In previous postings I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus in various ways. This time I am going to say something about prayer, which all too many Christians seem to think that getting housemaid's knees and praying to something that does not exist really does come true. If one tries to point out that it is nothing more than the role of the dice and pure superstition, they act like they are trying to save Tinker Bell from certain death by saying, “It's true! Prayer really works. I do believe! I do believe!”
Ah! Clap if you believe in fairies!
Now I realize many Christians who visit this site will insist that prayer really works, especially if you have enough faith, but that simply is not true. It truly is a role of the dice. A form of gambling, because with or without prayer, one has a 50-50 chance of whatever.
Take for example the co-worker I have who believes and often says, “Prayer really works!” A while back she gave me a ride to Walmart so we could cash our paychecks. Now, this is the bugger about it all -- for some reason, the paychecks where we work do not clear the bank. They often bounce and if you try to go to our boss's bank, they will not cash it due to “insufficient funds.” So, we were at Walmart, and she stated she had said a prayer that they would cash it. Walmart cashed our checks and she was going on and on as to how prayer really works and that was the example she gave, saying, “See? Prayer really works!”
The people do not need to be born again. They need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world. Reality check: We had a 50-50 chance of Walmart cashing it. Plain and simple. Prayer had nothing to do with it. They either would or they would not. She did not have to say any prayer and I bet we would have had the same results.
Again, some Christians may say that she had enough faith for the both of us, but that simply is not true. I could have gone in by myself and had the same results without prayer.
I was a Christian for several years and every night I prayed the same prayer before I went to bed. It went like this:
“Dear Heavenly Father (just as I was taught), we thank you for this day and all the help you have given us. Guard us, guide us, and protect us from all evil.”
So far it is a standard prayer and probably beautiful to many Christians, but from there, I would say,
“Do not let anything or anyone in our house tonight or any other night.”
Now, before my mother started taking me to church regularly at the age of fourteen, I did not pray before going to bed and no one intruded into our home. There was no change, even after I moved out of my mother's home and prayed that. So far there has been no intruder, with or without prayer and the truth is, it is the same toss of a coin.
Reality check: As long as one locks their doors and windows before going to bed, it is less likely one will break into one's home. Prayer has nothing to do with it. To make such a request of a supernatural being is purely superstition and luck of the draw. Such a prayer is basically a throw back to the days of primitive man, before we had door locks. I think Valerie Tarico put it best when she was on Mark Mythos show and I will try to recall it from memory that best I can. She used the example of primitive man thinking there was a lion or something out there that could harm their family. If you stayed awake and you were wrong, then you lost nothing but sleep, but if you went to sleep and there was a lion around, you could lose your life and your family too. It was something like that at least. I think such a prayer fits that primitive position, but we do not live in caves or in trees anymore. We live in a modern world in which we can lock out the outside world and cut down on the risk of an intruder and if we can afford it, we can install a whole security system in our homes.
However, if someone choses to break into your home, with or without you being there, there is nothing any man-made deity can do to stop that person. Your best bet is to lock your doors and windows.
Now here is the kicker. I also prayed for my sons. I asked God,
“Please do not let my sons become involved with gangs, drugs, or crimes, and to keep them safe from all harm.”
I truly believed that God would protect them from these things and keep them from getting involved with bad things. I did not consider freewill, in part because I never knew exactly what that was and having grown up with Wesleyan doctrine, freewill was not discussed very often. So it was never actually defined.
Again, my odds were 50/50 and most of it also had to do with parenting- two parents, not just one. I took my sons to church, specifically an Episcopal Church, because I did not like Fundamentalism. While my older son grew up to be a fine [Buddhist] young man, I did not have as much luck with my younger son, who admired his father.
Mind you, I left and divorced their father when my younger son was six months old and he did not have very much involvement with them due to his own problems. However, it would seem genetics played a role in my younger son's life, because he did become involved with drugs and alcohol by the time he was 13. At this time, I was still saying that prayer and wanted to believe that God would protect him from such things, but he was slowly making a spiral down a bad path as he made bad choices in his life.
When he became involved with the Disciples, I have no clue, but he did and now he is 18, serving 60 days in jail due to a series of MIPs (Minor in possession/intoxicated), trespassing, shoplifting (alcohol), stealing, and one other charge. His bond for the trespassing alone was $5000. He was there until the judge saw him and ended up with 60 days, is ordered to go to a drug and alcohol rehab program for 28 days after he serves his time, has a large fine, and two years supervised probation.
So much for prayer.
Now one might say that it is because I stopped praying, but if that were true, then it seems to me, he would not have started when he did, because I was praying then and faith that this unseen being would take care of my sons when I was not around to know exactly what they were doing.
Reality check: We all make choices and it is our responsibility to make the right choices, even as teenagers, and young adults. My younger son made some bad choices, plain and simple, and given that his father is an alcoholic and drug addict, genes also had a role to play in the matter too. It had nothing to do with prayer.
Both my sons had a 50/50 chance of being substance abusers due to genetics. They also had more influences in their lives than just myself. The rare visits from their father was apparently just enough to influence one of them as well as they friends they chose.
To say one did not have enough faith, did not pray hard enough, or did not pray at all, is to not face reality. In this case, the reality is genetics and the choices my younger son made in his life. My wishful fairy tale prayer, irregardless of enough faith or not, had nothing to do with it.
We all have responsibility for our own lives. As the retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has said,
“The Church doesn't like for people to grow up, because you can't control grown ups. That's why we talk about being 'Born again.' When you're born again, you're still a child. The people do not need to be born again. They need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world.” -- ref.
I find this to be true especially when one is trying to rely on the superstition of prayer too. To beg, plead, request, some parent figure in the sky to do something is not taking responsibility for yourself, especially since there is no parent figure in the sky. One is doomed to fail if they believe some parent figure in the sky will take care of everything, including their children. This simply is not true and I wish I had listened to Bishop Spong, Don Cupitt, Anthony Freeman, and other Anglican ministers like them a whole lot sooner, because maybe I would not have fallen into that trap. Of course, I probably would have left the Church a whole lot sooner too, if I had started listening sooner, because when I started listening, I started questioning, researching, and studying more than I ever did before.
The truth is, prayer is no better than meditation. It can comfort some people or it can make them more fretful and anxious. More often than not, I became more fretful and anxious when I prayed, because I would started praying for what was troubling me over and over again.
Yes, I had heard of the saying, “Let go and let God,” but I had also heard, “God helps those who help themselves,” and when I did not know what to do to help myself the anxiety kicked in even with prayer.
However, prayer, like meditation, can trigger neuro-chemistry in the brain, which can have a calming affect too. This has been seen in Buddhist monks concerning meditation, as well as Catholic nuns concerning prayer, but prayer has no affect on the outcome of reality. If it helps you relax, like relaxation techniques help others to relax, fine, but it does not do much more than that and your requests are nothing more than playing the lottery. You can pray for someone all you want, but in the end, it is they who need to take responsibility for their lives and make good choices. You praying the right way and/or to the right god has nothing to do with it and more often than not, if you put faith in prayer and your god concept in order to make people do what you desire, it will surely fail. When it comes to other people, it is not the prayer that gets them to do what you desire, whether it be to cash a check or to stay away from drugs and crime, but rather the choices they make in their lives. You also cannot make someone do what they have not chosen to do for themselves with a prayer to your god concept either. Again, they have to chose to do it and in the end, you would be better served in getting what you want by asking or seeking help from a real person.
Therefore, do not pray for me, do not pray for others, or yourselves. If you want to help others, do something besides get on your knees. If you want help for yourself, go seek help from another human being or more than one human being. Because prayer is just a crap shoot and no invisible being is going to intervene to make anyone do anything for you, themselves, or anyone else.