Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Prayer - Why?

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I can't help it. Being an action driven person, I really think that praying is a complete and utter waste of time. What motivates people to pray is not something I will ever completely understand, nor will I stop being critical of this form of non-action. To be clear, I'm only knocking 'prayer' itself, the act of doing it and believing that it has any rational place in situations where action is mandated.

Recently, I attempted to validate what I thought were the reasons that would lead my Christian friends to deem prayer an acceptable response to any situation. It was an incredibly unscientific survey and even sabotaged by a few atheists who thought I was a troll! That part was funny, the atheists sabotaging it... not.

Would my friends corroborate what I thought about prayer by answering a few simple questions for me? More than a few actually answered my short survey. I've always understood that prayer was very important to them, probably just as much as it was to me that a much different response was required. When situations present themselves, to me or anyone, I think it is worthy of some type of a reaction that brings a resolution. My immediate response is offering my services or doing something that will immediately solve the problem; those that only offer prayer... well, that's all they do.

Prior to sending out that survey, I had come to certain conclusions about what the responses might be and was hoping that the answers would either validate my questions or help me to understand something different about my preconceived ideas about their reasons for praying.

The two areas that were of most importance to me were why they prayed and how it made them feel. Out of the 33 people who said they prayed, 22 or 67% answered 'It gives me comfort.' On how prayer made them feel afterwards, 23 or 70% of the people answered that it made them feel 'Better'. Those two questions confirmed what I had thought was the major reason for praying. Understand, this was in no way a scientific study, just me asking some of my friends what their thoughts were, but interestingly enough, the majority answered as I suspected they would. Prayer was primarily a mechanism to make 'them' feel better, while they think they are affecting change for those in need of prayer. Whether or not a positive outcome manifests for those requiring it really isn't the issue. It is irrelevant, kind of like prayer is anyway.
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I couldn't resist using these amusing visuals in this piece, as they highlight, very accurately I might add, that prayer is ineffectual. The studies done on prayer also validate what many have maintained over the years. Prayer doesn't work or do anything, for that matter, and can actually bring about more dire consequences. For me, prayer simply means that it is clasping your hands together rather than actually doing something productive for someone in need. It also means the people in need are left to fend for themselves rather than receiving the assistance that could give them relief or real answers.

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I'll give a perfect example of why prayer alone is useless. A friend of the family is dying a slow and painful death. At his last birthday, recently, there were many friends and neighbors on hand to give him a smile and a hug and tell him "I'll pray for you." Mind you these are supposedly friends and near-by neighbors, all wishing that his circumstance wasn't what it was. How very Christian of them to do what they feel is the most appropriate thing in dire situations, but I have to report that not one of those people has stopped back in for a visit, helped take care of something or done ANYTHING to ease this situation. And interestingly the ones in attendance at that party who really are 'there for him', they haven't been nor will they be praying for him or anyone else. But they are doing everything in their power to help him through this horrific time in his life through acts of kindness, taking care of things that he can't, being available when needed and helping when he just can't help himself. Prayer doesn't make those things just happen all by themselves. To the people who just said "I'll pray for you." and were not heard from again; let me just say "Fuck You."

There are those who may pray and also attempt to solve or provide an actual resolution to the person's situation. I applaud all those of faith who feel spurred to action in any bad situation, even though they also prayed about it. But then I would ask why do they choose to pray in conjunction with their efforts when they realize that human effort is required anyway? Just go be a do-gooder then! Seems to me that their actions indicate they understand that prayer doesn't work, as evidenced by the substantive display of action. Why would they choose to also waste their time praying about something that is then resolved by that action? It just simply doesn't make any sense to me.

Many of faith would say that they benefit when someone has prayed for them. Yes, superficially, I would agree. Those on the receiving end of prayer feel like people are 'thinking' about them and 'care' about them, just like I would if someone said "You're in my thoughts." That's it, they are 'thinking' about me, but they are not actually 'doing' anything! Am I grateful that they care? Absolutely, but again, prayer does NOTHING to solve any situation in need of answers or actions.

The act of praying is not even remotely beneficial to a person in a crisis situation. What it does for the people of faith, either on the receiving end or the giving end, is offer them nothing but a false sense of hope. That is sad to me. Why does anyone choose to add a touch of the supernatural rather than deal in reality? Ironically, the majority of people who are in crisis situations dial 9-1-1 immediately anyway, kind of negating having a belief that prayer would do the trick. How much faith do they really have in a god then, if that's the case?


Thanking god for the positive outcomes in situations that had actual action attached to them is another silly thing to do. Silly and illogical. We have all been privy to many situations in hospitals where every nurse and every doctor are doing everything in their power to make sure the patient stays alive, and when they succeed, a higher power gets the applause. Why does god get the thanks for that effort? Had no intervention taken place that person would most likely be dead, as evidenced by so many situations where children have died at the hands of parents who believed their god would take care of their young one's illnesses. Listing them all here would make your heart break.

Just talking to yourself with your hands clasped is not an acceptable form of helping, to me. Praying solves nothing, does nothing and contributes nothing but making the person doing the praying feel better. Prayer is useless and selfish. That's it.

Also published on AtheismResource.com