Recently I had a short crisis of faith – more like wandering. It all started when I read one of the assigned readings I had from a class on Managerial Decisions Making. In the class, I had learned about motivated reasoning – how people tend to be biased based on strongly held beliefs and make decisions based on those beliefs even though those beliefs might not be true. A reference was made to an article with regards to prayer – “Statistical Inquiries to the Efficacy of Prayer”. The paper argued that while billions of people believed in prayer, it was not efficacious. Before stumbling on the article, I had never really considered a statistical approach to looking into prayer. And it got me wondering if there was any evidence to refute the claim that prayer did not work.
I became introspective and thought about all the prayers I prayed most especially when I was young for my parents, and never came to pass. During our daily morning devotions, I remember we would pray that my mother would become a “perm sec”. As a civil servant, being a “perm sec” was the climax of civil service based on her trajectory and we prayed and confessed that she would become one for over 10 years. At the time she retired, she was just a level or two away. But at best, that prayer was not answered. I also thought about sick people who we had prayed for but still died anyway. More so, I thought about the incessant prayers and prophecies that had been pronounced over Nigeria without any significant changes over time.
In my mischievousness, I even suggested to a friend that we should introduce a new index for Nigerian pastors and prophets. The index would be something called something like “Prophecy Accuracy Index”- on a scale of 1-10. We will review messages and video clips from past prayers and prophecies they had made for over 20 years and see how many of those prophecies of prayers came to pass and then assign a number for each pastor. However, time would not have allowed me to perform such a ridiculous experiment.
Yet still, my mind was bothered about if prayers work and if prayer on its own discounted for hard work and other externalities could provide results. A part of my mind knows that prayer works because I’ve prayed at other times and I know my prayers were answered with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is another part of my mind that still wants to prove statistically that prayer is more efficacious than I could ever think if appropriately administered to situations.
For now, I’ll live by the simple scripture that says, “the just shall live by faith”. And hope that one day, someone does the work of confirming what I think is true in my gut.