Article published in the Christian Post.
Can prayer be scientifically measured? In 1872, English intellectual Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, attempted to test the effects of prayer in a famous experiment. He hypothesized that the royal family, whose health the faithful prayed for every Sunday in Anglican parishes, would live much longer than the rest of the British population.
He found that the contrary was true, and concluded that prayer doesn’t work.
The royal diet and lifestyle did not factor into his equation, nor did Galton question the hierarchical theology of God favoring those privileged enough to command an entire nation to pray for them.
In more recent times, Richard Dawkins has hailed the “Great Prayer Experiment” as the definitive proof against prayer efficiency. The Experiment was a 2006 study conducted by Herbert Benson and team, showing that cardiac bypass patients who received prayer did not suffer from less complications after surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, the opposite was true!
What Dawkins doesn’t tell you in his book The God Delusion was that not all who prayed were Christians. A significant number of them belonged to Silent Unity, a New Thought group with unorthodox views on prayer. One of their leaders, James Dillet Freeman, has said that your purpose in praying “is to quicken into activity the creative processes that lie at the root of being and out of which the world takes shape.”
Mixing prayer methods like this when trying to measure prayer is a bad move. Other prayer studies that only included born-again Christians have received more positive results. But there’s a serious flaw with these kinds of prayer studies: they cannot guarantee that the control group they use don’t receive prayer. When you’re in a religious country, that’s impossible to guarantee. Thus, if weird or no differences emerge between patients who “receive prayer” and those who “don’t receive prayer”, it might be because all of them receive prayer!
I suggest another strategy. Over the last year, I’ve collected examples of people being cured after prayer in a way that medical science cannot explain. There are a lot of these cases. Some of them can be found in works like Testing Prayer by Candy Gunther Brown and Miracles by Craig Keener. They sometimes get published in scientific journals like this one. I’ve also spoken to people in my native country of Sweden, asking for their permission to confirm their stories with their medical records.
I’ve found blind people that see, deaf people that hear, cancer patients who were told that they were about to die that instantly got well, as well as allergies, brain damage, blood diseases and ulcers disappearing as people pray. I’ve also spoken to a man who was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease, in 1987 but lives a healthy life today after a pastor prayed for him at the hospital. The doctors were sure that their diagnosis was correct, and could not explain his recovery.
These cures are too radical to be explained away by placebo or spontaneous remission. They are SICAPs: Scientifically Inexplicable Cures After Prayer. Such phenomena, I argue, are excellent candidates for miracles. Hypothetically, if God would heal someone in response to prayer, it will look exactly like a SICAP.
A naturalist (someone who does not believe in miracles) will argue that SICAPs are the result of unknown natural phenomena. Science is evolving, and what’s inexplicable today might be super obvious in the future. But here’s the problem. The naturalist cannot say that most SICAPs are the result of these unknown natural phenomena – that leaves room for some miracles to exist. No, all SICAPs must be natural phenomena. And that’s very unlikely. One could even call it miraculous.
The SICAPs we observe are simply too diverse to be easily dismissed as a scientific oversight. Furthermore, many of them occur at the very moment someone prays, and several have connections to prophetic visions or other spiritual experiences. Attributing both that and an inexplicable cure happening simultaneously is stretching naturalism to its limits.
On top of this, we generally view unknown explanations as quite unlikely. Why is the day generally hotter than the night? Is it because of the sun, or some other explanation we haven’t come up with yet? Both are theoretically possible, but I think we all know what’s more likely.
Thus, I conclude that affirming the existence of SICAPs logically leads us to affirming the existence of miracles. Miracles that happen in response to prayer. Who said that faith and science are opposed to each other?
Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice and pastor of Mosaik Church in Uppsala, Sweden.
Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.
What does Matthew 10:34 say? Which things are forbidden according to Christianity? Can you describe the sacraments?
If these questions seem hard – even unanswerable – to you, you’re lucky not to be a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden.
Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Board tries to differentiate between “real” converts from Islam to Christianity that risk persecution in their countries of origin, and “fake” ones who only seek a cheap way to gain asylum, by asking various questions.
Sweden being a very secular country, most officials who come up with these questions are not Christians themselves. Furthermore, they don’t have much knowledge about Christianity – even though they might think so themselves. (more…)
In 2016, I released a book in Swedish together with pastor Stefan Swärd called Jesus Was Also a Refugee. We commented the recent migration debate, providing the biblical teaching on loving, welcoming and blessing strangers (Lev 19:33-34, Mt 25:35).
I was not at all prepared for the huge amounts of Christians who would object to the book title. “Jesus was certainly not a refugee!” The same thing happened as the Christian Post published my Christmas reflection, inspired by Shane Claiborne, urging people to welcome refugees as they would welcome Christ. The comment section on CP’s Facebook page overflooded with arguments against the asylum status of our Savior and his parents.
Most of these arguments are bad. I mean, really bad. Here are the five weirdest ones I’ve come across so far: (more…)
I’ve just had the privilege of listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege as he visited Stockholm. PMU and Läkarmissionen, two Christian aid organizations that have supported Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for decades. We celebrated Mukwege with music, speeches and donations. Among other things, we sang Mukwege’s favorite hymn, “The Promises will Never Fail” (Löftena kunna ej svika) by Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus, in Swedish and Swahili.
Missionary and nurse Kerstin Åkerman pointed out how prophetic Mukwege is. He has this ability – naturally or supernaturally – to have a visionary mindset and see things before they happen. For example, he stressed the importance of starting the building process of the Panzi Hospital quickly in 1998. Nobody understood why. (more…)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the ”War to End All Wars”: World War One. It directly killed nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Furthermore, it contributed to the spread and severity of epidemics that killed an additional 100 million people.
And here’s the really embarrassing part: with few exceptions, WW1 was a war in which Christians killed other Christians. Catholics fought other Catholics; Protestants fought other Protestants. People who claimed to follow Jesus slaughtered their supposed brothers in the trenches because their leaders – many of which claimed to have been appointed by God – ordered them to.
Madness. Utter, disgraceful madness. (more…)
You thought that we had enough wars, hunger, and diseases. You thought that the current refugee crisis was big. You thought that natural disasters were too severe already.
Well, you were wrong.
The recent IPCC report cannot be taken lightly. It is based on 6,000 scientific studies and has received input from 40,000 peer-reviews. This is the scientific consensus. It’s time we stop getting distracted by climate change deniers and face the facts.
And the facts are that we are heading right into enormous environmental disasters that will kill and hurt hundreds of millions of people.
There is still time to change course, but it has to be done immediately. The modern, Western lifestyle is doomed. Either we choose to abandon it, or we will be forced to do so when the climate crisis hits. Many are confused as they are not sure how they ought to live in order to reduce their ecological impact on others.
What if I told you that we as Christians have had the solution to this problem for 2,000 years? What if I told you that if we simply lived like the early Christians, there would be no climate change? (more…)
For too long, the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been destroying millions of lives. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two, fuelled by conflict minerals used in our electronics and cars. Rape is a weapon of war; eastern Congo is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.
In the midst of this chaos, darkness and death, a bright light is shining. That light will now receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal pastor who has a strong and robust faith in Jesus. The Swedish Pentecostal Mission funded his medical studies and, together with organizations, helped him build and run the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of the conflict-ridden South Kivu province. Over 50,000 survivors of sexual violence have been treated at the hospital during the last 20 years. (more…)
“How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” – James 2:1.
3,000 people died because of the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 3,000 people died because of the horrible hurricane of September 2017.
We all know President Bush’s response to the attacks on World Trade Center. War on terrorism. The Patriot Act. Fear.
The attacks were framed as a national tragedy, Muslims were portrayed as the enemy, violence and surveillance were offered as the solutions.
The contrast to President Trump’s response to hurricane Maria couldn’t be greater. Trump recently denied on Twitter that 3,000 people died because of the hurricane. He has described the federal relief as “fantastic” even though the infrastructure on the island still is malfunctioning one year later and many children haven’t been able to return to school. (more…)
Originally posted at PCPJ.
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28. (more…)
My name is Micael, and I believe miracles are happening today. I’ve seen some amazing things on missionary journeys as well as here in Sweden, where I live. As an evangelist and apologist, I long for others to discover that God is alive and active today.
However, when I have talked to other Swedes about this, it has been difficult to convince them. As residents in the most secular country in the world, people here are skeptical and require evidence. For a long time, I have wanted to be able to refer to a single book in Swedish that collects the most well-documented, inexplicable answers to prayer that we know of.
Such a book is not available today. So I’ve decided to try to write one myself.
A Gold Mine for Documented Miracles
Sweden has an extensive welfare state, with free, advanced healthcare accessible to all citizens. Swedish Christians rarely have a problem combining their prayers for healing with medical checkups and care. (more…)
This weekend, activist theologian Shane Claiborne and his friends at Red Letter Christians will arrange a Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia. That’s right, the town where Liberty University, the world’s biggest Christian university whose president Jerry Falwell Jr. is a passionate Trump supporter.
The Revival will be themed “Jesus and Justice” and include sermons, worship and workshops on how to fight Trumpism by going back to the Sermon on the Mount. I got the chance to speak with Shane Claiborne on this historic event.
– The reason we do the Lynchburg Revival is that Christianity and Republicanism have been fused together, Shane Claiborne says. They have become almost indistinguishable from each other. When you have the First Baptist Church in Dallas singing ”Make America Great Again” as if it was a hymn in worship, when the American flag is bigger than the cross, what happens is that you begin to see a discrepancy between the values of America and the values inherent to the Gospel. (more…)
Jesus told us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). This has been the cornerstone of Christian pacifist theology; whether you look at the early church, or the Anabaptists or the early Pentecostals, they all agreed on that loving enemies is incompatible with killing them, and hence they refused to wage wars or use violence against other human beings.
For this reason, the Christian non-pacifist has to argue for one of the following positions:
- Killing is an act of love towards the one you kill.
- We should not follow Jesus’ command to love enemies when we decide to kill people.
There are serious problems with both of these ideas. Let’s start with the first one.
Killing or Kissing
CS Lewis famously argued that it’s possible to love people that you kill and that this is in fact what we ought to do: “We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating.” Augustine argued in his just war-theory that declaring and fighting a war could be an act of love, even though it admittedly manifests as something different than what love usually looks like.
However, this clashes with the fact that those who are trained for combat are molded into hating and dehumanizing their enemy. An army that actually loves those that it is supposed to kill, isn’t a good army. It’s already psychologically challenging to kill a human being even if it’s just a stranger to you, and loving them only makes it worse. (more…)