04 December 2008
'I'll Pray for You...'
When someone says 'I'll pray for you' it causes me to pause.
I have a few questions:
1. What is the point?
2. Who does it actually benefit (if there is a benefit)?
3. Does it make any difference and if so, to whom and how?
4. What am I supposed to say?
I can't stop people praying for me but I do ask the above questions as I cannot see the point. Of course, people who say 'I'll pray for you' are saying it with the best intentions. It is being used to convey sympathy, empathy or is an attempt to make both parties feel positive about something.
Well it doesn't make me feel positive in any way.
It bugs me, to be truthful. I think of all the inane things that humans say because we have been conditioned to say them or think or act because some ignorant ancestors (who did not have the scientific information which is available to us today, granted) who tried to make sense of this crazy natural world and came up with a whole load of stories and ideas - so, amongst other things, we pray. And we pray for others.
Praying changes nothing. Praying is such a complete waste of time. Rather than pray for me or for someone else how about putting some action behind your words and try and change the reality that we find ourselves in. Rather than passively putting your hands together make those same hands do something worthwhile like protest against the various forms of injustice in the world, the abuse carried out in the name of god and gods, the hundreds of millions of children being miseducated or not being educated at all, the abject poverty that a disproportaionate number of people on this planet live in, the homophobia, racism, ageism, corruption of governments, the Federal Reserve...I could go on.
There are so many things we could be doing both individually and collectively that would make real change happen in this world and yet what do we do? We pray. Totally useless. Totally mind-numbingly facile and pointless.
Let's say for instance that someone has a child who is ill with a serious life-threatening medical problem. They pray for that child to recover - often for long periods. They pray with all their hearts and minds. Sadly the child dies.
What was the point of their prayer? Did 'God' hear their prayers and ignore them? Did their prayers help the child in any medical way? Does the death of the child mean the parents were bad people? Had the parents failed to pray hard enough?
Now these questions may appear callous and cold but they are essential questions concerning actions humans take in our lives and if we are to critically analyse why we do things then these questions would be a place to start.
In my view, a belief in prayer is cruel as it is as irrelevant as Santa Claus. Adults don't believe (or do they?) if they pray to Santa Claus that he will help them or their families in anyway and so why this equally imaginary god or gods?
You have no doubt heard of some parents, devout Christians, who have refused to allow their sick children to receive blood transfusions or any other form of treatment because they are relying on 'the power of prayer' and then their children die.
We cannot allow these views to persist without comment. We cannot allow children to die needlessly in this way without comment and we definitely shouldn't allow 'the power of prayer' to sweep past us without asking hard questions. We cannot because they cause misery and unnecessary death based on mythical ideas.
In addition, if these gods are all-knowing, all-present then there wouldn't be any need to pray. Think about it. If god knows your every thought, why would humans have to pray to be heard by god or gods? Why would god allow your beautiful child to be stricken by some dreadful disease and after your earnest prayer your beloved child still dies - why would god allow that to happen if this god was omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and a loving god?
Let's just cut to the chase and say that prayer offers temporary mental comfort to those who believe in the supernatural. Full stop. But it doesn't actually change anything other than a few feel good areas of the brain. It changes nothing in our physical world. Praying or telling me you will pray for me doesn't make you a better person, it isn't a barometer on your 'good character'. So please, don't waste your precious time praying for me.
If you want to make a difference then "do something meaningful" as the great man Carl Sagan suggested.
Forget prayer. Do something meaningful.
Think about this when you next feel the urge to pray.
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