Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Power of Crying Out, (effective vocal prayer v. ineffective silent prayer) part 4

The third line of evidence Gothard uses to support his thesis is, in my opinion, the only line of evidence that is even relevant to his case. It is anecdotal evidence of occasions where "crying out" yielded results when silent prayer did not. If anything, that would be the only evidence that actually supports the thesis that vocal petition is more effective than silent petition.

All of these stories fall under the heading, "The difference it can make" on p. 39. In one story, a teenage boy prayed for God to help his family, but nothing happened. Then in another story, a family had been praying consistently that dad would get a job, but to no avail until the teenage daughter went outside and "cried out." Her dad got a job the very next day. The moral of these stories is clear--crying out loud works, and prayer doesn't.

Although that is the clear intention of the stories, I don't think they actually prove his case. First, among the wealth of stories Gothard obviously has at his disposal, these are the only ones that actually support his case. Second, the stories are ambiguous. All we know about them is that it involved a teenager with unspecified family problems in one story, and a teenager, her family, and her father in another story. We know nothing else about these people or where these stories came from, and precious little about the circumstances. Third, all one would have to do to prove the opposite conclusion is to find one story where a silent prayer did yield results and a vocal prayer did not. That's why anecdotal evidence is so weak. It's selective. Gothard has chosen stories that support his thesis and ignored stories that are in conflict with his thesis.

I suppose there is a fourth line of evidence, but it's implicit. On p. 19, Gothard says that the reason prayers in Bible times were so effective and modern prayers are so ineffective is because the people in Bible times "cried out" and modern people don't. I have two problems with this argument. First, it's far from obvious that modern prayers are any less effective than prayers in Biblical times. Second, even if that observation is true, how does Gothard know that the reason for the difference has anything to do with whether prayers are said out loud or silently? He just assumes that!

to be continued...
Part 5


At 10/12/2005 9:07 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

This is all pretty interesting. I can't say that I've ever encountered a person that held this view.

Does Gothard ever explain why God responds to crying out? Does he say that God does not respond to silent prayer, or just responds better to crying out?

Certainly he doesn't suggest that God is unaware of our silent prayers. So the criteria for God answering our prayers isn't so much that we've prayed them, but rather that we said them. So is he saying the words themselves have some emotive power outside of God's eternal purposes?

It perplexes me that he could come up with this doctrine if he believes in an omniscient God who is the "unmoved mover".

At 10/12/2005 1:35 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Jeff, yes, he does explain why God responds to crying out more than silent prayer. One reason is because "words have power." Another is because God needs to literally hear audible sounds.

He contradicts himself in some places, though. All of this is coming soon to a blog near you. I think the main point Jessie wanted me to get out of this book was that the spoken word has power, so I had more to say about that, but later on in the review.


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