Along with 12 others, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has weighed in at the Spectator, giving examples of how their prayers were answered (there are also some Village Atheists who scoff at the idea):
The problem with this whole thing is that there’s no control group: no survey of whose prayers weren’t answered. It’s pure confirmation bias. The one scientific study of the issue, a medical report on the efficacy of intercessory prayers, showed no effect; in fact, heart patients prayed for by others were marginally but nonsignificantly worse at healing. But maybe God only answers prayers for you when you say them, in which case saying “We’re sending prayers for X and his family”, which we see so much on television, is useless.
Welby’s gloating tw**t:
Here are a few examples of answered prayers:
The Most Reverend Justin Welby:
The most recent was when I was going to see some incredible work done by a group of young women helping trafficked sex workers. I prayed that I could find, in my complete bafflement, something hopeful and good to say to the young women with whom they worked. Some words came, and for at least one woman I know much changed. That was the best Christmas gift of that year.
Well, that’s convincing! A trained speaker managed to come up with some words. Glory be to Him!
Cardinal Vincent Nichols:
Prayer comes readily when we are distressed or in danger. Agnosticism falls away. It has been so for me. Many years ago, I prayed intensely at a time of crucial decision-taking. I was puzzled and distressed. Should I really be a priest? Slowly, clarity came. I decided with a sureness and a trust beyond reason. My prayer was certainly answered. Since then, in 47 years as a priest, even in the hardest of sorrows and confusion, never — yet — have I had a sense of being abandoned by the Lord, never losing the deep stability of that decision.
Prayer never came readily to me—I’ve never prayed since I became an atheist, and don’t remember praying before that except for the “Now I lay me down to sleep. . ” which I told my Dad when he tucked me in as a child. In any case, any answer would have been an answered prayer since Nichols was just asking for an answer. If he decided to not become a priest, I doubt that he’d even have pondered the issue—or contributed to this article.
Anthony Seldon (author and headmaster):
I prayed as a young man for a wife I could love all my life and who would make me happy. I never thought anyone would want to share their life with me, so often had I been chucked by girls. In Joanna, my prayers were answered 100 times over.
Of course, there are all those people who utter the same prayers but don’t get the same answer. 50% of marriages in America end in divorce. And those can’t all be atheists!
The same goes for the next one:
Bear Grylls (chief scout [?]):
Every day I pray for my family to be safe and for us to stay close together — the Lord’s hand has been good to us and has steered me safely home through so many trials and tough moments. It isn’t always the big dramatic stuff but it is a prayer often answered and for that I am always so grateful.
Do these people ever w0nder about all the children who get cancer, and whose parents’ prayers aren’t answered? Why does the Lord’s hand smite innocent children?
James Dyson (entrepeneur):
Most of my prayers have been answered; I’ve been very lucky. When I left college, I wanted to make and design my own product and sell it all over the world which is exactly what I’ve been able to do. I’m just enormously grateful.
Some people aren’t so “lucky.”
Libby Purves (journalist):
Raised by nuns, a Catholic mother and a robustly atheist ex-Presbyterian father who said one should ask no favours, certainly not of invisible divinities, I am a bit conflicted. Prayers of thanks and for the dead are fine; but as a theological nerd, I guiltily know that demand-prayers are a debased form, not far from that loopy ‘Cosmic Ordering’ philosophy endorsed by that great thinker Noel Edmonds.
So yes, I have prayed. Usually at sea in small sailing-boats, at night, in Atlantic gales. And we have always been delivered to a safe harbour. So far.
And if she had died at sea we’d never know her story. How many prayers by sailors like that haven’t been answered? We’ll never know. Which brings us to the last one:
Frederick Forsyth (author):
I had scrounged a lift on the third-from-last plane out of the dying enclave of Biafra at the end of the Nigerian civil war. Behind us on the airstrip, the last two aircraft waited in the pitch-black night. My lift was on a clapped-out old DC-4 flown by its owner, an Afrikaner really called Van Der Merwe. The destination was Libreville, Gabon. The fuselage was overloaded with dying Biafran children and Irish nuns.
After takeoff, also in pitch darkness, somewhere over the Niger delta, the port outer coughed and gave up. We struggled on three engines towards the ocean. After turning east towards Gabon, the starboard outer began to cough and splutter. It was clear the old rust-bucket would never fly on two and was sinking towards the sea on three. Van Der Merwe began singing hymns in Afrikaans. I prayed quietly, convinced it was all over. Outside, the moon on the water came closer as we nearly skimmed the ocean.
Fortunately, the French had built Libreville airport close to the shore. The dangling wheels almost clipped the sand dunes, then we were over concrete. At that moment the coughing, spluttering engine gave up the ghost and the crippled aircraft dropped on to the tarmac. The Afrikaner stopped singing and began to thank the Almighty. It would have been churlish not to follow suit.
I wonder how many people were praying on the four planes that went down on September 11, 2001? Surely there were many! Oh. . I forgot: the hijackers were praying for the opposite outcome. Ergo, Islam is the right faith.
Why is the Spectator publishing such piffle? All it shows is how credulous people are.
h/t: Matthew Cobb