Thursday Reflection: The Science of Prayer

Science and religion seem to butt heads a lot these days, with cultural feuds between “creationists” and “evolutionists” making national news headlines, and general animosity building up over hot-button issues like climate change and women’s health.  On the one hand, I can’t really think of any reason why science and religion should be fighting all of the time.  Aren’t they both just groups of people looking for answers?  And yet, there seems to be a division in their very definitions that may be insurmountable.  “Faith” is defined as “belief that is not based on proof.”  And science is all about proof.

But here’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately: what if prayer could be proven?  I don’t mean anecdotally, or even in a “yes or no” kind of way.  I mean, suppose that scientists some day discover how prayer works.  Let’s say they discover the “prayer particle,” previously unmeasurable, and every time you say a prayer, your body releases this particle into the atmosphere where it travels to the subject of you prayer and affects them.  Perhaps with thousands of people praying for healing, a scientific and measurable change would take place in the body of someone who was sick or injured.  If we could track it, if we could prove it, would that take the “God” out of it?

Imagine a world in which conservative fundamentalists are on television, furiously denying the existence of the prayer particle, while atheists create snarky memes online suggesting that the thing we have been putting our faith in all these years was just science after all.  Is your faith strong enough to survive the loss of some of the mystery?  When you get to the gates of heaven, will you refuse to enter if it doesn’t look exactly like you thought it would?  As exciting and uniting as prophecies can be, eventually they may come true.  What happens when your belief system moves from the world of the theoretical to the world of the actual?

Thousands of years ago, people saw lightning come down from the sky and decided that there was a god in the clouds who was up there hurling thunderbolts down at us.  We eventually figured out that this wasn’t true, but Christians still ascribed the power to God.  When science told us that we were really seeing giant sparks of static electricity caused by atmospheric polarization, did that take God out of the equation?  Can you still go out into a storm and feel the power of God?  Or does it just seem like weather now?

The thing about faith, is that it is supposed to be a mystery, right?  It’s right there in the definition!  If you can prove it, you can’t have faith in it.  Is it your religion that tells you the sun will come up tomorrow?  Or is it your science?  Can it be both?  The fact is, the sun is going to come up.  Does it matter if we have proven it or not?  People waited a very long for a Messiah to come to them, and when He did, was that the end of their faith in Him?  Or only the beginning?

The fact is, each new discovery only brings more questions.  This is true in both science and religion.  We will never reach the end of human understanding, because we live in an infinite universe that is controlled by powers beyond our capacity for comprehension.  We may get closer, but we know that we’re never going to “arrive” at the end of knowledge.  Not in this world anyway.  Jesus didn’t come to answer all of our questions, but to ask us new ones.  God has created an amazing world, and finding out the how of something should never take away from our search for the why.  So keep praying, whether or not you know how it works.  And don’t worry about the lightning.  God was never in the storm anyway.

Adam Hall

Eclexcellent. Yes, I just made that word up. And it is my vision for music. It should be eclectic. When you come to worship you never know if you are going to hear the choir singing Bach, an a cappella group doing hymn re-mixes, or a garage band playing something you may heave heard on the radio on your way over. From hand bells to jazz combos, I am interested in using music to enhance and compliment the worship experience. I myself am a classically trained opera singer who used to be the lead singer in a rock band, so I am open to music in all of its many forms. And of course it must be excellent. My goal is to have you leave the worship service feeling like the music was something you were glad not to have missed that week. If you have any musical experience, or just want to shake a tambourine, get in touch with me. I’d love to work with you in praising God through song.

  • Great piece Adam – love that ending.