I have a very real question. My nephew goes to college at Cal State Fullerton, where tonight armed robbers shut down the college for a few hours. Everything turned out fine, but many of my sister's friends posted all over Facebook that they were "praying" for the school/students/etc.
How is prayer going to do anything? Does God only protect his "flock" if others pray for him to do so? Is prayer an indication that he's not a good enough God to see that bad things down on earth are happening? He needs to be made aware of it by intervening humans?
And if he didn't see fit to stop the problem in the first place (let's assume he knew it was all going to go down), why the hell would he care once the wheels have been set in motion?
If we really do have free will, then what's the point of praying anyway?
If prayer is just a way to make someone feel like they're doing something to contribute when really they can't, fine. But can't we just say that's what it is?
I really want to understand religious people, but constructs like the efficacy of "prayer" absolutely baffle me.
Often "saying a prayer for you" just is another way of saying "Good luck!"
GOD is not listening, she has other things to do.
What r1 said. Don't overthink.
The person announcing their prayer is saying, "Look at me."
It's more than "good luck." My Father was in a car accident when I was a kid, and our neighbor organized this prayer chain where 200 Baptists were told to pray for my Father. Over the next few days it expanded, and he would come over to report the running totals, and all the other Baptists who had started praying for him. It finally totaled several thousand Baptists in about 4 States.
In the neighbor's mind it really was about the power of numbers, and when my Father survived, the neighbor truly felt that his efforts had paid off.
I remember thinking that if God really cared one way or the other, he might have prevented the drunk driver from crossing over into my Father's lane to begin with.
I'm interested in hearing the answer to OP's question, because I've wondered about it too.
Prayer is meditative. That's why it makes people feel better, heal faster, etc.
However, the concept of prayer is ludicrous---but whatever works.
Why does it bother you so much, OP?
OP you don't want an answer you simply wanted to state your own views. Why should it bother you if people pray? Just because you don't shouldn't mean that others can't.
Larry Dossey has written a few books on the power of prayer. Dossey does not write from a religious standpoint.
From what I remember from reading his books is that prayer is more powerful when it is presented as a request for the best thing to occur instead of praying for a specific thing to happen.
In that sense praying for some one who is ill might have the person dying instead of regaining health because death might be the best course for the ill person.
R7 and R8 are very defensive. No where in the post does OP say they are bothered by this practice.
R10, it's pretty fucking obvious OP is irritated by it (and, as noted, overthinking it).
R11 I really dont know where you are getting that from. I read someone who doesnt understand the concept and is trying to find answers as to why people do it. Its kind of funny, you accuse OP of over thinking something, yet you claim they are irritated by it even though they say nothing of the sort. Wouldn't twisting a series of questions into an expression of irritation be the same thing as over-thinking?
I'm an agnostic atheist. Sometimes prayer just comforts people. It makes no sense to me, but whatever works to get you through the day.
What bothers me is when people claim that they survived a disaster because god was looking out for them and answered their prayers. What about all the good people who died or lost their homes or loved ones? Why didn't god listen to and answer their prayers?
I always feel sorry for the people who are suffering and who have to listen to the pious nuts who think they are better than everyone else because god took care of them.
Gospel of Matthew, 6:
1 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
R7 and R8 I'm not irritated at all by the prayers! Nor am I over thinking anything. I clearly said, if it's just something says to make themselves feel like they're contributing, fine. Just call it that.
And why wouldn't I question it? If it truly works, maybe its something I should employ in my life. But I need to understand the mechanism first.
No need to defend your post, OP. But taking the time to come here and start a carefully crafted thread on a subject that you already know has no answers shows that you have been thinking about this for quite awhile and that it bothers you.
I call bullshit. Any adult with a brain knows the answer to the questions posed by OP. I don't care if you are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, whatever.
Trolls are so fucking transparent lately.
OP, it's a form of comfort. Nothing more, nothing less. A friend of mine, one who isn't religious in the least, just asked her friends on Facebook to "send her good vibes through the interwebs" for an upcoming interview. Telling someone "you're in my prayers" is no more or less meaningful than telling them "you're in my thoughts." Also, you appear to be taking the term quite literally, which is fallacious.
Wow, R18. You've got some deeply rooted anger issues.
Calm Down, Already
Actually, I don't know the answer to the question. I wasn't raised religious. The subject fascinates me, maybe because of my upbringing instead of in spite of it.
I thought maybe (because I imagined a DLer who believes in god and prayer might be better suited to explain this phenomenon to me in a way a real world fundamentalist wouldn't - ie with thoughtful dissection) I could get some insight on here. I was wrong. No biggie.
What about the Saints and the Virgin Mary?
Is there anything in The Bible that says these folks dispense favors or take requests? How about Angels, anything abut them giving a damn about anything happening here on Earth?
See, when it comes to religion, here's where the Catholics get it right and where the Protestants fucked up during the whole reformation thing. Catholics pray to saints. There is a saint who covers just about anything. They know God is too busy to look after everyone so you have to pray to a certain saint who will intercede on your behalf. The angels and saints are like God's customer service reps. Some don't really give a shit about you and others go above & beyond.
OP, Life can be very frustrating, especially when you feel powerless. Praying or asking others to pray (care) for you can be very comforting. Some need that extra boost of security they get from feeling that a frightening situation is in God's hands, that He knows best, even if His will or actions are not clearly understood. (Massive death&destruction?)
Medical doctors&psychiatrists will tell you that there's proof people can get better due to changes in their thinking and world view. Has any DL posters truly benefited from "alternative philosophies," or does exercise to deal with unhappiness work the best for you?
[quote]From what I remember from reading his books is that prayer is more powerful when it is presented as a request for the best thing to occur instead of praying for a specific thing to happen.
I swear I am fucking dumber after reading that.
I love R23's image. You just know a few "saints" have been outsourced.
R23, which saint should you pray to if you want to do well on a final exam? A number of my classmates request prayers on Facebook, and this week one of them even organized a pre-exam prayer circle 20 minutes beforehand! (in person, that is, outside the exam room)
Praying is what the weak do when they're out of control of a situation.
r27, St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of students, academics and learning.
R27, Maybe praying together helped them with pre-exam nerves. If you study Cultural Anthropology it explains how a system of beliefs brings a community together for a common purpose.
Personally I like the fun holiday traditions.
[quote]How is prayer going to do anything? Does God only protect his "flock" if others pray for him to do so? Is prayer an indication that he's not a good enough God to see that bad things down on earth are happening? He needs to be made aware of it by intervening humans?
Former Evangelical Christian here. I'm also a religion scholar. And gay, and one of those people who might say they're "spiritual but not religious."
Your questions are ones that religious people struggle with when they think long and hard about the issue, but tend to ignore most of the time.
Many people, especially if they don't examine the issue too closely, see God as being concerned and loving but a little distant, willing to let people blunder into whatever crises and illnesses they wish without interference, but always available to intervene and turn the situation around if people ask Him to. And, they think, the more people who are praying for the same thing, the more likely for God to turn it into a positive outcome.
They don't usually think, "God listens only to really holy people or a whole lot of regular people who pray really hard," but that is, of course, what's at the bottom of it. Either that, or they think prayer is a powerful healing energy in and of itself, able to be directed toward the situation or person in need if everyone joins together to help focus and direct that healing power. In this, it's pretty much what a lot of pagans believe, except that religious people prefer to dress it in more orthodox clothing.
[quote]If we really do have free will, then what's the point of praying anyway?
Religious folk would say that when people pray, they are exercising their free will to entreat the God's intervention. Some would even say that's the meaning of free will, that God won't intervene unless people pray.
[quote]If prayer is just a way to make someone feel like they're doing something to contribute when really they can't, fine. But can't we just say that's what it is?
I think there are two types of people who say they'll pray for you: those who say they'll pray, then maybe say a prayer on Sunday if they happen to remember it; and those who go home, start praying immediately, call up friends and have them start praying, and really do a big job of it. Both may be doing little more than helping themselves feel better, or trying to comfort you with their expression of concern, but one at least THINKS they're doing something real to help.
[quote]I really want to understand religious people, but constructs like the efficacy of "prayer" absolutely baffle me.
There really are a lot of different approaches to prayer. Some believe it's energy that can be amassed and directed; this is more akin to magic in the neo-pagan sense of the word. Some believe it's the loving, paternal figure in the sky, taking time out of his busy day to shower down a few blessings on someone in need. And some believe that the act of praying puts both the person praying and the person being prayed for in a more receptive spiritual state, through which the body can more effectively heal itself.
Awesome, R31. Thank you so much for that. I soaked in every word.
I really don't believe in the power of prayer.
Chance, odds, and luck -- that's all I see in my reality.
Smoke copious amounts of pot, silly!
Religious Dlers need to stop worshiping the Sky Faeries.
A therapist can help you over come your years of Christian-Fascist (or other) indoctrination.
We only hear about the prayers that are "answered"...never the countless prayers that aren't! Those are conveniently disregarded.
There's a saint who,if you pray regularly to him, will get you all the hot,straight dick you want. But I'm not saying who it is because I don't want assholes like R35 to know.
[quote]We only hear about the prayers that are "answered"...never the countless prayers that aren't!
It is because most people don't want to recognize that "no" is also an answer. Some people think God is a vending machine -- put in your prayer and out comes your request.
Then why bother, R38?
The whole idea that 1) God is unaware. 2) Someone is going to change God's mind, just doesn't fit with the rest of the doctrine.
My brother and I are atheists. Our niece has a five-year-old handicapped child who is having all sorts of therapy but it is becoming obvious that she will never have language, never be toilet trained, and never live on her own. Of course it is heartwrenching.
On facebook our niece continually makes prayer requests to her friends and family. Periodically she gives thanks, "For all those who have been praying for our child."
I think the accomodating thing for her to say is: "Please send wishes and prayers." I debated a long time about saying anything, who am I to tell a person in that position what she should do?
I finally sent her an email and told her that there were people in her family who cared deeply for her and her child but who did not believe. We were hoping for the best because we could not pray.
Sometimes silence is golden, R41.
R41, How frustrating for your niece to deal with a situation completely out of her control. What can caring friends&relatives actually do to help?
Join in her disappointment and (selfishly) rant about their own medical issues or problems? Far better for those that feel helpless, when hearing of others' misfortune, to offer prayers or good wishes, trying to be emotionally supportive.
R41, Rather than be silent, a true diplomat would offer words of encouragement. Sadly most people run away from those facing difficulty, in part because they don't have the resources to really help. Thus a prayer or words of kindness lets' them off the hook psychologically.
"What bothers me is when people claim that they survived a disaster because god was looking out for them and answered their prayers. What about all the good people who died or lost their homes or loved ones? Why didn't god listen to and answer their prayers? I always feel sorry for the people who are suffering and who have to listen to the pious nuts who think they are better than everyone else because god took care of them."
I've been saying this for years. Thanks, Ciaran.
DL, You're looking at prayers like lottery tickets; spend a little money to get big money.
How sensible is that? Whether you believe in God or a "sky fairy in the sky," the act of praying is the actual benefit for some in the way it mentally changes ways of thinking. For others listening to a favorite song may have a greater effect, and is far healthier than drugs or alcohol. Would you stop listening to music if your hoped for outcome didn't occur? Far better to optimistically focus on when you got what you wanted.
Cultural anthropologists know that agrarian societies, whose survival depends on the randomness of nature, have more developed religious based beliefs to cope with the uncertainty of their lives.
I try to be supportive. We live a half a continent away and neither family has the money to travel, so it is difficult.
My quandary was not whether to offer words of comfort or prayer. My quandary was whether it was appropriate to express my discomfort on hearing from her to seek help only from those who pray and then she would thank only people who had prayed.
Should I say anything about my discomfort on an issue so trivial compared to the despair she feels? That was the issue.
I get the creeps whenever someone says he will pray for you or wishes me a blessed day. I don't say anything, but it is presumptuous. What I am tempted to say is something like this:
"Thank you. We worship the Norse gods, so please pray to them and seek their blessings for us. The Norse gods don't like it if someone prays to someone else. Somebody prayed for us once, to one of the sky fairies, I think it was Jesus or some such, and Thor was really pissed. He sent a thunder storm and we got soaked. It was obvious what he was getting at."
Never had the nerve or saw the point of saying that. The person is expressing concern so I leave it at that.
I just don't like a society in which superstitious beliefs are assumed to be the universal situation.
Yes, you have a good point.
Next time someone, but not my niece, says, "We will pray for you," I will say, "Silence is golden." (Smile)
We live in New York City. I would never go up to someone who was troubled and say that I would pray for him, because I don't know how or if he worships. If he worships, I don't know if prayer is part of that worship. The city is too diverse to conclude anything.
I expect the same consideration in return, but atheists do not get that same consideration.
The universal concept seems to be:
"If you are alive and sane, you believe in God. If you don't believe in God, which is highly unlikely and in any case would be very strange, you won't mind if we assume you believe because everyone we know believes or if he does not believe, keeps his disbelief to himself as well he should."
[quote]Should I say anything about my discomfort on an issue so trivial compared to the despair she feels? That was the issue.
So repeat this a few times, and see if you get an answer.
I say, silence is golden--AKA Shut the Fuck Up. Because in this case, it's not about you.
Sometimes, I find that as an atheist, I am often the most Christian christian that ever christianed, and I have absolutely no devout belief in Christ.
You do not need to pontificate on your beliefs in this person's time of grief or need. Do what is comfortable for you, but there is no need to wave any banners here. Prioritize by what you feel is right or good.
R49, I mentioned *way back* that prayer has meditative benefits. But it has nothing to do with getting some kind of God to work some kind of magic.
Where is your god now?
Religion and of course "prayer" are just a load of incomprehensible gibberish. it's all a big sham. Even when studied by actual scientists, it has of course been found that praying changes nothing- except to keep people from doing ANYTHING that actually works.
I always say, "Praying-For those for whom doing absolutely nothing is still too much!"