Regular readers will note that I have been following the case of Madeline “Kara” Neumann, an 11-year old girl who died as a result of parental negligence. Her parents refused to seek medical attention for their daughter, instead relying on prayer to heal her. It appears to have happened again, this time in Oregon to a 16-year old boy. No cause of death is ruled yet; an autopsy is planned and the parents are being investigated for negligence.
They are connected to a church that calls itself Followers of Christ, which isn’t linked to any mainstream denomination.
With all of my talk about parents rightly being charged for praying only and not seeking outside medical attention, readers must think that I have no respect for the power of prayer. That just isn’t true–I have nothing but the utmost respect for the power of prayer, but I’m realistic enough to know that in most cases, prayer has zero statistical effect on the outcome of illness. With this empirical data in front of me, I have no choice but to face the possibility that prayer is not meant for medical conditions. Prayer, therefore, is for our own consolation in accepting God’s will for a given situation. Prayer is meant to change us, not change God.
This isn’t a dreadful conclusion; rather, this is liberating. It means that we can seek medical help and it isn’t a sin. It means that God works his healing powers through secondary causes, the doctors and nurses involved in patient care.
What about all of the promises to answer prayer? Well, simply put: none of it promises an affirmative answer. None of it promises to deliver our wants. God promises to hear us–and hear us only. He promises to take care of our needs, not our wants. We only receive what we want in accordance with his will.
Prayer should never go by itself. Prayer should always be associated with action on our part. For example, if I pray for a new job, a new job will not drop onto my lap unless I read want ads and apply for jobs. Same goes for healing–unless you seek medical attention, odds are worse illness will beset the victim, and then, perhaps, death.