Our home is for sale. Our realtor team told us that hosting open houses don’t work; they rarely bring a buyer. Our neighbors told us that if we buried a statue of St. Francis of Assisi upside down in our back yard, that our home would sell. After all, they claimed, “it worked for us.” (Yes. They were serious.)
My thought was “So if I put an empty mustard jar on our roof and then we sell our home, I could claim the mustard jar brought the sale.” Or “If we don’t hold any open houses and if our home does sell, then it’s because we did not host any open houses.”
It seems to me we have some weak induction going on here. Or, to put it formally, this is an instance of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (literally “after this, therefore on account of this” or claiming that two things are causally connected merely because of sequence; also known as “false cause”).
Interestingly, both our realtor team and our neighbors gave us reasons based upon their experiences. And, both could claim statistics as a measure of accuracy. Regardless, whether using statistics or experience, both are invoking induction as their method of reasoning.
Neither our realtor team nor our neighbors suggested prayer. (Perhaps that is too “personal.”) But I wonder, if we prayed that God would sell our home and it sells, would this also be a form of the false cause fallacy? It would …. if God did not exist or if the God that does exists has no interest in answering our prayers.
The good news is that prayer does work because God exists and he answers our prayers. Of course, we do not always get what we wish in prayer, but we do always get what we need as God deems best. And, if we need to sell this house because God deems it in our best interests, then praying for our house to sell is precisely the means he will use to bring it about.