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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.
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…)
Daniel Kolenda, President of Christ for all Nations (CfaN), has released a series of new videos featuring powerful and faith-inspiring testimonies of some of the miracles he has witnessed on his campaign meetings in Africa.
This video features Nigerian woman Placita Outa, who severely damaged her spinal cord in an accident. Doctors performed many surgeries to repair it, but the final surgery left her paralyzed. She had to rely on crutches and the help of others to move around. Jesus totally healed her on a CfaN campaign.
As Daniel Kolenda and some of the team were getting into the car after a meeting at a Gospel Campaign in Sapele, Nigeria, a woman stopped him. She wanted him to pray for her three-year-old son, who lay dead in her arms. Daniel took the child, held his body for a moment, prayed a simple prayer of faith and then left.
The following night the woman returned to tell the rest of the story. As Daniel drove away, the boy came back to life! He is now perfectly well. When the crowd of 200,000 heard this, they broke into wild cheering, and the whole city of Sapele was rejoicing. (more…)
In this recording from some months ago, I teach at Kettering Jesus Army on what Zacchaeus’ story in Luke 19 implies for us when it comes to encountering Jesus, the supernatural and generosity for the poor. I also share some testimonies about miracles in our lifetime.
Previously published at Jesus Army.
Elijah Stephens is a former Vineyard pastor and spiritual coach belonging to Bethel Church in Redding, California. Since 2015, he has been working on a documentary about medically verified miracles. Micael Grenholm asked him a few questions.
WHAT is a medically verified miracle?
That is a good question. When it comes to miracles, we are talking about when God enters the world and does something. What makes something a miracle is God’s activity.
This is why you can’t study miracles scientifically, but what you can do is to find cases where people have prayed and there’s “before and after” medical evidence. For example, a person has a tumor, one day there is prayer, the next day the tumor disappears.
What you want to do is to corroborate miracles with medical evidence. So that’s what we’re attempting to do with the movie; finding cases where miracles have been corroborated by medical evidence. (more…)
Recently on a Jesus Army conference, I shared the brief testimony of a new friend of mine who was recently saved and healed from what seemed to be demonic suppression. ∞
When I and Sarah were evangelising in the Swedish town of Åsele over a month ago, my team leader was Steffen Holm from Denmark. A radical evangelist, he is involved with The Last Reformation and has prayed for thousands of people on the streets. As we were evangelising he often shared his own testimony of how he was 100 % handicapped and bound to a wheelchair, but God healed him. He even had proof constantly with him in form of a parking certificate for handicapped people. I asked him to share his testimony to my camera, which he kindly did:
We who are a part of the MennoNerd vlog have been talking about welcoming children into the Kingdom recently, and that reminded me of a clip from Iris Global where Heidi Baker interviews some of the children at Village of Joy in Pemba. It turns out that these kids have prayed for lame and blind people who have been healed. A pretty good Sunday school, in my holy opinion.
Watch the whole Iris Global clip here:
There’s a theological problem known as the hiddenness of God which is sometimes used by atheists as an argument for God’s existence. If there is a God and He cares for human salvation, why isn’t He making His existence more obvious? Why isn’t He putting a neon cross in the sky or stamp every cell with “Made by God” in Hebrew letters? Why is He so silent and invisible if He exists?
Apologists generally offer two responses to this. First, God’s existence is already obvious as it is, the arguments from natural theology are good and atheism is really a position held by a minority on a global scale. Second, we cannot be sure that more people would actually be saved if God’s existence was even more obvious, knowing that He exists isn’t the same thing as building a relationship with Him.
I think those responses are good but would also want to offer a third response – a charismatic one. In the video above you can see how a deafmute boy in Zambia starts to hear and speak. On this page you will find resources on medically verified healings. There you go, evidence for God’s existence.
The atheist may respond that these events have natural explanations that we just don’t know yet. But that’s probably what s/he would say about the neon cross and the “Made by God”-stamps as well. And so there’s no way those kind of atheists will accept the existence of God. But if they’re open-minded, they’ll realise that He isn’t far away from any of us, and He can do convincing miracles in all of our lives.
Since I first presented my formulation of the miraculous a argument for God’s existence I’ve made a slight adjustment. The content is the same but I’ve added an extra premise (2), and because of that an extra conclusion (4), to clarify why the argument is valid even if it isn’t God himself that’s responsible for a certain miracle. This is how I nowadays formulate the argument:
- If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
- If a supernatural reality exists, God exists
- Miracles occur
- Therefore, a supernatural reality exists
- Therefore, God exists
As this is a deductive argument, the conclusions (4 and 5) are necessarily true if it can be shown that the premises (1-3) are true. So let me briefly defend each one of them.
1. If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
This premise is fairly non-controversial as long as one gets the definition of “miracle” straight. The definition I have suggested is a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. However, if one uses a definition that doesn’t mention the supernatural cause, for example an event requested by humans which is scientifically and naturally inexplicable, then one needs to defend the first premise by showing why it is more plausible than not that such events have a supernatural cause rather than an unknown natural cause. If the supernatural cause is integrated into the definition of miracles on the other hand, such a defence belong to premise 3.
Pastor and apologist Elijah Stephens is working on a documentary about medically verified healings as I have covered previously on this blog, and he was recently interviewed at the Uncommon Legacy podcast (which seems to be a very good podcast!). I highly recommend the episode, Stephens humbly shares his own doubts and struggles as well as making the case for a courageous faith combined with intellectual honesty that I highly resonate with.
While not spoiling the medically verified healings that the film will cover, Stephens shared a testimony of what I call a combo miracle – a healing combined with prophecy. You’ll find that at 15:30 into the podcast. A secretary at his church had severe breathing problems and needed to go home from work because of it. She was a cessationist herself and very skeptical to miracles, but still Stephens was allowed to pray for her for two or three minutes. During the prayer, he briefly spoke out that the Lord would send His angels to touch her.
The next week, she entered the church staff meeting in tears. She said that when she was alone in her house, she woke up in the middle of the night and a light was shining into her chest. She saw a man standing over her bed and another man in front of her, and she was obviously frightened. She heard them talking, one of them said ”Get her up” They grabbed her, took her to the bathroom and as she turned on the light they disappeared. Shocked, she then discovered that she had been completely healed. (more…)
Every weekend I evangelize on the streets together with the Pancake Church, and last week’s Holy Saturday was no exception. I started to speak with two guys about Jesus, and one of them said that he really liked Jesus. He thought that Jesus was a good moral teacher and said: “I believe that when it says that he healed blind people and lepers and stuff, he didn’t actually physically heal them, but he was kind to them and taught that they should be accepted into society.”
“That’s a very tragic and pessimistic view!” I said. “Wouldn’t it be better if He actually physically healed them? As the Son of God He’s surely able to do it, right? Miracles exist, medically verified healings happen all around the world even today. Surely that’s good news, isn’t it?” He was actually a bit speechless when I said this.
There has been a tendency among several Western preachers to de-emphasize miracles, Heaven and evangelism in order to “focus” on peace and justice. They may say things like “Jesus greatest miracle wasn’t to heal the leper but to touch the leper” or “God doesn’t just want to give you eternal life in Heaven but a descent life on earth.” (more…)
Earlier this year my friend Faith Totushek explained on Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice why she is a Holy Spirit Activist – or as I like to call it, a charismactivist:
“From beginning to end, we see an amazing God who longs for the world and the people he created to flourish and find life. And time and time again, this God seeks to partner with us as his agents. And he empowers this people with his presence through the Holy Spirit giving gifts, insight, truth, endurance—whatever is needed to accomplish the purposes displayed in the Bible.”
In other words, God doesn’t leave us alone with the big task of loving people and promote life and happiness. He partners with us by bestowing His Spirit upon us. Peter writes: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10). Serving people is one of the main purposes of God’s gifts of grace, or charismata as they are known in Greek.
One of many Biblical examples of this can be found in the last chapter of the book of Acts. Paul is a prisoner of the Roman empire and his guards are taking him to Rome so that he can speak to the emperor. Their ship is wrecked on an island, probably Malta, and God miraculously saves Paul’s life after he is bitten by a poisonous snake. Not only that, God miraculously gives other people life as well through the hands of Paul: (more…)
As the Holy Spirit filled and renewed a small Baptist church in Bugbrooke, central England, during the mid-1970’s, many miracles occurred. When I visited the Jesus Army last year, Huw Lewis told me and my friends Hillevi and Emil about some healings that he saw, including a man whose sight was restored when he was baptized. He also shared his reaction to seeing a demon being cast out the first time and how the whole church was stunned by the presence of the Lord:
This footage is from my upcoming documentary Everything in Common. It was originally planned to be released last year, but I’ve been busy with book writing and finishing my studies. Now I have time to finish the documentary though, the first live screening will be here in Sweden on a conference that I’m co-organizing on Christian community life in April. I hope to to be able to publish it on YouTube shortly afterwards, there are some music licensing stuff that I need to deal with.
The documentary is about the community of goods that is being practiced at the Jesus Army: how it works, how it impacts people’s lives and what other churches can learn from it. Here’s an epic teaser trailer for the film: