Are we praying to a god that agrees with our common sense?
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According to a poll taken in 2014 by the Pew Research Center, 55% of U.S. respondents pray daily and another 16% pray at least weekly.  Only 23% of people seldom or never pray.  This seems like a pretty good indicator of a God-fearing, moral society right?  Well, it turns out that simply praying doesn’t necessarily mean the participants are God-fearing in the traditional sense and their morality is based more on their own “common sense” than on God or anything else.

85% of those that pray daily say they believe in God, but only 41% believe there are absolute standards of right vs. wrong and only 45% believe the Bible is the Word of God and should be taken literally.  35% of those who pray daily and 53% of those who pray weekly believe common sense should be the guide for right vs. wrong.  This helps to explain why 41% of those who pray daily and 57% of those who pray weekly believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 49% of those who pray daily and 70% of those who pray weekly find homosexuality acceptable.

Statistics about prayer in the United States confirm what many people already suspect: although a majority of Americans pray daily, the majority of praying Americans don’t believe in the Bible or the God of the Bible. At first, this seems ironic and implausible. After all, why would you pray if you didn’t believe in God?  The inescapable answer is Americans do believe in some ‘god’, just not the God of the Bible.  It is a god of their own design and making; a comfortable god.  They believe in a benevolent god with a nice heaven (86% of those who pray daily and 81% of those who pray weekly believe in heaven) who would only send really, really bad people to hell if there is a hell at all (72% and 62% of those who pray daily and weekly respectively believe in a real hell.)

The statistics also reveal a huge swath of fuzzy or gray area—the large majority of people in the middle of the road, who throw-everything-against-the-wall–to-see-if-something-sticks and then attribute success or failure to whichever tactic they like at the moment.  These are the lukewarm, somewhat religious people who have one foot in a church and one foot in the world and see no real difference between the worldly non-believers and the committed believer.  They pray daily, weekly or monthly; believe in God and evolution; think religion is important but not important enough to study the Bible or attend church more than a couple times a month or year.  They aren’t sure what they believe but feel they should believe something and want to cover all the bases just in case.

This condition is not new.  Ancient Israel diluted their beliefs and mixed their worship of God with Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech and a variety of traditions and conveniences of their own design much the same way religion after Jesus death has done.  Simply praying is no more an indicator of a relationship with God than is mere existence if the prayer participant has no real concept of Who God is; it is no different than praying to a lump of wood or statue of Buddha.  Inventing a god with characteristics that are agreeable is absurdly common throughout the ages and even in today’s churches.

The comments below are actual comments on a Pew website about prayer:

Anonymous • prayer need not be to deistic or theistic. Prayer can simply be an expression of the heart- the soul to the “collective universe” let us start of with one idea. HOW ABOUT A PRAYER TO THE UNIVERSE FOR GLOBAL PEACE. – It is simply sending a deeply felt wish/message/request statement of loving kindness, – a very long list of humanistic qualities. Let us try to be willing to expand our vocabulary to be more inclusive. One voice attempting to join with others/hundreds/thousands/ WHO KNOWS. Thanks for listening.

Susan Hansen • I don’t believe there is an actual hell. God is far to loving and forgiving to do that (my personal belief). A loving God would never do that and I don’t believe that much of what is written in the bible is meant in a literal sense, but symbolic. That is just my own personal belief.

Don Cameron • Unfortunately it leaves out the one salient fact. Prayer is less effective than wishful thinking.

Sean • What are the statistics on prayers that get answered? Doesn’t look good for prayer.
    - Greg Brown • Our prayer group which consists of approximately 25 ppl ( men and women) has a success rate of about 95%. I’d say prayer looks really good right now with those #’s. Wouldn’t you?
        - Roger • Hi Greg, Please then use that successful praying style to pray for eradication of ebola from western africa, malaria which kills millions yearly, millions of children under 5 dying from… diarrhea. Let me know how it goes. Thanks.

The last thread (Sean-Greg-Roger) is the most interesting because it clearly contrasts what prayer should be with what people expect.  Biblical prayer to the God of the Bible should be successful (John 14:13-14, Luke 11:9, Matthew 21:22, John 16:23-24, John 15:16, Mark 11:24, Romans 8:26, 32, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:17, Colossians 1:9, 1 Corinthians 2:16).  The Biblical believer who prays can speak directly to God with help from the Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 14:2) which leaves no room for human miscommunication or erroneous prayer.  The Biblical believer’s words are honored by God and even inspired by God (Isaiah 44:26, Matthew 10:20).  The Biblical believer and the God of the Bible are the most powerful team to bring the “kingdom of heaven … near” and to destroy the works of Satan (Matthew 10:7).  But isn’t this powerful relationship the whole point of prayer?  

If you are somewhere in those statistics but aren't experiencing a 95% success rate (or higher!) in your prayer life, be encouraged!  Press in to the Father, come into alignment with the Word, pray that the prayer of Jesus in John 17:13-26 would be fulfilled in you and seek the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer according to Romans 8:26-27.  God cannot lie. Miracles of healing, protection, weather, intervention and so much more still happen; God is still working and responding to the prayers of His people!  We each have the great privilege of being part of God's team when we press in and get serious about letting Him work through us in prayer.

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