"My question is to understand each candidate's view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"In other words, can the pleas of humans move God to alter the outcome of a natural disaster?
John Edwards is only candidate who dared answered the question directly:
"I have prayed most of my life; pray daily now. He's enormously important to me. But the answer to the question is: No, I don't -- I prayed before my 16-year-old son died; I prayed before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. I think there are some things that are beyond our control. And I think it is enormously important to look to God -- and, in my case, Christ -- for guidance and for wisdom. But I don't think you can prevent bad things from happening through prayer."Blogger ThisIsNotSteve makes an interesting observation about all the candidates answers:
Interestingly, but not unexpectedly if one construes their religious effusions as mainly pragmatic, none of the candidates seemed to believe in intercession by God. If Jesus exists in the manner depicted by Christianity, why would he not be able to stop a hurricane? Obviously he would, but it seems likely that the candidates did not want to be ridiculed for believing in magic. It's weird how this country works, most people profess belief in a personal God, but do not believe in the powers that would logically follow if that God did exist. My guess is the majority of this is pragmatically based, as the political consequences of being an open agnostic or atheist would be dire.Let's review some options.
If you're atheist or agnostic, natural disasters are simply sad events that are part of one's temporary tour through this confusing and ultimately meaningless existence. God doesn't intervene because...well...God doesn't exist.
If God does exist, some would say then that natural disasters show that either God is good, but not powerful; or powerful, but ultimately not good. Either way, such reasoning must conclude that because the Minnesota bridge did collapse and Hurricane Katrina did devastate, God choice of non-involvement must be a sign that He isn't much of God and certainly not kind.
But, is it possible that God is both good and all-powerful-- and natural disasters are a sad, yet necessary part of the world's story? A part of the story that God-- in time-- will redeem to a happy ending?
Scripture declares that the evils of people and the disasters of earth are a problem to which God's plan of salvation is the answer (Romans 8). That salvation was revealed in the person of Jesus, who entered and experienced first hand our world of suffering and sorrow. His resurrection from the dead announces hope to the world-- hope that becomes personal by trusting in Jesus.
So to answer the question, could our prayers lead God to prevent or lessen natural disasters?
Consider this. The Minnesota bridge was that State's most heavily used bridge. It collapsed during rush hour. Why didn't more than 13 people die?
This too. If prayer does "work," how are we to count the number of disasters that didn't happen?
Yet disasters do happen.
When they happen, we'd do well to take Jesus' advice.