We can feel the righteousness of our faith, but we can not always explain or prove it to a person who is not a believer, especially to someone whose worldview is somehow irritating. Reasonable questions of an atheist can confound even the most sincerely believing Christian. About how and what to answer the common arguments of atheists tells our permanent author Sergei Khudiev in the project "Dialogue with Atheists: Orthodox arguments."
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The very first manifestation of faith is prayer. But for many it causes bewilderment and questions. Is there any point in asking God for requests?
If God has a plan that will in any case be fulfilled, what can be the meaning of the prayer of prayer - after all, it is still powerless to change what He has already predestined?
God really has a plan, and it will inevitably come to pass, but this plan is based on the free actions of people, including their prayers. God has omniscience - that is, a complete, perfect, reliable knowledge of everything, including free decisions of all people, angels and demons. God does not force people to do this or that, the cause of their decisions lies in themselves, but none of human actions is unexpected for God. God, for example, knows that on Wednesday you will pray for the operation that your friend is on Thursday - and God already knows how He will answer it. Prayer does not violate His plan (His plan can not be broken at all by nothing), it is a part of this plan. (We examined in greater detail the question of how the providence of God relates to free will a little earlier.)
If God already wants people well, why should He beg?
The question is, what kind of good God wants us to do. In order that we can find that eternal happiness for which we are created, not things around us, but ourselves, must change. Unchanged, we can not become a paradise inhabitant - just about the same way a selfish person can not become happy in a marriage.
Only God can make these changes in us. But He created us by personalities, not things, and individuals change, making decisions, doing something that changes the world around us, and, more importantly, ourselves. When we decide to recognize our dependence on God, to thank Him for His gifts, to ask for forgiveness for our sins, we are changing - or rather, we are giving God the opportunity to change us.
Is it not humiliating to turn to God with constant requests?
If this seems humiliating to us, we simply project on God a negative experience of relations with people. Indeed, when addressing someone with a humble request, we recognize the power of this person over us, and people, alas, tend to abuse power over their neighbors.
In an atmosphere where people fiercely compete for status, for honors, for power over others, to ask - it means getting a step down. As the prison saying goes, "do not believe, do not be afraid, do not ask" - a request can be perceived as a sign of weakness, which it is simply dangerous to show.
But even between people sometimes (most often in the family) there is an atmosphere of trust, when the petitioner knows for sure that he is loved, and his request will never be used against him. In this case, it is safe to ask - maybe, they will not give us what they ask, but they will not exactly alienate us, they will not lower us, they will not be proud of us.
Of course, in prayer we recognize our weakness, dependence and God's authority over us - but we recognize this with confidence. God does not seek to humiliate anyone. On the contrary, when He became a person in the person of Jesus Christ, He Himself wished to suffer the worst humiliation - the shameful and painful execution on the Cross - for our salvation. As Christ says, "For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10: 45).
How can God at the same time pay attention to millions of praying Christians?
Time is God's creation, therefore God can not miss it. God is not subject to time - including, "simultaneity." He never hurries and is not busy - He has an eternity for you.
I will try to bring an illustration (and this is just an illustration). The author of the novel can describe the adventures of his heroes, which occur simultaneously - some go along the road, others at the same time talk in a hotel, etc. It does not surprise us. The author of the novel is not subordinated to his inner time, he can easily be (from the point of view of counting time inside the novel) and on the road, and in the hotel, and where he will like it still. God is not subject to our earthly space and time - He is its author.
But how can saints hear the prayers of many people at the same time? For example, millions of Orthodox pray to the Theotokos every day ...
By the will of God, the saints have as much time as they need. The psalmist mourns the time of our fallen world: "All our days have passed in your anger; we lose our summer like a sound. The days of our years are seventy years, and with the greater fortress - eighty years; and the best time is work and sickness, for they pass quickly, and we fly "(Ps. 89: 9,10). But in paradise time is not the flow that drags us from birth to death, it is that volume, the space where God meets people and people with each other, and this space is always enough, because God does not have a defect.
Several times, "prayer experiments" were conducted - and all of them ended in complete failure. Is it not proven that prayer does not work?
The so-called "prayer experiments" consisted in distinguishing two groups of patients: they prayed for one of them, there was no one for the other, then they looked where people better recovered. There was no difference. Moreover, heart patients who knew that they were praying for, even recovered worse - apparently they were nervous, believing that, since the speech was about prayer, their deeds are completely bad.
But these experiments do not tell us anything about prayer, because they have neither prayer nor experiments. Prayer is a personal request addressed to God, it involves personal relationships. You do not put experiments on those with whom you have a personal relationship - otherwise you will lose them. Prayer with the intention of putting an experiment on God is no longer a prayer.
The experiment assumes a control group - in this case, those for whom they did not pray. But how could such a group be singled out in the context of prayer? "Lord, heal the sick in room number three, but do not heal in room four, or will our results be smeared?" The idea of "prayer experiments" was absurd from the very beginning, so they should have failed.
The Gospel says: "Truly I say to you, if you have faith with a mustard seed and say to this mountain:" go from here to there, "and it will pass; and nothing will be impossible for you "(Mt 17: 20). Are there examples of the movement of mountains by Christians?
In the sense in which the Lord speaks about this - of course, yes. The Gospel (like the human language in general) constantly uses vivid metaphors, and the verse about the mountain is not about the earthwork work by the power of faith, but about the fact that with faith Christians will do what was considered absolutely impossible. For example, if in the 1st century we told the Romans that the day would come and the Roman emperor would be a Christian, they would not understand what we are talking about - and in the second century they would simply ridicule us. Christianity was at first unknown to nobody, then - a persecuted and despised sect, and then something even more incredible happened than the walking mountains - the empire became Christian. Our own country, Russia, has arisen thanks to the Baptism of Rus - and one can say about it that it was created by faith. For all that the disciples of Christ have achieved by faith, the passing mountains are still a very reserved image.