This page in brief ….
Most christians and other believers think that God takes an interest in them. For many, this is an important part of their lives, and they would feel less secure if they didn’t have confidence that God was guiding and assisting them.
But is this really what happened ?
I have gathered reports of people who believe God has intervened in their lives, though miraculous healing, communication by speaking or vision, changing their lives or answering their prayers. This page summarises these reports and gives links to a fuller presentation of their stories.
People get sick or are victims of accidents that cause trauma and distress, and so they cry out to God for help. Often, nothing obvious seems to happen (though we can’t say for sure that God has done nothing, for he may well have assisted in a ‘natural recovery’). But sometimes God appears to respond with an unusual healing.
I have searched for credible miracle claims, and found the following:
- A medical researcher examined ten apparently miraculous recoveries after prayer. He obtained case history documentation and interviewed doctors, and concluded that the recoveries were well beyond what could be expected to have occurred naturally.
- Australian doctor Sean George suffered a heart attack and a team of doctors and nurses tried a defibrillator. When his ECG ‘flatlined’ they kept on with CPR. After about an hour and a half treating him with no response, they gave up. But then his wife (also a doctor) arrived and prayed for a miracle – and imediately he began to breathe again, his heart began to beat again, and eventually he fully recovered with (unexpectedly) no brain damage.
- A heart attack victim spent almost an hour in the emergency room before an experienced heart surgeon pronounced him dead. But after the surgeon was prompted to pray for healing, the man recovered fully.
- Professor Candy Gunther Brown travelled to Mozambique to witness healing meetings. She measured the hearing and eyesight of those seeking healing, immediately before they were prayed for, and immediately after. There was a significant, and in some cases quite amazing, improvement in most of the 24 people.
- Surveys indicate about 300 million people worldwide claim to have experienced or observed a healing miracle. An investigation by a historical scholar found hundreds of credible claims from several continents. Only some had supporting documentation, but the sheer number makes them difficult to dismiss.
- An internation Medical Commission investigated thousands of apparent healings at Lourdes in France. Although few had sufficient documentation to allow thorough investigation, 68 were judged to be authentic.
A probability estimation indicates that this evidence is enough to suggest that God has indeed been active.
Visions and words
When people say God has spoken to them, or they have had a vision of Jesus, we will reasonably want to question them. But there are cases where the person appears to be quite sensible, and tangible outcomes result.
- Many followers of other religions, especially Islam, have reported seeing visions of Jesus, or seeing him in a dream. In some cases they say he spoke to them. The experience was so strong that they decided to follow Jesus, often losing family, friends or even inheritance because of this choice.
- Philip Wiebe, a professor of philosophy, has gathered reports of people “seeing Jesus” in the western world. Some came from christian backgrounds, some did not, but this vision led to their conversion. In some cases Jesus spoke to them, others were dramatically healed, and in one case, several hundred people either saw the apparition together or saw a film made of it. Wiebe assesses all the possible explanations, both natural and supernatural, and concludes that none of them appear able to explain every case.
- One of those healed verified the story in a comment on my blog.
Some people call out to God in times of great personal need, and find that their lives are changed dramatically as a result.
- A gang member and opium addict came off his addiction during half an hour of prayer – just him and God, and he had never prayed before. He was still following Jesus years later.
- A young woman was abused and raped and eventually became drug-dependent and pregnant. No-one, not even the father of her child, wanted to help her, so on Christmas Eve she went to church. Through love, acceptance, prayer and counselling, she decided to follow Jesus, gave up drugs, received healing from the effects of her previous life, and eventually entered into a stable marriage.
- There are many, many stories like this. People whose lives are in a mess receive physical or emotional healing, they feel love and acceptance, and sometimes God communicates with them in very interesting ways.
Belief in God also changes people’s lives in quiet and simple ways. Hundreds of studies show that religious belief and practices have benefits for the individual and society. This may surprise you, but Connor Wood, who is doing a PhD in science and religion writes:
the data that religion has social and individual benefits is so overwhelming that saying that religion has no benefits is active science denial.
Benefits of religious belief and practice include lower levels of addictions, criminal and anti-social behaviour and suicide, and higher levels of physical and mental health, wellbeing and community volunteering. These benefits may have simple psychological causes, but they are consistent with God blessing the lives of believers.
But many prayers are not answered!
But it remains true that not all prayers are answered. Only a small percentage seem to be answered as directly as the cases presented here. Doesn’t that show prayer doesn’t really work, and these cases are just coincidences?
I don’t think anyone suggests that all prayers are answered, just that some are answered in ways that seem more than coincidental. And the number of prayers not answered (at least not in a dramatic and visible way) is not relevant to the question of whether God is there and visibly answers some prayers.
Take the example of a lottery. Only a few win prizes, and most people with a ticket don’t win. But counting the number of non-winners is of no relevance to the fact that some do indeed win.
What to make of all this?
The evidence is there for each of us to assess. Some will accept it without question just as others will never accept it or even investigate it. I hope you will want to consider it in more detail.
But is it proof of God?
Surely it isn’t “proof”, but I think it is a good indication. These events are more likely if God exists than if he doesn’t, and so, to an observer like most of us, they seem to make God’s existence more probable. And of course, it is understandable that those who experienced what they believe was God in this way need no further proof.
I find it convincing. I don’t know why God only answers some prayers, but I cannot believe it probable that all these stories can be explained naturally.