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Meditation 759
Communicating with God (1)

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In my recent travels I noted a church sign stating "Prayer is how we communicate with God." Shortly afterwards, I came across a brief article in the New Scientist[1] reporting on a Danish study where believers were given an MRI scan while improvising personal prayers. These scans were compared with scans taken while making requests of Santa Claus.

Interestingly, scans taken while praying showed the same regions of the brain activated as are activated while talking to another person. However, the requests to Santa Claus activated the region of the brain that lights up when dealing with inanimate objects.

This suggests that they view God as a real individual, and Santa Claus as something made up. So, it is reasonable to conclude that believers actually do think they are communicating with God when they pray.

But are they indeed communicating?

I consider communication is a reciprocal process. The Encarta definition for communicate is:

com-mu-ni-cate v. 1 vti Exchange information to give or exchange information, e.g. by speech or writing. 2. vt Convey to transmit or reveal a feeling or thought by speech, writing or gesture so that it is clearly understood. 3. vi Understand one another to share a good personal understanding.

If prayer is indeed communication, then it should involve a response, at minimum an acknowledgement. And I suggest that for most prayer, that response is lacking. For prayer that makes requests of God such as healing, the rate of cure is the same whether prayer is involved or not. Those that pray are not getting any more response from God than those that do pray.[2] They may think they are communicating, but they are not.

Footnotes:

  1. Praying to God is like talking to a friend, Andy Coghlan p 9, New Scientist 11 April 2009
  2. To those who say "God answers all prayers, sometimes the answer is no", I would reply that silence is not evidence of a refusal. It's just silence.