Apologetics Christian Living Prayer

How Prayer Impacts Lives

This is a chapter I wrote in the CFP book ‘How Prayer Impacts Lives” – 41 Christians and their conversations with God .


 The speaker was adamant – “I don’t believe in God because I have never seen or heard of anyone who has experienced answered prayer”. He was an atheist who prided himself in his ‘evidence based’ scientific approach to life. I was next in turn to speak and basically ripped up my prepared speech to begin by simply responding – “you have now”.   As a Christian for over 35 years and a minister for over 25 you would of course expect me to believe in prayer – or rather to believe in the One who answers prayer.   Over my life I have experienced many answers, questions and responses to prayer. I have wrestled, struggled, practiced and denied prayer.   But of one thing I am certain – I am able to write this today because of answered prayer.

In October 2011 I collapsed in a pool of blood outside my church after conducting a wedding. Although spectacular it was not considered to be too serious – a couple of bleeding ulcers should have been easily dealt with by a routine endoscopy procedure. Except that from this point on nothing was routine.   Three endoscopies could not stop the bleeding and my lungs almost drowned in blood. I have little or no recollection of the several weeks I spent in the Intensive Care Unit in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, but I have since been told that three times I came close to death. The inability to breath, e-coli of the lung, numerous infections, a hemoglobin rate of 4, and finally pneumonia all threatened to end my life. My family at one point were told that there was nothing that the hospital could do, that I was unlikely to make it through, and that it was now all up to me. Little wonder that my wife was incredulous – up to me?! I was comatosed and unable to move, communicate or do anything. Thankfully it was up to someone else.
Of course my family were praying. As were friends and the church. Apparently even in my delusional state (brought on by the drugs that had to be administered) I was asking for prayer. At one point I even wrote that people should be called to fast and pray between 3 and 4 pm one particular afternoon. I guess I figured that people could manage to fast for one hour! But people did pray – and then some.   There are three extraordinary aspects of this that stand out in my mind. Firstly on one particular Sunday the whole Free Church were asked to stop what they were doing and pray at 12 noon for my recovery. Secondly I have received many reports from people to the effect that they would be woken in the middle of the night with a strong urge to pray for me and could not go back to sleep until they did so. It seems as though God gave the burden for prayer and then answered the prayers he inspired. I am reminded of Augustine’s prayer “O Lord, command what you will, and give what you command”.

Sometimes it was difficult for my family to pray. What could they ask for? How could they express what they felt when they saw me agitated, in agony and at times in great spiritual and emotional turmoil? There were no words. Except there were. God’s words. And especially those given to us in the prayer book of the Bible – the psalms.   They were so precious, real and emotional.   We used them every day.   Psalms like Ps 91 were read or sung to me every night. In fact the whole time I was in hospital I did not go to sleep at night without a Psalm. And as a Presbyterian brought up in a tradition that prayer should be extempore and generally not written down, I was surprised at how helpful I found the prayers in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

And the prayers were answered. One night lying in the High Dependency Unit I knew that I was going to get better and that God still had a role for me on this earth.   Since then I have lived every day grateful for life and for the particular answer that was given to myself and so many people in answer to prayer. I say particular because of course there could have been other answers. As my son Andrew pointed out ‘if Dad dies then that too will be an answer to prayer”. And so it would have been. The atheist cited at the beginning of the passage, upon hearing this, stated that that was not fair because then God wins every way. Indeed He does.   And that is totally fair.   As a Christian I believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love him – even illness and death.   Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. One day I will die – until then I will live on this earth thankful to God that I am living proof that prayer does indeed impact lives.

The Shelter of the Most High – New Year, Old Hope – a Personal Testimony

Follow up note:  Within minutes of posting this the following response was tweeted from an atheist who stalks me – of all his hate filled posts, this is the saddest.  What kind of bitter and twisted mind tweets this kind of response to such a personal story?

That story disgusts me. With all that your god does *not* achieve in response to prayer, your faith in prayer is totally obscene. Self-centred twaddle!

It is also by the way one of the most irrational responses.  We don’t believe in a God who gives us everything we want just because we ask it.  Read the story again and you will see that clearly stated.



  1. This is SO TRUE David.! Absolutely AMEN to the fact that there IS Power in Prayer!! My own husband due to go go to hospital this Friday for an Op and all I can do is rally the prayer warriors and trust God with him as he goes through it. And yes, win win for God whatever the outcome if we are trusting in Him. Thank you for sharing this as I too had been burdened to pray for you but did not know exactly why you were in hospital. Another part of the jigsaw put in place. But I didn’t need to know at the time. God knew, and I trusted Him to hear and answer.
    Every blessing to you and Annabel on your trip away. May many hearts be turned to Jesus and blessed through meeting you both.

    1. Two category errors, Ark:
      1. intercessory prayer experiments are not prayer (although experimental, intercessory prayer is.) What’s more, such experiments tend to be cruel to those whose prayers are deemed not to have been answered: the less we actually know of prayer the more likely we are to say:’If only I’d prayed harder.’
      2. ‘no god needed’ is a potshot at prayer to the God of the unknown that forgets or is ignorant of the fact that he is also the God of the known. To be briefly comprehensive, he is the God of Love, the God of Grace, the God of Glory, the God of Faithfulness, the God of gods, the God of Peace and the God of Completion.

      Prayer is:
      1. Access to God.
      2. Confession of Sin.
      3. Cry of Helplessness.
      4. Retelling of God’s Greatness.
      5. Laying out of problems before God.
      6. Claiming of Promises.
      7. Thanksgiving.


      1. God of love?
        Is this the same capricious monster found in the bible that sanctioned slavery?

        I’ll pass, thanks all the same.

        Hey, talk to the Templeton Foundation. Maybe I have expressed the term incorrectly – imagine how worried I am?
        The point is prayer , be it intercessory or any other form fails every time.

        Any one been able to regenerate an amputees limb yet?

        Templeton have spent millions.How silly.


  2. I was brought almost to tears to think that such a lovely, hope-filled account could elicit such a bitter response. How sad that man’s life must be!

  3. It must have been a very difficult time for your family and friends as well and I glad you came out on the other side of this David.

    Two years ago my eldest son came down with pneumonia and spent 10 days in the children’s hospital where he was operated on and subsequently recovered. My wife and I would alternate spending the day and night with him. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but ended up well.

    After walking to his ward several times I finally noticed that some doors I had to walk by on the way to his room were the doors to the cancer ward for children and I suddenly became extremely thankful that I was walking down to the ward where my son was and not through those doors.

    It doesn’t take much effort to imagine the sort of emotional and physical hell the parents of the children in the cancer ward were going through, not to say the children themselves. If ever there was a reason for prayer having a child in a room beyond those doors would be it and we don’t even have to enquire to know already that a lot of the prayers for the children in there were not answered. Their lives finished before they even really began and the lives of the parents left behind were changed forever.

    When it comes to answered prayer it very much seems to me that all you have to do to proclaim the truth of it is open your mouth and say so. There is absolutely no way to determine if the prayers made for you during your illness were the reason for the outcome in your case David. It makes perfect sense that you believe it was.

  4. Ark,
    you have stated in the past that you can’t hate a god that you don’t believe in. What I find is that you conjure up a god that nobody believes in in order to justify your hate.

    Since you (allegedly) do not believe in God, your accusation has to be that authors of the Bible books believed in a ‘capricious monster … that sanctioned slavery’.
    I venture to suggest, Ark, that I know the Book better than you and I can find no evidence that any of them thought for a moment that God is either capricious or monsterous.
    But you do know the book well enough to know where slavery is dealt with in an allegedly objectionable manner so you should be able to justify your indignation with what the Bible says about slavery without — tiresomely — resorting to fulminating against a god you don’t believe in in order to express anger towards people who did or do believe in the God that you don’t want to believe in.


    1. Since you (allegedly) do not believe in God, your accusation has to be that authors of the Bible books believed in a ‘capricious monster … that sanctioned slavery’.

      I beleive you have misrepresented me (or misunderstood?) John.
      Let me clarify – in case I am in turn misrepresenting you.

      Based on the actions described in the Old Testament, the god , Yahweh, is most certainly capricious and a monster. This, of course, does not mean that the worshipers of this thought so. No, in fact they thought his actions were perfectly justified , as can be witnessed by the Israelites following Yahweh’s directives, often to the letter. I am sure I do not need to list chapter and verse – you knowing the bible as well as you probably do.

      The Christian explanation for Yahweh’s abhorrent behaviour ( which would put the average butchering psychopath to shame) is Divine Command Theory; William Lane Craig being one of its most well know proponents.

      1. How do I misrepresent you, Ark?
        You don’t believe in God.
        Since you don’t believe in God at all you cannot believe that he is either capricious or monstrous and for you to just say that he is has no meaning.
        What I thought you’d be able to do is to point to allegedly monstrous things that Biblical authors justify by saying that God told them to do it, etc. but I’m beginning to think that if you could have, you would have and you haven’t. You specifically mentioned slavery, so what did the Biblical authors write about slavery that demonstrates caprice? What did they write about slavery that is monstrous?
        I’m asking for two reasons.
        1. I doubt if you have anything substantial but if you do you’re not going to hold it back.
        2. I am very interested to see if you can just once give a straight quotation of what the Bible actually says rather than something reworded to show the silliness or the nastiness that you would like it to betray.
        Am I misrepresenting you to say that you constantly conjure up the spectre of a god that nobody believes in in order to criticise or mock believers in the God you don’t want to believe in?


      2. Oh, I will add this though.
        A while back the Pope apologized for a variety of heinous actions perpetrated over the centuries in the name of your god.
        Slavery was one of the things on his ”list”.
        Now, you’re a clever fella, so let’s see if you are able to work out the correlation between Yahweh’s actions/commands in the bible and those of his minions.
        If you get stuck let me know, okay?

      3. I’ll take that as an admission, Ark.
        1. You don’t believe in God.
        2. You don’t want to believe in God.
        3. You see that bad things have been done in God’s name.
        4. You are convinced that faith/religion is responsible for those bad things being done.
        5. You dismiss as irrelevant the common observation that men wishing to do what is generally perceived to be bad, often attempt to justify their actions by invoking what is generally considered to be good.
        6. A pope apologised for slavery on behalf of Christianity and you assume that there must have been something in the Bible that gave the Slave Trade permission to operate and justified all the attendant evils.
        7. You assume that what the Bible says God commanded and did with regards to slavery correlates with what the ancient Israelites did actually do.

        You set me a task which I can fulfil very easily:

        There is an inverse correlation between God’s commands and the actions of men because — [Rom. 3:23] — all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

        Isn’t it funny how you want to pin my sin onto the god you don’t believe in when the God you don’t want to believe in was nailed to a cross in order to take away sin and make us free?


      4. 2. You don’t want to believe in God.

        Now this is funny. Don’t want to believe? Are you being serious?

        What next? Are you going to pout and then accuse me of being a mean nasty atheist who simply hates god?
        What are you, 12 years old?
        Provide verifiable evidence for your god claims and then perhaps we may be able to have a reasonable adult conversation,


  5. No accusation, Ark;
    either you want to believe or you don’t and I’ve taken it from what you have already written that you both don’t believe and don’t want to believe.
    As for what sort of atheism you subscribe to? Well, John Gray’s Seven Types of Atheism is out now; he deals with those he describes as God haters in his fifth chapter. I have you pigeon-holed as a ‘new atheist’, of which Gray writes: “the so-called ‘new atheism’ – contains little that is novel or interesting. After the first chapter, I will not refer to it again.”
    Now Gray is an atheist himself so in the light of his curt dismissal of so much of the new atheist agenda, what he says about Christianity might be of interest to you: “Christianity will be badly shaken if the received story of Jesus can be shown to be false.”
    (Just for the record: the Christian experiential evidences are:-
    1. the inward witness of the Holy Spirit.
    2. Scripture.
    3. the answer to prayer.
    since these are the shared experience of Believers — [cf. 1 John 5:10-15] — the fact that an unbeliever does not experience them is no evidence against.)
    However, these are not the evidences you are asking for so, however much it may annoy you, I’m going to repeat what I’ve said before. The New Testament contains records of ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Those records are falsifiable and Gray’s analysis is laconically understated; Christianity is destroyed if you can show that these records were made up. So, go to it; take it or leave it; obviously David’s suggestion that you should read his books stands; but in a very real sense those ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are the only evidence that you are going to get.

    1. You can’t not want to believe John, especially if there is no evidence to support such a belief. This is why there are atheists, John. It is all about evidence. Those that beleive without evidence are either delusional or simply acting on faith.A belief in things unseen etc.
      And your tacit implication is that there is evidence.

      Therefore, all I ask is provide some, and not by some wishy-washy statement about god is all around us or suchlike, but tangible evidence to demonstrate your claim as a Christian, none of which have you included in your reply.

      Let me help you out ….
      Part of your belief includes the assertion that the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator of the Universe.
      Now, just for argument’s sake, I’ll give you that the universe has a creator, I’ll even give you that the character Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

      Remember. You are the Christian, you are making the positive claim. Now provide the evidence , that he is also the Creator of the Universe.

      Again, scripture does not count.

      Your call.

      1. I did not imply that there is evidence, Ark,
        I said ‘in a very real sense those ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are the only evidence that you are going to get.
        However, you seem determined to leave reality behind, arbitrarily ruling out documentary evidence — in spite of me saying that documentary evidence is all there is down for you — and even misquoting Wet Wet Wet at me as an example of the wishy-washy reasoning you don’t want to hear.
        So be it, but the task you’ve set me is embarrassingly simple. Aristotle held that any logical argument could be reduced to two premises and a conclusion. (I looked that up in wikipedia) You allow me two premises:
        1. The universe was created by a Creator.
        2. Jesus rose from the dead.
        (It’s difficult to see what other conclusion could be reached but here it is anyway.) Since neither creation nor resurrection is reproducible it stands to reason with a liklihood beyond all reasonable doubt that the creation and the resurrection were performed by the same person.


      2. Yes, John I am fully aware of what you were (not ) saying …

        I said ‘in a very real sense those ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are the only evidence that you are going to get.‘

        Meaning there is no evidence.

        Sorry, John, but you do not get a Free Pass to make up Gary Habermas style arguments and claim them as real evidence based on faith and presupposition.
        If you do not truly understand what evidence is then you will have to remain locked into your delusion.
        So, sorry old sport, the gospels are not documentary evidence any more than the nonsense of the Pentateuch or, for that matter, a Harry Potter novel.

      3. But you gave me the ‘free pass’, Ark!
        by gifting me the premises. And the form of argument is Aristotelian so if Gary Habermas uses the same form it’s hardly surprising. I’m not familiar with his work but you obviously are so it’s all the more surprising that you should set such a trap for yourself and fall into it.
        For your comfort, deriving a conclusion from two premises is just a logician’s party trick and a method or theory that can be used to prove anything and everything is ultimately useless. That’s why Catastrophe Theory lost the popular appeal it had in the 1970s and why we mustn’t try to get Neo-Darwinism to explain everything, either.
        Not for your comfort, but for the record, you have consistently refused to take any evidences offered to you seriously but it remains a fact that Christianity stands or falls on the ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection.

  6. I did do other things yesterday, Ark,
    but after I posted my latest reply to you, I spent a little time wondering why you went ballistic over me saying that you don’t want to believe in God. I was at a loss until I made use of your What are you, 12 years old? jibe and asked, ‘How would a twelve-year old use “don’t want to believe”?’ Then it dawned on me, I think. ‘You don’t want to believe in God.’ is pronounced by twelve-year olds (and by not a few older heads as well, I dare say) in triumphant accusation, as though they’ve scored a major point. I’d think again about saying You can’t not want to believe because of what it implies but the fact remains that it would be wrong to say that you want to believe.
    I have other things to do, including attending a funeral, so I’ll leave your logic puzzle to answer later — given David’s indulgence, of course — and he’ll probably be asleep before I get round to attempting it. I have little training and less practice in logic games so at first glance it probably seems easier to me than it actually is.

  7. Not for your comfort, but for the record, you have consistently refused to take any evidences offered to you seriously but it remains a fact that Christianity stands or falls on the ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection.

    And if you could please identify the primary contemporary source for this claim I would be obliged.

      1. They are neither eyewitness accounts or contemporary, and thus can be dismissed as hearsay at best.
        Furthermore, as I am sure you know perfectly well, around 600 verses on Matthew, some almost verbatim, are lifted from ‘Mark’. No eyewitness would need to plagiarize from another’s work in this fashion.

        Also, for what it’s worth, the official position of the Catholic Church is that the gospels are anonymous.

      2. And right on cue you give a great example of assertion without evidence. Firstly the Gospel are eyewitness accounts (see Bauckham’s ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses’. Secondly not only Matthew but Luke used verse from Mark (usually not ‘verbatim) – that is actually very common. Its not plagiarism to cite other sources! Thirdly the official position of the Catholic Church is not that the gospels are anonymous…..(and you wonder why you struggle in debate?!)

      3. I never struggle in debate.

        Mark Pierson, Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Concordia University, Irvine (Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod), co-author of “Making the Case for Christianity”: “The current consensus in the academy [of NT scholars]…suggests that only those who shut their eyes and ears to the facts can maintain traditional beliefs about Jesus.”

        And this ….
        From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

        “The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel [Matthew] have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following. The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain.” –from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

        and this also …

        from “About Catholics”, a Roman Catholic website:

        “They [the Gospels] were anonymously written. In fact, most scholars today do not believe that the evangelists were eyewitnesses for the simple reason that their chronology of events and theological interpretations are different. The titles of the gospels were added in the second century and very well could designate the authority behind the finished gospel or the one who wrote one of the main sources of the gospel. The [Roman Catholic] Church takes no official stance on their authorship. It is important to understand that the Church by its authority and the guidance of the Holy Spirit canonized these four gospels over many others that were circulated and read in the early centuries.”

        And you’ll recognise this chap I’m sure, David.

        Respected Anglican New Testament scholar NT Wright, a favorite of many evangelical Christians due to his passionate belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, has said, “I don’t know who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else.”

        So, you were saying?

      4. You see how you argue…you never stick to the subject and you google quotes that seem to support your position. Of course there are Catholics who deny that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts. But you said that that was the official position of the Catholic church – it isn’t.

    1. I take it, Ark,
      that the ‘claim’ you speak of is the claim that Christianity stands or falls on the ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection Perhaps the clearest expression of that was given by Paul who was the last of the eyewitnesses. He said — [1 Cor. 15:14] — ‘And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.’
      Now, whether or not you remember, you castigated me recently for daring to quote from 2 Peter and you did so on the grounds that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphal. By doing so you inadvertently gave to the writings of Paul an authority you probably never intended. (Because if the writings of Paul are inauthentic, how could it matter if the commentary on them is inauthentic?) Ironically, the verse in Paul that we were discussing at the time — [Rom. 10:9] — links certainty of salvation with a heart belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. If belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential for salvation — at least for those who have heard that Jesus died and rose again — then isn’t it obvious that Christianity stands or falls on the ungainsayable eyewitness accounts of the resurrection?
      So much for the claim of importance but these eyewitness accounts are presented to us in gospels and you have sneered at the idea of allowing the gospels to be presented as documentary evidence. Why? (yes I can read your smokescreen reasons and they are all putative reasons why we should not depend on them. Thank you, we’ll pass, to use your own expression.) But that is of no concern to you if you are to use the documents as evidence that the Gospel writers did not know what they were talking about. Within a few years from the birth of Christianity, scholars ‘forgot’ exactly when Herod the Great actually died so that we now reckon that Jesus was born in the year 4 BC [Before Christ]! If the Gospels are late compositions, with anonymous writers hiding behind pseudonyms, and ‘careful’ scholars made such a pig’s ear of the simple matter of setting the date, then ‘surely they must have slipped up somewhere?’ should be your reasoning. But no, you prefer your smokescreen. Pity.

      1. Paul was not an eyewitness.
        And although some of the Epistles are attributed to the same author – and we know some are simply fraudulent – don’t we John, yes? – there is no contemporary evidence for his character either.
        And certainly, the stories in Acts are pretty much just that. Historical Fiction.

        So why on earth you keep hammering on about eyewitnesses I really do not know.
        No recognised genuine scholar, historian, theologian, minister, believe the gospels are penned by eyewitnesses. or that they are eyewitness testimony. The Catholic Church certainly do not,


      2. The ignorance is matched only by the arrogance! YOu know ‘certainly’ that the stories in Acts are ‘fiction’ – yet you offer no evidence for your certainty. NO ‘recognised genuine scholar, historian, theologian’ believes that the gospels are penned by eyewitnesses? So Professor Richard Bauckham of the University of St Andrews and the author of ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses’ is in your eyes not a recognised genuine scholar? I think in your post-modern world what you mean is that because he doesn’t agree with you, he cannot be ‘recognised’!

      3. Ark,
        I’m glad you asked, because if you haven’t got it yet, you really, really need to know. I keep ‘hammering on about eyewitnesses’ because that’s all we’ve got to offer you.
        Paul said he was an eyewitness to the resurrection — [1 Cor. 15:8] ‘Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.’
        Yes, I am aware that some scholars disputed the authorship of some of the Pauline Epistles — and I deeply resent the implication that I thereby ‘know’ those letters to be fraudulent and am covering the knowledge up! — but, funnily enough, the two letters of Paul I’ve quoted in this little spat of correspondence are among those considered to be genuine. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Rejecting some letters as being from Paul because they aren’t considered Pauline enough only means that you have to take the ones generally considered genuine, more seriously.
        Isn’t your over-the-top protestation about ‘No recognised genuine scholar, historian, theologian, minister’ to a couple of guys with relevant degrees, a mark of desperate unbelief?
        You don’t seem to be quite as convinced that Acts is Historical Fiction as was the Bishop who is supposed to have declared Gulliver’s Travels to be a pack of lies. But no matter, treat it as such and look for those slips that will surely show that it is not based on eyewitness testimony, unless of course it is.
        I keep coming back to the eyewitness testimony because this isn’t a game of chess — thanks for the picture, David — coming back to the eyewitnesses is us getting the pawns out of the way and you trying to knock our King over … and you can’t.

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