feeding that brain and potentially those 2 cells you've got might magically multiply to 4 cells .
or be magically made out of dirt ... or someone's rib ...
Whereas there is no hope for you if you believe that is the imaginings of a poster. Learn some science. Free your mind.
That's a good chart. Easy to follow and understand. It's missing H.omo Floriensis, though.
God’s people had sinned—and were under His judgment.
Rather than blame God, make excuses, or simply despair, the prophet Daniel instead voiced one of the most moving prayers of repentance recorded in the entire Bible.
and even if he did, they were absolutely NOTHING like what you read in the bible today.
what a scam!
I am a doctor by profession. I claim that no person who walks into my surgery will leave uncured. Then, when people come in and leave, and a few have been cured, I repeat my claim that I cure ailments, but when people leave and are not cured, I contradict myself. I say things like
You have been healed spiritually
I didn't cure Elvis, so why would I cure you?
I give you free will, so I can't cure you
Sometimes you should thank Doctor for uncured sickness
I cure in mysterious ways
The truth is, I have never cured anybody. Those few who recovered would have anyway.
I'm a lot like the Christian god, aren't I?
If you have a 2nd graders understanding of Christianity, you make a point.
What did I get wrong?
Show me any verses where Jesus, the Christian God, says:
"You have been healed spiritually"
"I didn't cure Elvis, so why would I cure you?"
"I give you free will, so I can't cure you"
"Sometimes you should thank Doctor for uncured sickness"
"I cure in mysterious ways"
or especially "The truth is, I have never cured anybody. Those few who recovered would have anyway. "
That doesn't sound anything like Jesus. If you are trying to say some Christians say things like that. Ok. But Christians are not God.
These are the stock in trade excuses Christians make when prayers are ignored. They are perfect for the Christian because then, no matter what the outcome of praying, they can claim it was all part of their god's plan.
It's a bit like the time I spent a weekend in Vegas. I prayed for a four every time I rolled the die. God answered my prayers about once every six times.
Jon you are a FRAUD. You know Colin's point is spot on!
Yea, you are just saying some Christians say things like that. But nothing in the Bible points to God saying that. Ok.
Why am I fraud? I disagree with his opinion. It appears to simple to be sufficient.
Well, Jesus apparently claimed all prayers were answered.
God never said that, or anything else, because he does not exist.
Nothing in the Bible points to god saying anything.
If you take some of the prayer verses out of context, it sounds like Jesus says you can pray for whatever you want and God will grant your wishes. Like he is a magical puppy. But if you actually put it in context and read all the words before and after the verse it is tough to make that argument.
The problem is Jon, the christian arguments don't lead to the conclusions, they are made FROM the conclusions. ANd that is shown from the contradictory arguments from the different versions of Christianity.
Great to see a Catholic and a Baptist fired up toward a spiritual growth.
Thought I'd add my prayer.
Dear God, please cure an amputee. Any will do. Please choose the most pious, devout amputee in the World who is most deserving of this act which is very easy for you because you are all powerful and cure them. I know you will because you are all loving.
"Give him your trust."
Trust shouldn't be given, it should be earned.
And its trust to someone who isnt even prepared to actually show his face. Instead you get 'ask bob, bob knows me, he will tell you I am great, he has seen me haven't you bob?'
Why should my trust be earned..? I put no wages upon my Word nor do I give wages to others who dawdle in their wordage trust accounts... Learning the wages of others' words are as revolving trusts on wobbly accounts held in meager reserve notes of mental capabilities...
Trust should be earned because to give it before such time makes one gullible.
But that is a nice word salad you have there...
Gullibility behests the serviced mogul toward many gullies where all the gullible do ever roam...
What Christianity need it is GOD to appear and confirm the (absurd) sayings in the New Testament and the Bible !
Christianity, as well as all religions based on some Gods, needs nothing less then this.
But let me clarify... that God would have to prove that he created the Universe... otherwise, that particular God could be lying...
for more... google:
clear proof that god doesn't exist
It's only when we grapple with the darkness of a fallen cosmos, only when we're honest about the fact that all our efforts look more like Herod's throne than Bethlehem's stable, that we can sing "Joy to the World."...
Grappling with a fallen cosmos? Think much of yourself do we? And honest? Really? If any Christians were honest with themselves they would have to admit the whole thing is a sham.
well said !
Some Greeks, then, can wonder if something's wrong with them when they feel as though Zeus seems distant...it's almost as if he's not even there... is he even listening to their prayers?
Jesus is our free gift from God, accept him or deny him- it doesn't change anything. The truth will come out in the end, hope everyone has thought over their decision. We are being tested while in these bodies so you better obey or perish.
does he come with the receipt if we want to exchange him?
"We are being tested while in these bodies so you better obey or perish."
More threats from the "loving" god who gives us "free will". Obey or be roasted on a spit for eternity.
Its the same sort of argument that talks claims folks 'respected' their parents because they knew they would get hit if they didnt.
* 'ts the same sort of argument that claims'
A gift only made necessary by God's inability to create a perfect creature.
Would you rather be a robot?
how would we know the difference? If we were 'created perfectly' in the first place we wouldnt know any other alternative to compare it against.
True, ignorance is bliss.
RB, why would God create imperfect beings?
Answer: games. He planned it this way.
It is as simple as this, God created beings capable of most anything.
According to the story he even created them in god's image, i.e. perfect, so that means they couldn't have sinned in the first place, but they did and the story falls apart from that point on.
In God’s image, spiritual.
ARe you saying god's spiritual image is not perfect?
' and the story falls apart from that point on.'
The whole thing falls flat right from the moment when god had to apparently discover what they had did. Apparently this all knowing all seeing deity didnt know they were going to eat and didnt know when they had done.
Then again if he did know then it was fixed and there was nothing they could have done about it and the idea of free will is an illusion.
No, what I meant by image is that we are also spiritual beings, that is the way we are like God. There are many ways we aren’t like God.
I think he knew what they were going to do before they did it. He asked, so they would have to admit to it and realize they had goofed up. God knowing the future doesn’t prevent you from living it and making the choices, he just knows what you will choose.
"I think he knew what they were going to do before they did it. He asked, so they would have to admit to it and realize they had goofed up. God knowing the future doesn’t prevent you from living it and making the choices, he just knows what you will choose."
So your god creates people that it knows will burn in he_ll but does it anyway, that's just sick espeically since only 33% of the people on this planet believe in your particular religion. That 4 billion or so people will supposedly burn for eternity, that's just sick. Your imagination is getting the best of you and you've fooled yourself so well you can't see the holes in your own bad logic anymore.
'I think he knew what they were going to do before they did it.'
Which means he created the whole setup deliberately, and then placed the blame squarely on man.
'he just knows what you will choose.'
Then your life is already all mapped out and free will is an illusion. We are just mice going through a predetermined maze believing we are making our own choices.
Supposing I am wrong, and Christianinty is correct, I would expect that oblivian would be better than hell. So within the context of being wrong about which God is the correct choice, the Christian God created me knowing I would one day suffer eternally. Maybe a robot would have been a better choice. Then again I would be up for debating whether we actually have free will or not.
You have free will. It is more understandable when you realize that even faith comes from God. If you seek him with the faith you have, he gives you the faith you need.
"If you seek him with the faith you have, he gives you the faith you need."
I did....he didn't.
Gifts do not require a payment.
Jesus is our free gift from God, accept him or deny him
"I can't do either of those, I've never heard of him."
– person living in a primitive rain forest tribe
Atheistic beliefs is the most ridiculous belief on earth. Atheism deserves public mockery.
What exactly are Atheistic beliefs?
You know, that whole book all atheists have read that proves there is no God in contradiction to the default of coming out of the womb worshiping an invisible deity...
You are wrong. Atheists created and are creating Science. Very probably atheists created internet, computers, the green revolution, General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, representative democracy (Socrates, Voltaire), motors, genetics, Electronics, etc.
We dont deserve mockery, but respect.
Atheists, Christian, Muslims, Jews,... people from all different backgrounds have contributed to those advancements that we all benefit from. Yes.
So did Virgos, Capricorns and Leos, but that does not make astrology true.
You miss the point. None of those people achieved what they did because of their faith or by using their faith. They achieved what they did by a rigorous application of science and the scientific method.
Some would disagree with you. Rigorous application of science and the scientific method leads some people to God. Actual scientists testify to this.
It may lead them to God, but they don't go searchign through the bible for information regarding modern science.
Scientists observed twisting patterns in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background - light that last interacted with matter very early in the history of the universe, less than 400,000 years after the big bang. These patterns, known as "B modes," are caused by gravitational lensing. B modes from cosmic inflation after the big bang are caused by gravitational waves. These ripples in space-time are generated by intense gravitational turmoil, conditions that would have existed during inflation. These waves, stretching and squeezing the fabric of the universe, would give rise to the telltale twisted polarization patterns of B modes.
It amazes me that there are so many subtle and complex measurements that are consistent with the big bang theory, yet no mention in any of the religious creation stories. The bible could have said that God created the cosmic background radiation on the 6th day, but no mention. Did God purposefully lay a false trail, right down to the polarization signature on the CBR, just to cause scientists to run down a rat hole 6000 years later?
You could look at it as God giving scientist job security. Look at all the neat stuff he left scientists to discover.
Passing strange that an all knowing all powerful god is still stuck in the first century, dumb god and his kid. But that is what all gods seem to have in common they are all stuck in the era in which they were made up "by men".
the only problem is that they keep proving his divinely inspired book wrong about stuff.
Boston , do you realy think people of the day would have any idea what that stuff means? You talk to a child in his language not in adult speak. What would be the fun if we knew everything about everything? The spirit of discovery is the driving force of science and cosmology . We love to learn and discover. It's the way we are made.
You assume that an all powerful being couldn't find someway to explain these things? People back then were just as smart as today (smarter in some ways it might be said).
A favorite Christian rationalization for why God does not answer our prayer to eliminate cancer is because "it would take away free will." The logic: If you pray and God answers your prayer, then God would have revealed himself to you, and you would know that God exists. That would take away your free will to believe in him. Of course, if this is true, then by default all of Jesus' statements about prayer in the Bible are false. It means that God cannot answer any prayer. Also, why is a God who must remain hidden like this incarnating himself and writing the Bible?
If Jesus is God, and if God is perfect, why aren't all of Jesus's verses about prayer true? Was Jesus exagerating? Was he fibbing? If Jesus is perfect, why wouldn't he speak the truth? Why doesn't a prayer to cure cancer worldwide tomorrow work?
Believers have many different ways to explain why all these verses in the Bible do not work, even if you are praying sincerely, unselfishly and non-materialistically, and even if the answer to your prayer would help millions of people and glorify God in the process. They will say things like this:
"You need to understand what Jesus was saying in the context the first century civilization in which he was speaking..." or: "When Jesus talked about 'moving a mountain', he was speaking metaphorically. When someone says, 'it is raining cats and dogs,' no one takes him literally. Jesus was using a figure of speech rather than speaking literally..." or: God is not a thing. He is a being. He has a will. He has desires. He relates to people. He has personality traits. Prayer is a fancy word for talking to God. God, who knows everything, even before we say it, knows the difference between our thoughts and wishes, and when we are actually addressing him. He hears our prayers and responds. His responses are based on his personal decisions. We cannot predict how he will respond to our prayers... [ref] The primary problem with these rationalizations is that they miss the point. The fact is that God never answers any prayers, as discussed here.
Going one step further, the problem is that all of these rationalizations miss two other important points:
1.God is supposed to be an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect being.
2.The statement, "Nothing will be impossible for you", along with the other Bible verses quoted above, are false. The fact is, lots of things are impossible for you.
If a perfect being is going to make statements about how prayer works in the Bible, then three things are certain: 1) He would speak clearly, 2) he would say what he means, and 3) he would speak the truth. That is what "being perfect" is all about. A perfect, all-knowing God would know that people would be reading the Bible 2,000 years later, and therefore he would not use first-century idioms (he would say what he means). He would know that normal people will be reading the Bible and interpreting it in normal ways, so he would speak in such a way as to avoid mis-interpretation (he would speak clearly). He would know that when you say, "Nothing will be impossible for you", that what it means is, "Nothing will be impossible for you" and he would make sure that the statement "Nothing will be impossible for you" is accurate (he would speak the truth). If God says it, it should be true - otherwise he is not perfect.
Unfortunately, the fact is that thousands of things are impossible for you no matter how much you pray, and no one (including Jesus) has ever moved a mountain.
In order to see the truth, you need to accept the fact that all of the above verses are wrong. The fact is, God does not answer prayers. The reason why God does not answer your prayers is simple: God is imaginary.
While I agree there is no real evidence that any god answer's prayers, I don't think you can conclude from that that God, or other gods, are imaginary. The Abrahamic god. could exist but the books were miswritten by flawed humans to imply prayers were answered. Or God could be a jerk and just have been teasing people. Or maybe he once answered prayers and got bored or killed by another god?
I really love your post! I would like to point out though, that we move solid parts of mountains pretty regularly. We use dynamite and bulldozers. They work better than prayer. 🙂
"Believers have many different ways to explain why all these verses in the Bible do not work......."
Believers are better tap dancers than Fred Astaire when trying to answer inconvenient questions.
I agree that a lot of tap dancing goes on to rationalize obsolete stories. As far as the quality of that dancing though, I find most to be pretty poor.
Sammy Davis Jr could tap the dance better than most and he was a one eyed Jew.
" Father, if you are willing take this cup from me...." Didn't happen. Once you grasp the concept that prayer is not synonymous with having a magic lamp you rub to get what you want, then you'll recognize the silliness of your rant.
Only christianity would agrue that belief is more important than actions... and then proceed to create 40K denominations all with their own beliefs...