If Prayer Worked...

Image by vjack via Flickr

When someone claims that prayer works, the first thing we should ask is what the speaker means by "works" in this context. If I say that prayer works because engaging in prayer makes me feel better, I may be right. However, this is not usually what the religious claim. Instead, they want to posit something supernatural in between the prayer and my feeling better. They want to claim that their god(s) intervenes in some manner. They are also rarely content to limit the efficacy of prayer to simply making someone feel temporarily better. But does even the most devout religious person really believe that their prayers bring about divine intervention? Their behavior certainly suggests otherwise.

Unreasonable Faith uses a recent comment in which the central question is framed for a nurse:

Now I’d like to ask you a question… why did you go through all the necessary medical training if you believe that prayer can heal people?

I have certainly blogged about this many times before, as has nearly every other atheist blogger with whom I am familiar. Still, I continue to find it a fascinating question. May that is because I have yet to hear a religious person answer sufficiently. (None of the following are sufficient answers: "God works in mysterious ways," "God helps those who help themselves," or "I don't claim to know the mind of god." Meaningless cliches? Yes. Sufficient responses? No).

The question can be phrased a variety of ways:

  • If you believe in prayer, why do you have insurance?
  • If you believe in prayer, why do you invest?
  • If you believe in prayer, why do you have a burglar alarm?
  • If you believe in prayer, why do you see a doctor?

The crux of the question is simple: If you truly believe that prayer works - works in the sense that your god intervenes in your life - why do you not behave as if you believed it?

If "prayer works" means nothing other than the act of praying makes me feel better, I do not disagree. But if it means anything more than that, then those advocating the wonders of prayer should have no need for the reality-based alternatives to which they cling. And if it does not always work, work completely, or only works on the small matters, then what does this say about your god?

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

JojoWazoo JojoWazoo
46-50, F
29 Responses Feb 21, 2009

Maybe make was the wrong word without putting the "try to" make me see their way of believing is what I meant. I respect what people believe I just also want to be respected for what I believe even if that respect equals silence. "They" being the many people who come into the "I am an Atheist" forum and start spouting what they believe and why I should believe it too. I don't go into the "I am a Christian" group and tell them I think they are wrong. I just state my belief in the questions section and within the other subject sections I belong to. It's just mutual respect and agreeing to disagree. but thanks!<br />

hahaha Sorry Stevester, I'm already Whuttup's 7th Disciple <br />
<br />
Let me know how that works out for you. I have a few things I'd like to see!

I asked god to let me take Tommy Lee's place with big Pammy. Now if he'd come through on that I'd be the new Peter and you'd all believe.

fe45au should answer the challenge asked by Epicurus: <br />
<br />
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?<br />
Then he is not omnipotent.<br />
<br />
Is he able, but not willing?<br />
Then he is malevolent.<br />
<br />
Is he both able and willing?<br />
Then whence cometh evil?<br />
<br />
Is he neither able nor willing?<br />
Then why call him God?”<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
In fe45au's world, God allows Satan to continue to exist and to continue to cause great misery. Between Satan and free will, God's hands are washed of any wrongdoing. <br />
<br />
They got one thing right, the lord works in mysterious ways. So mysterious, in fact, that it's almost as if he's not there.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You don't have to prove to me that "He" exists. I already believe he does not. There is nothing you can say to me to convince me to believe he does. I went to Catholic church for 15 years. They couldn't make me believe and if they can't give me better proof after all of the thousands of years they have been scamming people, you're not going to change my thoughts either. <br />
Having said that, I'm glad you have something to grasp that provides you with the comfort you seek. I don't want to take your challenge and ask what I believe to be an invisible cloud being to show me that "He" exists. I've been working in health care for over 22 years with people around me praying for a miracle and I have never seen one to this day. So, thank you but I decline your dare. I don't have time for what I consider nonsense. That's the problem, you feel you have to come in here and try to convert me. I don't mean to sound harsh but why do you think you're right and none of the thousands of other religions aren't? You have no proof except for what you perceive to be comfort in your heart and mind. Thanks again. Respectfully yours,<br />

JoJo,<br />
What a great statement! As a christian I love it. You are on the right track when you ask those kinds of questions. <br />
It makes me consider how much I trust God with my life. <br />
One of the things we have to contend with is living in a world that has disease and sickness. Different people have different levels of faith to believe God for healing a simple cold to healing cancer. God is not the one giving the disease to us though. You have to understand that there is another issue at hand and that is evil and the real live devil with his demons. You don't have to believe in him either, but that doesn't mean he doesn't exist.<br />
Some people have the faith to not have insurance. I for one have house insurance, so when my husband set fire to the kitchen, it took the pressure not to have to pay $10,000 for the new kitchen. God is able to use these helps. It doesn't mean I'm not a good christian for having those things in place though. <br />
Some christians think that God puts disease on them to teach them something. That is not true. <br />
<br />
When you have a close relationship with someone you know their heart and how they think. The same with God, the God of Jesus Christ, I don't know about the other gods. Knowing him quite personally, He tells me His mysteries. He tells me things about my future. What he thinks about me<br />
Moses was a friend of God and knew him very closely so God share his secrets with him. God just showed the Israelites His acts.<br />
<br />
Here's my question to you and those who want to be proven that He exists, What would it look like to you to have Him prove Himself that He exists? My challenge is Ask God, the God of Jesus Christ to show himself the way you want to be shown and then wait and see what happens. Why not? You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain!<br />
Maybe you want a miracle, maybe for Him to show up at work, perhaps you want Him to talk to you or show you an angel. Take the dare and let me know what happens. <br />
Have a great day!

It doesn't sound ridiculous to me. I once believed in Jesus and "God" too. Life happens, we learn things, grow and form our own opinions. Mine just changed, with me thoughts and experiences and yours didn't. So, from here, we agree to disagree! All the best,<br />

Ok true about the arguing part, but see i wouldn't pray that i don't need a doctor. You are assuming i would. Like I try to say everyone is different and i try not to judge but i just thought this story is rediculous because just cause ppl pray does not mean they do not need certain things to live in this world. Im sorry you don't get it. There is not much i can say about it except some people can see the truth and some can't. If you pray its to communicate with God through his son of course. Nothing could of been without him. That is my belief as ridiculous as it may sound to you.

The thing is, frostedflake. When it comes to religion, there is no common sense as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate the fact that you pray. I don't. Plain and simple. You may not need a doctor now but keep praying that you won't need one in the future and see what happens.................<br />
I'm not arguing any more than you are. We both have our points to make. That's all

lol grits4ever totally blew your bs point out of the water with just a common sense answer.I agree with grits and think that you just want to argue jo-jo. I pray also but i feel its mainly to have a relationship with God. Some ppl pray and just ask for things which is rediculous to me. I talk to God throughout the day because he wants a relationship with us, if that is praying then ok. That doesn't mean I don't need a doctor etc....

thanks Dasies. thank you for your comment. I'm glad you believe and it brings you comfort. Thank you for recognizing our point of view!

i understand what u saying,as for myself god is in my life i feel him strongly in cant explain it to you ,i have had many sad times in my life and he has helped me though it.i couldnt think about my life without god in it iam not a saint but i try to be the best i can be and thats though his teaching thats why we are all diffrent and what ever works for u works and thats good.thank u for sharing your thoughts

I wish you and your son the best. I hope we helped some....<br />

We say thanks. I guess the fundies went away...........

i like your story....i couldnt agree more with that last paragraph..........peace out

Great point Betty!

I was raised up Catholic too. That aside, I started forming my own opinions on religion at about 10. My first thought was if I sin and go to confession, who the hell is that priest to tell me my sins are absolved if I say whatever he tells me to do to repent. So, 10 Hail Mary's and 5 Act of Contrition's made it alright? That was so easy, why not "sin" again? What did you say? The contrition has to come from my heart? Sheesh.<br />
Then I had to rationalize the devil and hell, fire and brimstone. I came to the conclusion that if "God" loves everyone as the bible says and he forgives all your sins, why would there need to be a hell? Now, I was on a roll. If "God" loves everyone so much, why has there been so much pain and suffering in the world through the millennia?<br />
And for me, the rest is history. I guess what I'm trying to say is that at abut the age of 10 or 11, kids tend to question things............rationalize things and form opinions about things.

Like children, when caught in lies, religious believers will explain away why god didn't get around to stopping that 4 year old from being raped or why prayer didn't protect their loved one from dying anyway. <br />
<br />
Because god meant it! By working so mysteriously, it was intended in that child's life to be raped so they grow up to be a rape counselor or some other ridiculous rationalization.

No one is born with faith. We are all born atheists. That would be like saying your child is born a democrat or a keynesian economist.

Everyone is born with a blank slate. We are all pretty much products of our environment. As we grow up and experience things, get influenced by ideas, people and your surroundings, you form your beliefs and opinions. People use faith, logic and other things at our disposal to form our beliefs.<br />
Everyone is different.

I respect that, Grits. I just chose to not pray. Like you I do everything for myself and I pretty much come up with the same outcome as you. That's all I'm saying. You have faith, I don't, that's the only difference. We still have the same outcome.

I don't pray for God to "take over my situation" and I do nothing. Even God expects us to do for ourselves. There are times when I pray that God tells me (or communicates) that I should wait before I act. Then by waiting I am able to see the right thing to do and then correct the situtation. I have never met anyone that just sat back and said I've prayed and will now not do another thing because God is going to. I'm not saying there are not people like that I have just not met any of them.<br />
<br />
Yet, I do not see anything wrong with praying for God to deal with something we have no control over in our lives or in the lives of others. We should pray for ourselves and for those around us. It is during these times of communicating with God we are able to receive understanding. <br />
<br />
It all comes down to three things. Belief, faith, and trust.

well obviously not everyone believes the same thing(what would be the fun in that anyway?), I just can't seem to understand why people are so intent on arguing their 'Points' when it comes to beliefs. Athiest, Christian, or anything otherwise. why not just say hey I believe this, and move on...really though...lol!

Thank you for telling me no one understands completely. Like I didn't know that. You're right but the contradiction of your argument is sheer hypocrisy! And my opinion is that if you believe and pray to some invisible cloud being, you're gullible.<br />
Plain and simple.

The point is: If you pray for "God" to take care of you and protect you, you shouldn't need any insurance or home alarms, etc. So, if prayer takes away fear and brings peace as you say, you shouldn't need health insurance, going to see the doctor because praying to "God has given you peace and taken away your fear. If God is so good and he loves you so much, why does he let you get sick? I just don't understand the contradiction!

If you believe in prayer, why do you have insurance? <br />
<br />
what type of insurance do you mean? Life insurance is there for those left behind to pay off any debts you left behind so they are not stuck with your bills. It can also help in taking care of those you leave behind. Insurance helps to balance out an unexpected expense. Insurance is for taking care of others not just yourself. Just because you pray it doesn't mean you stop being responsible for your life and that of those you are to care for.<br />
<br />
If you believe in prayer, why do you invest? <br />
<br />
Again, you invest and make sure you are taking care of your responsibilities and that you can take care of your family. God never promised a rose garden and that he would pay all your bills for you. It is your responsibility to be smart with what he has given to you.<br />
<br />
If you believe in prayer, why do you have a burglar alarm? <br />
<br />
I don't have a burglar alarm. But just because you pray doesn't mean you have control of others. You can pray for others and you can pray for yourself. Praying doesn't get rid of your free will nor that of others. So, if someone has a burglar alarm why would that have anything to do with their faith or the fact that they pray?<br />
<br />
If you believe in prayer, why do you see a doctor? <br />
<br />
Again, this question goes over my head. Many very sick people go to doctors and yet they still pray. Prayer is a way of connecting with God. A way of communicating with him and him with you. Prayer opens the heart for God to minister to you in a time of need. To empower you and assure you. Prayer can take away fear and bring peace. But if you are sick God doesn't say "don't go to the doctor".<br />
<br />
It seems you have been mislead in why those of us who pray do.

Oh and I didn't write the article I posted. I got it off of the Atheist Revolution blog. you should check it out. I get the RSS feed.<br />

The thing is Marji, is that we didn't MAKE you come in here and inject your point of view. You are welcome here, of course.<br />
People of faith have not aggravated us so that we have to "lash" out. We're here to discuss our thoughts about not believing in prayer. But to accuse us of "lashing out" in our own group is a little over the top! Peace!

Very logical, nicely said. <br />
<br />
You know how there are certain vitamins and minerals that if you don't have enough of them, your body can't absorb certain things? I wonder if the religious folks are suffering from a beta-carotene deficiency or something similar which makes them unable to absorb logic?