Skip to main content

Full text of "Orthodox theories of prayer [microform]"

See other formats

S. U 2- 


^ JAN 10 1925 *^ 

CAl bt^'^'^:>""' 











Price Threepence. 



SOME time ago, a controversy was raging in various 
periodicals on the subject of prayer — our reason 
for noticing which, at this late period, will ^directly 

The real issue raised was this — Is there any reason 
for supposing that human supplications are capable of 
influencing directly the processes of external nature ? 
We say " external," because no one seems to deny that 
a man may, by this agency, produce a great effect upon 
himself, and his own nature. To be sure, the modus 
operandi is a matter of dispute between the philosopher 
and the theologian, the former attributing whatever 
result may have followed solely to what is called reflex 
action, the latter to the immediate action of the Deity. 
StUl, an effect is in both cases admitted, and it is not 
round this point that the controversy has raged. Again, 
we have used the word " directly," because it is quite 
plain that human supplication may have a considerable 
indirect effect, say, upon a religious person at a critical 
period who knows that he is being prayed for, and who 
believes that a great force is being exerted on his behalf. 
So, too, curses (which are a species of prayer) have 
often brought about their own fulfilment, by the fears 
they have instilled into their objects. In these sorts 
of cases, candid theologians, even when adhering to 

their own views, are willing to admit that a solution, 
such as does not suppose any interference with natural 
laws, may fairly be submitted for consideration. If 


4 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

men would go on praying for benefits on behalf of 
themselves, or of others in reach of their voices, or in 
reach of knowledge that those voices were being 
thus raised ; then, although there would be a difier- 
ence of opinion as to the mode in which the results of 
such action, admitting that it had results, must be held 
to have been brought about, still the man of science 
would have very little to say. But the contention of 
theologians goes a great deal farther than this, and it 
appears to us that the men of science have been justi- 
fied, nay^ that they have only discharged an imperative 
duty, in entering a most earnest protest against it. The 
contention is, as we have said, that human prayer is 
capable of modifying directly the course of external 
nature. No better illustration of this claim can be 
given than the familiar case of rain and fine weather. 
The churches maintain that the faithful are able to 
procure at one time a downfall, and at another a cessa- 
tion of rain ; and they have imposed it as a duty upon 
their members, when called upon by the officiating 
minister, or other higher authority, to put in force the 
machinery for this end. Upon this well-worn subject, 
we repeat that we have hitherto refrained from offering 
any observations to the readers of this series, in which, 
indeed, two or three excellent papers on Prayer in 
general have already appeared. 

We have been induced to break our silence in con- 
sequence of an article which has recently appeared in 
an able contemporary (Fraser's Magazine, Sept. 1873). 
This article puts forward a theory of prayer, which is 
not new,* but which is very clearly stated and agree- 
ably illustrated by the writer. For aught we know, it 
may have been still better set forth elsewhere — ^for we 
do not profess to have read everything which has been 
written on this subject of late. We, at any rate, have 
not met with any clearer recent statement of it, nor do 

* For instance, it is to be found in Euler's Lettres a une prineesse 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 5 

■we remember to have seen it anywhere distinctly ex- 
posed. Probably men of the calibre of Professor Tyn- 
•dall have thought that it would be a waste of time to 
^how its inherent weakness. Yet it is never a waste of 
time to refute theories of this kind, which, from their 
plausibility are particularly liable to attract superficial 
minds, and which, under the guise of offering scientific 
solutions are really the ofispring, of a spirit which is 
fundamentally opposed to true science. 

The theory is this, that prayer may be able to ope- 
rate directly upon the sequence of external events, 
without any violation of law. The Almighty may havfe 
so adjusted the course of nature as to make the favour- 
able issue of a prayer an effect dependent upon the 
prayer as a cause ; the particular cause having been 
foreseen and having its effect assigned to it in the 
general scheme. Thus, for example, a high reading of 
the barometer at Bergen, and a low reading at Dundee 
will indicate the approach of a storm, for the inhabi- 
tants of the East Coast of Scotland ; yet, a pious 
mother, with a son in the North Sea, may succeed in 
averting it by her entreaties to Heaven, without any 
violation of law, or consequent disturbance. For the 
law may be that the wind blows from a high to a low 
barometer, with a force proportioned to the differences 
of the barometric pressures in all cases where prayer to 
the contrary is not put up, or, rather, put up success- 
fully. In cases where it has been decided that the 
pKiyer shall be granted, as suppose in the foregoing 
instance, there may have been " an adjustment from 
eternity of physical causes to this specific moral end," 
the result " being serenely, wrought out by the natural 
operation of remote causes, the combination of which- 
no science could have predicted beforehand, albeit after 
the fact no science can detect any trace of violence or 
interference with the steadfast order of things. The 
event which answered to the prayer had lain latent 
irom of old in the undeveloped plan of nature, just as 


•.•L-A'.'.i ■.■^^-'.■'■, j:..'i.\'^<^,i.,t- 'Ak. ■..i..-j':.:i..-'t^^:-*.~l^j?-^. .i .,-■->_,.■;■■_": s-:.- - . . .-..-..■ ;l-~ i 1^:.% .■'n.^.^^JAT.^^j£'ie!-\aA , ri^ 

6 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

surely as it had lain from the beginning in the secrets- 

of the Divine foreknowledge." 

We have here, by the way, an illustration of the 
strange mode in which theologians are endeavouring to 
engraft on their system the modem conception of 
" Uniformity of Law." A little while ago, compara- 
tively speaMng, it would have been considered by their 
predecessors in the highest degree blasphemous to sug- 
gest that the Almighty either would dot, or could not 
comply directly with the requests of his supplicants, in 
the same manner as men are able to oblige others ; and 
that inconceivably complex and intricate chains of ar- 
rangements stretching up into infinite time must neces- 
sarily have been made in every case where prayer had 
to be answered. Science, however, having forced this 
conception of Law upon them, they are in the position 
of men in the fairy tale who have got hold of a Grenius 
without being possessed of the means of making him 
obey them, lliey really suppose that they have en- 
listed science on their side, or at any rate have dis- 
armed all reasonable opposition from that quarter, when 
in view of a series of phenomena the precise causes of 
which have not been ascertained, they exhibit another 
series of entirely dissimilar phenomena, and without 
proving the faintest connection between the two, calh 
upon us to recognise in the latter a " possible cause " 
of the former. It is the old story of the Goodwin 
Sands and Tenterden steeple. And supposing the phe- 
nomenon in that case had been, as it is easy to conceive 
that it might have been, the disappearance of a shelf 
that had stopped up Sandwich haven, instead of the 
appearance of a new one, it might have been argued on 
these lines, that the building of Tenterden steeple, ani 
act presumably agreeable to the Almighty, was a '* pos- 
sible cause " of the harbour being opened. We might 
then have been able with Mr Bacon, the author of the- 
article we are considering, to detect " in the day when 
the earth and sea shall yield up their secrets, running. 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 7 

-parallel with a line of fnoral influences, the vestiges of 

-an old train of geologic causes, working down through 
-aU the periods of creation until the two lines of diverse 
-operation converge upon a distinct predeterminate point 
■of time and space," the points upon which these parallel 
.lines have all along l;)een converging having been on 
this hypothesis the building of the steeple, on the one 
;hand, and the clearing away of the sand on the other. 
'" Tons les 6v6nenient8 sont enchain^s dans le meilleur 
des mondes !" in a way which even Pangloss did not 
suspect. On reading the above, we are irresistibly re- 
minded of Sheridan's simile. Whatever science ttiere 
may be in all this, has been disfigured, as gipsies are 
supposed to disfigure stolen children, to prevent its 
being recognised. 

Of course, where real causes are unknown, anything 
•whatever, the agency of which in producing the given 
iphenomenon ha^ not been actually disproved, may be 
ilabelled as a possible agent or cause. We can prove 
that the presence of the Sun above the horizon is not the 
cause of dew, because we have dew by night after the 
setting of the sun. But we cannot disprove the hypo- 
>thesis of some of the low chvirch papers, that Bitualism 
. and Infidelity attract cholera to our shores. Nor can we 
disprove the hypothesis, that prayer is able to influence 
storms. But we can submit some considerations which 
render these and similar hypotheses so violently im- 
probable, that they may be safelyk neglected. Indeed, 
if any account had to be taken of them, there could be 
no science in the proper sense of the term. 

Whenever- we are able to trace natural phenomena up 
to their real causes, it is found that human prayer is 
not among these causes. This is a conclusion co -exten- 
sive with human experience, and must be accepted as a 
truth of universal application. No person, for instance, 
supposes that eclipses are now-a-days in any way affected 
by prayer. The opposite is demonstrable. For an 
v«clipse, say of the Sun, being immediately due to the 

& Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

interposition of the moon between us and that lumi- 
nary, a calculation is made of the time when this collo- 
cation of the three bodies will be known to take place, 
and it is found not to be subject to any disturbance 
such as would be produced by the introduction of a new 
cause not previously accounted for. What is true of 
an eclipse holds good of the most ordinary physical 
phenomena of every-day life, with the causes of which: 
we have become acquainted. The presmHipltion is euor- 
mous, that in all those cases in which ^m imp^rf^tion 
of our instruments leaves us unable to^race phenomena 
to their true causes, there is similarly no room left for 
the agency of prayer. This conclusion is immensely 
strengthened by the fact, that even where we are lui- 
able to penetrate to the ultimate laws of phenomena, 
yet, whenever we are able to make any way at all in a 
discovery of their nature, we find ourselves in a region 
of absolute law, i.e., in the presence of secondary laws,, 
which may be plainly conjectured to be dependent 
upon more general laws. At any rate, the onus pro- 
handi is thrown upon those who assert the contrary, 
and it is difficult to see how they can shape their ob- 
jections so as not to fall under one of the three follow- 
ing heads. 

1. It maybe said that, even granting all this, no 
absolute case is made out against the efficacy of prayer 
of this particular kind. For it cannot be demonstrated 
that the future order of nature will resemble the past 
order. This has been admitted by Hume; and we 
think that Theology in its struggles is capable of 
snatching at the admission as at a straw. Indeed, Canon 
Mozley has turned it to considerable account in hisBamp- 
ton Lectures. According to this view, even although 
eclipses should be shown to have been due to certain 
well-defined causes in the past, yet it by no means 
necessarily follows that they will not be influenced by 
prayer in the future ; and it would be therefore by no 
means an absurdity to pray against the occurrence ot 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 9 

one, supposing such a course should at any time seem 
desirable in the interests of the supplicant or others. 
This theory would, of course, render an entreaty for 
any miracle (as we term it), however stupendous, per- 
fectly legitimate. This point, however, the value of 
which may be left to the consideration of the reader, is 
not taken by Mr Bacon. The argument here is that 
prayer may be conceived as having such and such an 
effect in an altered constitution of nature, to which our 
past experience could furnish no guide. Whereas, his 
contention is, that there is reason to suppose it may 
have an effect in the present constitution of things. 
And indeed, unless 'this latter ground be established, 
it is clear that although many ingenious metaphysical 
invitations might be addressed to them, yet, as a matter 
of practice, no persons would offer up these prayers. 

2. Prayer may be asserted to be one of the possible 
causes of physical phenomena, till the other causes are 
discovered. The law may be so arranged that when 
these other causes are found out by man, prayer ceases 
to act as an agency, in consequence, it may be said, of 
its ceasing to be put up, though this, by the way, is 
not strictly the case, for long after the truth as to any 
phenomenon is laid bare by science, the uninstructed will 
continue to pray in^ the direction of their supposed 
interests. According to this view, although a thousand 
years hence meteorology may be so far advanced as that 
rain and fine weather will be predicted with certainty 
a long while beforehand, and prayer will accordingly 
then be futile, it may not be futile now. Or, to take 
ecUpses again, some thousands of years ago prayer may 
have been effectual in warding them off, though it 
would be idle to offer it up now-a-days. This is some- 
thing in the shape of the former theory reversed; It 
is a projection of chaos into the past instead of the 
future. The Egyptians may have been right when they 
informed Herodotus that the sun had twice risen in tiie 
west andjtwice set in the east. And this singular re 



to Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

suit will follow, that any one who gets hold of what 
afterwards turns out to be a natural law, for the first 
time, and keeps it to himself will be wrong, as omitting 
one important ingredient, viz., prayer, which would 
still be presumably capable of being followed by an 
effect not allowed for. But what is here supposed as 
to a person keeping a discovery to himself for a while 
is, as has already been stated, exactly what takes place, 
if for one person we substitute a small body of scientific 
men. These discoveries do not penetrate to the mass 
of citizens in civilised communities for many years ; 
and here is an excellent opportunity for observing 
whetherHhe calculations of philosophers are liable to 
be disturbed by such an agency as prayer. Yet no 
single instance of any such disturbance has been verified. 
3. The above theories may excite a smile in the 
minds of those who are unfamiliar with the methods of 
theology. But is there anything one whit less absurd 
in the remaining theory to which we shall be driven, 
and which is supported by most of the leading thinkers 
on the orthodox side, — ^which is indeed the one upon 
which the case of Prayer (in the sense in which we are 
using the word) is mainly rested % It is thus clearly 
stated by Mr Mill : — " Originally all natural events 
were ascribed to such (special) interpositions. At pre- 
sent, every educated person rejects this explanation in 
regard to all classes of phenomena of which the laws 
have been fully ascertained, though some have not yet 
reached the point of referring all phenomena to the 
idea ©f law, but believe that rain and sunshine, &mine 
and pestilence, victory and defeat, death and life, are 
issues which the Creator does not leave to the opera- 
tion of his general laws, but reserves to be decided by 
express acts of volition.".* In judging this latter 
theory it will be found that as is constantly the case in 
matters not admitting absolute determination, we are 
reduced to a balancing of probabilities. We must re. 
* " System of Logic,'^ fifth ed., toI. ii., p. 521, note. ,i ■ 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. i;i 

peat that the matter stands thus. Prayer having once 
been held capable of producing an effect upon all phy- 
sicfd phenomena, and being now by general consent 
restricted to those only the laws of which have not 
been discovered and established, and this process of 
adding phenomena to the domaia of law, and conse- 
quently subtracting them from the domain of prayer, 
having gone on uninterruptedly, and pari passu with 
accurate observation, is it more probable that pheno- 
mena the causes of which are unlmown resemble those 
which have been explained, in being governed by simi- 
lar laws, or that they are exceptions, in which our 
prayers, demonstrably useless in all other like cases (if 
the present constitution of the universe is to be main- 
itained), may be, after all, efficient causes 1 Or, in other 
words, no single instance being scientifically established 
in which prayer has had any effect on external nature, 
and the course of nature, as far as it has been ascer- 
tained in countless cases and for countless ages, abso- 
lutely excluding this agency, is there any ground for 
-claiming it as a power in those cases where we are at 
present unable to trace effects to their true causes % 

Theologians reply that there is such a ground ; and 
we do not know that in our day they have found a 
more able spokesman than the late Dean Mansel, whom 
we shall accordingly quote. In his " Limits of Keli-, 
gious Thought " he writes as follows : — 

" Even within the domain of Physical Science, how- 
ever much analogy may lead us to conjecture the uni- 
versal prevalence of law and orderly sequence, it has 
been acutely remarked that the phenomena which are 
jnost immediately important to the life and welfare of 
man are precisely those which he never has been, and 
.probably never will be, able to reduce to a scientific 
■calculation."* ...^/C- '■>■■ i.'^ ■■::' ';,_ ni<^-^ .'im ;>:!.. >: ^}Mu 

This, by the way, is a very slovenly classification, for 
if there be any phenomena " immediately important to 
* P. 134, fifth edition. 


12 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

the life and weKare of man," such are, certainly, before- 
all others, the regular transmission of light and heat 
from the sun, the alternation of day and night and the 
seasons, in compliance with laws which prevent our 
being sent wandering through space or absorbed in the 
central luminary, and other phenomena of the kind 
which ore capable of being reduced to a scientific cal- 
culation. However, Dean Mansel continues : — 

" This argument admits of a further development, ia 
which it may be applied to meet some of the recent 
objections urged, on supposed scientific grounds, against 
the efficacy of prayer, as employed in times of national 
calamity, such as pestilence or famine. The celestial 
phenomena, recurring at regular intervals and calculable 
to a second, are by no means a type of the manner in 
which the whole course of nature is subject to law.. 
On the contrary, there are other classes of natural phe- 
nomena, with respect to which matter is to some extent 
directly subject to the influence of mind ; man being 
capable, by his own free action, not indeed of changing 
or suspending the laws of nature, but of producing, in 
accordance with those laws, a different succession of 
phenomena from that which would have taken place 
without his interposition. Franklin sends up his elec- 
tric kite, and directs the fluid with which the thunder- 
cloud is charged to a course different from that which 
it would otherwise have taken, and the same thing is 
now done by every man who erects a lightning-con- 
ductor. Subject to these influences, the material world 
must be regarded, not as a rigid system of pre-ordained 
antecedents and consequents, but as an elastic system,, 
which is undoubtedly capable of being influenced by 
the will of man, and which may, therefore, without any 
violation of scientific principle, be supposed to be also- 
under the influence of the wiU of God." * 

• p. 135, note. How about eartliquakes (against which inein are 
taught to pray)j and in which of the two classes of phenomena 
shall we rank them, and the cognate phenomena of volcanic 
eruptions ? 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. ij: 

The argument is, that where phenomena are capable 
of being directly influenced by man, and so removed 
from the sphere of exact prediction, they may be sup- 
posed to be capable of being directly influenced by 
God, and so made the subject of prayer. The reverend 
Dean has put the point rather strangely, but^we will 
not dwell on this. Every one, that is, every Theist, 
admits the above proposition and something more. 
We believe that all phenomena are capable of being; 
directly influenced by the Almighty. But this is not a 
fair statement of the point in issue. The argument, to- 
have any bearing on the subject, should be capable of 
being maintained in this form. " Where phenomena 
are capable of being directly influenced by man, there 
is reason to suppose that they will be directly influenced 
by God at the request of man." The real question is 
not «.s to the power of God, but as to his mode of 
working as revealed to us. That the Deity could, if 
he thought fit, in- answer to human prayer, arrest the 
course of a thunder-storm or a pestilence, may be con- 
ceded, without any appreciable weight being thereby 
accorded to the argument for prayer. What we have 
to consider is, whether there is any reliable evidence of 
his ever having worked in this fashion. If there is 
not, then to talk about prayer as a " cause" is an idle 
speculation. On the other hand, human labour ot 
effort is a vera catisa capable of producing determinate 
results on external nature, as every day experience 
shows us. Not only does Franklin divert the course 
of the electric fluid, but men have changed the climate 
of large tracts of the earth by cultivation, thus entirely 
altering what, but for their intervention, would have 
been the course of rain, storms, &c. Zoophytes haVe 
produced an analogous effect by raising coral islands. 
To argue that because man is able to act immediately 
on nature in certain cases, therefore God in those par- 
ticular cases may be supposed to act in a like way, is a 
complete non-sequitur. Again, to aigue from the power- 


34 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

•of human eflEbrt over nature, the power of human prayer 
to accomplish like results in the same field, is equally 
■absurd. In the one case, as, for instance, in the clear- 
ing away of large forests, and the consequent diminu- 
tion of rainfall in those districts, we have a regular 
chain of causation, entitling us to rank the human 
effort as' an antecedent and the increased dryness as 
a consequent. Here a fresh antecedent being intro- 
duced is followed by a change in the pbenomena, and 
in this sense of course all nature is an " elastic system," 

, ihe stars of heaven as well as drops of rain- When 
prayer has been exhibited to us as an unmistakeable 
antecedent, followed in like manner by clearly ascer- 
tained consequents, we shall think it as much a matter 
of duty to pray as to labour ; but not till then. 

Strange to say, theologians have never made an at- 
tempt in this direction. More than this, they have 
looked upon all efforts to ascertain the value of prayer, 
-even when undertaken with the most single-minded 
desire of arriving at the truth, as so many attempts 
nearly resembling blasphemies. Surely this is a mis- 
take on the part of the upholders of this supposed 
-agency. For, if it be capable of influencing pheno- 
mena, in the way suggested, this influence may pos- 

/^^ibly in some one case (and 6ne would suf&ce) be 
-capable of being traced ; and this possibility would be 
a sufficient justification of research, even in the eyes of 
the theologian, inasmuch as if it were realised^ the 
sceptic would be silenced. Meanwhile, we are com- 
pelled to say with the lawyers, " De nop apparentibus 
-at non existentibus eadem est lex." 

To return to the theory of which Mr Bacon, the 
author of the article in Frdser, is the latest spokesman. 
It possesses what to many will be the incontestable 
advantage of extending the power of prayer by making 
it applicable to paM as well as future events. He in- 
forms us at the outset that he was travelling twenty 
_year8 ago in Mesopotamia with two American theolo- 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. i^ 

gians, one of them a missionary. A letter reached the 
latter, dated long months before at Shanghai in China, 
informing him that his brother was dangerously ill of 
a typhus fever that was approaching its crisis. The 
question arose, would it be right to pray for the sick 
man ? To which the theologians replied, no. He is 
either" recovered or dead. In the first case, prayer is 
superfluous; in the second, it is useless. Mr Bacoib 

was not satisfied with this answer at the time, and after- 
much consideration he deems it wrong. " The reasons 
against excluding such a case from the domain of 
prayer are like those which apply against excluding all 
cases which come within the sphere of physical law." 
" The difficulty involved in it is not substantially diffe- 
rent from that involved in prayer for future physical 
blessings ; it is only more vivid, and more incapable of 
being evaded. It does not need a great philosopher, it 
is possible for a childlike mind, to recognise that anh 
unknown fixed event in the past, as well as in the 
future, may have been fixed with reference to its rela- 
tions, not only in the physical but also in the moral 
system ; so that it is no absurdity to beKeve that a cer- 
tain chaia of invisible and imponderable morbific in- 
fluences, terminating in an unknown issue of life and 
death on the banks of the Yang-tse-Kiang might have- 
been adjusted with fatherly reference to what, six or 
twelve months I later, was to be the spiritual attitude- 
and act of a heavy-hearted missionary wanderer floating, 
on a goatskin raft down the Tigris." 

The common-sense of the reader will, it is needless- 
to say, be perfectly satisfied with the reply of "the 
theologians." There is, indeed, a very great difference 
between praying for future and praying for past " phy- 
sical blessings." In the one case it is possible that the- 
prayer may have an effect : in the other case, to sup- 
pose this is in reality a contradiction in terms. A thing ' 
cannot have for a consequent that which has preceded 
it. It must be remarked, however, that, according tO" 


1 6 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

•this theory, the possible antecedent e.g., in. the case of 
the missionary's brother recovering or dying, is not, 
strictly speaking, the missionary's act (praying or de- 
clining to pray), but GodHs foreknowledge of tohat the 
act would be. Kot that this really mends the matter. 
But, before looking into this question a little more 
closely, let us see whither we shall be led if we adopt 
the line of action which Mr Bacon prescribes. 

Any past event whatever, the issue of which is un- 
known to the person praying, may be made the subject 
of prayer, and (provided there be nothing improper or 
immoral in the request) of legitimate prayer. To entreat 
that Judas Iscariot, or even Cain, may have repented 
before dying, that the number of slaughtered in some 
ancient battle was not so great as reported by ancient 
historians, that Seneca may have made acquaintance 
with Paul and fcecome a convert to Christianity, all 
these are fair objects of supplication. The event may 
have been adjusted in reference to the subsequent 
spiritual attitude and act. Prayer for the dead becomes 
a solemn duty for all of us, as we are reminded by the 
illustrations just given. For their permanent condi- 
tion may have been adjusted (we cannot help using Mr 
Bacon's own tenses) in the same way. If the missionary 
on the Tigris was authorised to pray that his brother 
at Shanghai had recovered six months before, he was 
just as much, nay, very much more, called upon to pray 
that, in the event of that brother not having recovered, 
he might have departed this life in the odour of sanc- 
tity. Similarly we may pray this on taehalf of any 
person whatever whom we know to be dead, and whose 
final earthly state of mind we do not know. And this 
being so, surely all those who believe in the efl&cacy of 
retrospective prayer, ought to set to work and pray for aU 
the dead. We may add tbat a very rude shock is given 
by this theory to the doctrine of free-will, as might 
easily be shown. This, however, we shall not press, 
■though we apprehend that it would have weight 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. ly 

with a writer holding the theological views of Mr 

According to this theory, prayer, impertinent and 
indeed impious to one man, would he a solemn duty to 
a person standing hy him — we mean in reference to an 
event one and the same, and possessing an equal in- 
terest for both. 

Let us suppose that, instead of being on the Tigris, 
the missionary had been at a hotel in New York, and 
that a gentleman had called upon him with the an- 
nouncement that he had recently come from Shanghai. 
" Here is a letter," he says, " which I had intended to 
post to you on my arrival here, but have preferred 
bringing with me, on accidentally learning your address. 
It informs you of a serious illness of your brother's, six 
months ago, and of the issue. Open the letter and 
you will see whether he recovered or died." It would 
seem that it would be the missionary's duty, before 
breaking open the seal, to kneel down and pray that 
his brother had recovered, inasmuch as to Mm the 
result is unknown. Indeed, Mr Bacon puts a pre- 
cisely similar case in reference to a "telegraphic de- 
spatch." Would it not be the duty of the visitor to 
reply, " My good sir, if you don't know, /do. !N"o- 
thing that you can devise can alter the event you- will 
find recorded in that letter." " ! but the Almighty 
may have so adjusted a chain.<^of morbific influences, 
&c., with fatherly reference to what is now going to be 
my spiritual act." " But the very words you have 
used, 'may have adjusted,' show you what nonsense 
you are talking." The pious missionarj^ however, ad- 
heres to his view, offers his prayer, opens the letter, 
and reads the result. Hereupon his equally pious and 
very delicate sister chances to come into the room, and 
is informed of the illness, but the result is withheld 
from her. How is the missionary to advise his sister ? 
Clearly that she ought to pray.* Prayer, which is a 

* We might go further. Tt would be the duty of the missionary 

L^;«iitiiti,!lv-i.^t^!i-.^,' i*L._..ii..vJ;...:ii:i^^^^^^ *•--. ^ -■-.•-*.-:■ ..-. ; "'.^ L^-. - ■ . - .. ■ - -•:. -.vjii i-^-ij,; '-^-i.-;^!^-.!; .;»vi*iR*^t\W&ttJ^j«ffe*i;Jj.;i:i^ 

i8 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

futility for him still remains a duty to her, or else alt 
this theory tumbles to pieces. But he cannot advise 
her to pray with any reference to the result, for the 
result is known to him. He is in the position the- 
visitor stood in a short time before. He can only ad- 
vise her to pray in a sense quite different from that in? 
which prayer is used in this theory, vi/.., as a pos- 
sible means of influencing past events. Now transport 
the missionary back to the Tigris, and suppose the- 
visitor (Smith) at Shanghai Smith (and a number of 
other people) know the event : the only difference is- 
thiit he does not happen to be at hand to tell the mis- 
sionary that he knows it. But this does not make the- 
prayer less futile. 

As this is a theory extremely likely to lay hold of 
certain persons of a theological turn, we do not think 
it a waste of time to repeat that prayer of this kind is 
an attempt to tamper with a past event by getting at a. 
past antecedent which (admitting the theory) has already 
produced a consequent. It is plain that a person, C.^ 
who knows what happened six months ago, — say that 
A. then recovered of a dangerous illness, — and who i» 
a believer in Mr Bacon's general theory, would reason 
correctly thus as to B., A.'s surviving brother : " God 
may have so adjusted the result in this particular instance- 
in accordance with his foreknowledge that B. would 
either pray or not pray. If B. prays I shall think that 
this was very likely the case. If he does not pray, 
then clearly it was not the case. But either way prayer 
can be of no avail now." One of the numerous &lla- 
cies of this theory lies in supposing that this view 
which is true to C. need not be true to B. ; that be- 
cause a thing is not known to B. it may be presumed 
to be in a certain sense undetermined, by B. If it i* 
true to C. it must be true generally. It follows that 
when any event is known to any being in creation 

not to inform his sister of the result, with the view of inducingr 
her to pray. 

Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 1 9 

prayer about it becomes useless to everybody. Another 
fallacy consists in not observing that in either case, 
i.e., whether the issue of the disease be or be not known 
to the supplicant, a known past event has to be dealt 
with, viz., the Deity's complete foreknowledge of what 
would be the supplicant's course. The prayer is offered 
up in order that tiie Deity foreseeing it — which now he 
is enabled to have done — may have been thereby dis- 
posed to save the sick man. But if a cannon may 
have been fired oflf, or not fired off, at Waterloo, ac- 
■cording as a foreknowledge of whetJier I should this 
day pull or not pull a string influenced a superior 
power, I can no more by my action on the string affect 
that foreknowledge than I can fire off the cannon of 1815. 
This theory, then, viz., that of the Supreme Being 
adjusting the issue of sickness, &c., to subsequent en- 
treaties, is not only a wild figment of the brain, opposed 
to the lessons derived from a study of nature, but it 
•does not even justify the practice which is sought to be 
founded upon it.* 

* Theologians, like common jurymen, require to have things 
often put before them ; so I shall make no apology for again set- 
ting the matter out thus. Granting Mr Bacon's wild theory of 
the existence of a law in virtue of which persons' lives or deaths 
may, in certain cases (for there is no pretence that this is alvxiys 
so), depend on subsequent prayers, we will suppose that a certam 
«vent, the issue of which is to me unknown, has reached me, e. ffr., 
the illness of my brother six months ago. Now I believe that the 
Deity may have ordered that issue in reference to his foreknow- 
ledge of what would be my action. The only effect of my prayer 
now can be to inform me whether the issue, when ascertained, can 
be brought into possible connection with the law. 

I pray — news comes of his recovery — law has possibly come into 

I pray — news comes of his death — ^the case did not come under 

the law. 

I don't pray — news comes of his death — law has possibly come into 

I don t pray — ^news comes of his recovery — the case did not come 

under the law. 

In the two cases where my prayer does not correspond with the 
past event, law could not have operated. 

In the two cases where my prayer did correspond with the past 
event, law might have operated. 

.^1 *ljA-^a'C»-.-i:.j.,>.'. :.ii^t^.;:i,i^-^^, .'i^jfC~^ r. :■!:.'.■■ ., ' ^ ,1. .i^ ;•■>;..' -- 1. /<^^^ ., i:^7.-*i:^i%::a:.^di*a.i&ii 

20 Orthodox Theories of Prayer. 

What, we may ask in conclusion, is gained to the- 
cause of theology by these wild assertions of the power 
of prayer over external nature ] To what purpose all 
these astounding complications ? The helief, it may 
be said, is necessary to stimulate a prayerful spirit. 
Yes, but then it ought to be shown that this^ a prayer- 
ful spirit exercised in the right direction. No one, it 
is clear, from the theological point of new, can know 
for certain whether supplications of this kind meet 
■with success or not. "We should have thought that the 
spirit which it is deemed so desirable to cultivate might 
find a sufficient scope in the internal sphere, where, 
though the modus operandi may be in dispute, no one 
denies that prayer is capable of producing effects,. 
which is the chief thing. With regard to external 
nature, may not a spirit of submission to supreme wis- 
dom — ^rather than one of a desire for change in our 
own intere^ — ^be, at least as " theological" as it is 
philosophical 1 Are not, we say, true philosophy and 
true religion at one, the former in urging that it is 
wiser, the latter in admitting that it is more devout, to 
leave external nature in the hands of the Author of 
Nature ? 

The fallacy consists in putting it that, if I pray God may have 
saved my brother ; or, if I don't pray, God may not have saved 
my brother. 

The fact is, that my brother has been saved or not saved with 
full foreknowledge of what I should do. 

If saved, saved either lecause it was known I would pray ; or, 
though it was known I would not. 

If dead, dead either because it was known I would not pray ; or, 
w apite of its being known that I would pray. 






Tlie following Pamphlets and Papers may he had on addressing 
a letter enclosing the price in postage stamps to Mr THOMAS 
SCOTT, No. 11, The Terrace, Farquhar Road, Upper Norwood, 
London, S.E. ' r price 

ABBOTT, FBANCIS E., Editor of ' Index,' Toledo, Ohio, U.S.A. - ^,-' 
The Impeacbuent op Christianitt. With Letters from Miss F. P. Cobfee and 

Prof. F. W. Newman, giying their reasons for not calling themselTeB Christians 8 
Truths for the Times - -- - - - - -08 


Address on the Necessitt op Free Inqotrt axt> Plain Spbakino, - - 8 

A. I. Conversations. By a Woman, for Women. Parts I., II., and III., 6d. each 1 6 
A Few Self-contradictions of the Bible - - - - - -10 

Modern Orthodoxt and Modern Liberalisk - - - - - * ' 

Modern Protestantish. By the Author of "The Philosophy of Necessity." - C 

On Public Worship ----_ .-08 

Ode First Cbnxurt - - - - - --- - -06 

Sacred History as a Branch of Elehentart Education. Part I. — ^Its Influence 
on the Intellect. Part II.— Its Influence on the Development of the Con- 
science. 6d each Part - - - - - - - -10 

Thx Church and its Refork. A Reprint - - - - -.10 

The Church: the Pillar and Ground of the Truth - - - - - »> 

The Opinions of Professor David F. Strauss - - - - - - 6 

The Twelve Apostles -- _-_,-oc 

Via Catholica; or, Passages from the Autobiography of a Country Parson 

Parts I., II., and IIL, Is. 3d. each Part - - - - - -89 

Woman's Letter -- - - - - - - -08 

BARRISTEB, A. Notes on Bishop Maoee's Pleadinqs for Christ - - 6 

BASTARD, THOMAS HORLOCK. Scepticism and Social Justice - - 3 


The Chronological Weakness of Pbophbtio Interpretation - - - 1 1 

The Evangelist and the Divine - - - - - - -10 

The Gospel of the Kingdom - -- ^ ' - - - -08 

BENTH AM, JEREMY. The Church of England Catechism Examined. Reprint 1 


Origin of the Legends of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Ckitioallt Examikbd 1 

BESANT, Mrs A. On.thb Religious Education of Childbbn - - , - 3 


Illusion AND Delusion; or Modem Pantheism t)«r«i« Spiritualism, - - « 

Thb Rbicn op Law-in Mind as in Matteb. Parts I. and II., 6d each - - 1 

BUOOK, W. 0. CARR. Reason veriJM Authoeitt - - - .-,.0 3 


An Appeal to thb Pbbachbes OF ALL JCHB Creeds ' - - - ' - 8 

; Sunday Lyrics - - - - - - - - ■ -03 

^ The New DoxoLOGT - - - - - - -, . - ^. -,0 3 

CANTAB, A. Jesus ««•«« Chbistiaottt - - - , ■?; V ; j-,i4>T6 

CARROLL, Rev. W. G., Rector of St Bride's Dublin. ' 

The Collapse of ihb Faith or, the Deity of Christ as now taught by the 

Orthodox - - - - - - -- --06 

CLARK, W. G., M.A., Vice-Mastfer of Trinity College, Cambridge. 

A Review of a Pamphlet, entitled, "Thb Present Dangers of t^b Qau^oa<»F ^ 
England" - - - - - - - k, ^ ^'9 6 


An examination OF LiDDON'S BaMPTON tECTUKB - . r I- ~/%s6 

Letter AND Spirit - - - - - "."/*" T • * 

The Analogy OF Nature AND Religion — Good and Evil ..•''.•' ^ ' . Ov 6 

-' • The Question OF Method, as affecting Religious Thought - ' ,- "-"';«, o 8 

' '' Rational PiBTT AMD PEATBB8 fob Faib Wbathbe - - . '•■' 8 

M-riv teij^f'^'aii ■\ -wtfwiiiJfiti'Afi *i-ittirtni»ifiiiHtii^i"^^»-''"'"8iiiiii WrifitinWwiiMii 

List of Publications — continued. 


















The SpraiTUAi. Serfdom OF THB Laitt. 'With Portrait - - - 6 

The Votset Case - - . - . -._ -OS 


The Thiktt-Nine Articles ahd the Creeds, — ^Their Sense and their Non-Sense. 

Parts I., II., and III. 6d. each Part - - - - - -1» 


Criticism the Restoration oi' Chsistlanitt. Review of a paper by Dr Lai 
The Bible fob Mait, not Man for the Bibue - . . - 

CBANBROOK, The iate Eev. JAMES. 

On thb Fohmation of Reugious Opnrroirs - - ' - - 

On the Hindrances to Progress in TrfEOLOGT - . - - 

Thk Tendencies OF Modern Religious Thought - - > 

God's Method of Gotebnmest, - . . _ . 

On Responsibilitt, - - - - - 

DEAN, PETEK. The Impossibility of knowing t^hat is Chkistianitt - 
DUPUIS. Chkistianitt a form of the great Solar Myth - - - 

F.H.I. Spiritual Pantheism - - - - - 


The Efficacy of Prayer, a Letter to Thomas Scott 

Eterlasting Punishment. A Letter to Thomas Scott, - - - 


GELDART, Eev E. M, The Living God 


On Faith -_- 

Crubltt and Christianity : A Lecture, . . - . - 

HANSON, Sir R. D., Chief-Justice of South Australia. 

Science and Theology - - - - - - - - -04 

HARE, The Right Rev FRANCIS, D.D., formerly LoM Bishop of Chichester. 

The Difficulties and Ciscoubaoements which attend the Study of the 

Scriptnves ------- -06 

HINDS, SAMUEL, D.D., late Bishop of Korwich, 

Another Reply to the Question, "What have we oot to Rely on, if we 

CANNOT RELY ON THE BiBLE ?"- - r - - - -06 

A Reply to the Question, "Apaet from Supernatural Revelation, What 

IS THE Prospect op Man's Living after Death ?"- - - -06 

A Reply to the Question — "Shall I seek Ordination in the Church of 

England?" - - - - - - - - -06 

The Nature and Origin op Evil. A Letter to a Friend - - - 6 


Thirty-nine Questions on the Thiett-nine Articles. With Portrait - 3 


The Book of Common Prayer Examined in the Light of the Present Age. 

Parts I. and IL 6d. each Part - -- - - - -10 

Claims of Christianity to the Character of a Divine Revelation, Considered 6 
The Prayer Book Adapted to the Age - -- - - -03 


Theology of the Past and the Future. Reprinted from Part L of Iiis Commen- 
tary on Leviticus. With Portrait - - - - - - -10 

KIBKMAN. The Eev THOMAS P., Bector of Croft, Warrington. 

Church Cursing and Atheism - - - - - - -10 

On Church Pedigrees. Parts I. and II. With Portrait. 6d. each Part - - 1 

On the Infideuty of Orthodoxy. In Three Parts. 6d. each Part - - 1 6 

Orthodoxy from the Hebrew Point of View. Parts I. and n. 6d. each, - 1 

LAKE, J. W. The Mythos of the Ark - - - - - - 6 

Plato, Philo, and Paul; or. The Pagan Conception of a "Divine Logos," shewn 
to have been the basis of the Christian Dogma of the Deity of Christ, - - 1 

LA TOUOHE, J. D., Vicar of Stokesay, Salop. 

The Judgment of the Committee of Council in the Case of Me. Votset - - 3 

LAYMAN, A, and M. A., of Trinity College, Dublin. 

Law AKD THE Creeds - - - . - -. , - - , -06 

Thoughts on Religion and the Bible - -. - - -06 


Religion Viewed as Devout Obedience to the Laws of the TTnivebse - 6 
The Religious' Faculty : Its Relation to the other Faculties, and its Perils, 6 

The Cardinal Dogmas of Calvinism traced to their origin, - - - 6 

List of Publications — continued. 

M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge. 

P1.KA8 FOB F&ES Inqciby. Parts I., II., and III. 6cl. each Part - 
MACKAY, CHAELES, LL.D. The Souls op the Childkei? - - . 


' Religion: Its Place in Hdmah Culture - - - - - 

Rkcxnt Theological Addeksses. A Lecture - - - - 


Jewish Literature and Modern Education: or, the Use and Abnse of Uie 

Bible in tlie Schoolroom - - - -- 

How TO Complete the Reformation. With Portrait - - 

The Utilization OF THE Church Establishment - - - -. 

MUIR, J., D.C.L. 

Thkeb Notices of the " Speakeb's Commentaet," ti-anslated from the Dutch 
of Dr. A. Kneiien, - - - --_ 

M.P., Letter by. The Dean of Cantekbcrt on Science and Revelation 


Does Mobalitt depend on Longevitt ?------ 

Genesis Criticallt Analysed, and continuously an-anged; with Introductory 
Remarks ... . . . . . . .. 

The Mythical Element in Christianity -....- 

The New Bible Commentary and the Ten Commandments . . - 

NEWMAN, Professor F. W. 

Against Hero-Making in Religion - . . . . - 

James AND Paul ......... 

On the Causes of Atheism. With Portrait . - - - - 

On the Relations of Theism to Pantheism ; and On the Galla Religion - 
On the Historical Depravation of Christianity - . - - - 

Reply to a Letter from an Evangelical Lay Preacher - - - - 

The Bigot and the Sceptic --,-.--- 
The Controversy about Pbayer --..-.- 
The Divergence of Calvinism from Pauline Doctbine 
. The Religious Weakness OF Protestantism ... 

The True Temptation of Jesus. With Portrait . - . . - 

Thoughts on the Existence of Evil - 
Ancient Sacrifice, ... ..... 

OLD GEADUATK Remarks on Paley's Evidences . . . - 

OXLEE, The Eev JOHN, A Confutation of the Diabolarchy - - - 


The Unity of the Faith among all Nations . . . - - 

PAEENT AND TEACHEE, A. Is Death the end of all things foe Man? - 

A Dialogue by way of Catechism,— Religious, Moral, and Philosophical 
Parts I. and II. 6d. each Part ------- 

.-, The Pentateuch, in Contrast with the Science and Moral Sense of our Age 

Part 1— Genesis, Is. 6d. Part IL— Exodus, Is. Part III.— LeylticuS, Is. 
Numbers, Is., - - .,_ 


Eternal Punishment. An Examination of the Doctrines held by the Clergy of 
the Church of England -------- 

The Doctrine of Immortality in its Bearing on Education 

EOBERTSON, JOHN, Coupar-Angus. 

Intellectual Liberty - - . - - -. •- 

The Finding of the Book - - - - - -- 


Basis OF A New Reformation - ... 

Commentators and HiBBOPHANTS ; or, The Honesty of Christian Commentators 
in Two Part?. 6d. each Part ..-...- 

Miracles and Fbophecies ..------ 

Original Sin - - - 

Practical Remarks on "The Lord's Prayer." - - - - - 

♦:-i Thk Dean of Ripon on the Physical Resurpecfion of Jesus, in its Bearing 
., .• on ^E Truth OF Christianity - - - - - 

'~ The English Life OF Jesus. A New Edition - ..-•', 

The Tactics and Defeat of the Christian Evidence Society ' •'" ' ' - 






















































List of PubUeations-^mfmuedi 

STRANGE, T. LUMISDEK, late Judge of the High Court of Madras. 
■ A Ceiticai, Catechish. Criticised by a Doctor of Divinity, and defended hy 

V. L. SlEANGK - - - - - - - --06 

Glekical Intbokitt - - - - - - - - t. 3 

GomtnsioN with God - - - - - - . . O s 

The Benjjett JnBGMBNT - - - - - - ' i, S 

The Bible; Is IT "The Wo ED OF God?" - - . ' . - i 6 

The Spkakbk's Commentary KEViBwm) - - _' ' ., '(.if .' ;. J 9 6 

The ChristiAh EviDENCfc SociRTY ■- - - - iv.rr.r.i . ./» . S 

^ The Exercise OF Prater, - - - - - - -•;}:;:■«:■■ - 3 


The Ebsurrectioh An Easter Sermon at the Free Christian C3itircli^(^yd<m - 3 
Five Letters on Conyeesion to Roman Catholicism - -■''.• -OS 

Is JKStrs God? - - - - . - . ' / . 3 

SYMONDS, J. ADDINGTOK. The Renaissance of Modern EdrOpb r! , ' r - 3 
TAYLOR, P. A., M.P, Ekalitibs - - - - r ■ I't ' V 

VOYSEY, The Eev. OHAS. OnMoralEvii, - ,- . " L ■ ;, . 6 
W. E,B. ■• ' ■-'■ ■ 

An Exahination of some Recent Writings about • ■ ■ '• ' - 6 

The Province OF Prater, - - '- _ ' .- i ' ■ • . • - 6 


The "Edinburgh Review" and Dr Strauss - - - - - 3 

Tbreb Letters on the Votset Judgment and th» Christmn Evidence 

* Society's Lectures, - - - - - -■ • - - 9 6 


On the Deitt of Jesus. Parts L and IL, 6cL each Part - - - -10, 

WILD, GEO. J., LL.D. Saceeootalibm - - - * - -03 


On the Efficact of Opinion in Matters of Religion - ^ _ ' - C 
Two Essats : On the Interpretation of the Langua^ of the Old Testament, and 

•^ Believing without Understanding - - - - - 6 


In One Volume, 8w, bound in cloth, postfree^ 4i. id., , ! - f 




THOMAS SCOTT^ ■ : -^^; ■' :=^ ^ 


' ' Notice. — Post Office Orders to be made payable to Thomas S{X)tt,j 
r r - Westow Juill Office, Upper Norwood, London^ S.E. 

Friends to the cause of " Free Inquiry and Free Expressions^ are 
I earnestly requested to give aid in the, uide dissemination of these 

<-■ publications. ;,?;•..:•:•. v,. ,. : :.::0 Aii^'-i) ^..Mi-- ■■ ^;. ,.■.;,...■ .-.ii'