Nothing Fails Like Prayer

By Mriana

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.


webmdave said...

About 2 years ago I was riding with a family member when a deer jumped out in front of the car. Busted out the windshield, covered us with shattered glass and deer hair, but fortunately the only injury was a small cut on my face.

I was already an exchristian at that time, but once we calmed down and got back on the road, I found myself silently praying for god to protect us from getting killed by a deer. My mind bombarded me with panicky thoughts of the "god did this to warn me to repent" variety, complete with replays of every story I had ever heard of people dying from hitting deer. Of course, by the next day I was back to realizing how absurd those thoughts were.

Prayer in situations where you have nothing else you can do is understandable, but silly nonetheless.

webmdave said...

Mriana said "...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!” If you have not seen this already, you might enjoy this link below which supports your article:

webmdave said...

If prayer truly worked, we wouldn't need medicine, charities or each other for that matter. I got in an on-line argument with someone who posted on Huffington Post after the Haiti earthquake, that everyone needed to say a prayer for them. Of course, being the heathen that I am, I told that person what an empty, selfish thing to say. Of course, she got all incensed. I went on to tell her that the only reason why she is praying is to make herself feel better (a form of mental masturbation) which is quite selfish considering that she's not the one of the hundred thousand that is suffering in Haiti. A bunch of people defended her saying I was heartless, etc. I told them to get off their knees and give money or time if they are capable. These people need human intervention. I then went on to ask them this: "If all the help, food, and water would leave Haiti to where all that was there were the dead, dying, injured, and survivors. And instead, the whole world just prayed for their recovery, what do you think would happen? Do you really think a supernatural being is going to save these people? Do you really think he's going to pull people out of the rubble, raise the dead, heal their injuries and feed them?" I got no response from them. Typical. The truth is, prayer DOESN'T work. Which is why when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they go to a doctor instead of staying home praying for a recovery.

webmdave said...

makes me think of those sci-fi movies where a great space battle is going to take place and the scene switches over to mosques, churches, synagogues and temples filled with people doing whatever prayer ritual as if some of that energy is going to make its way out into space and nudge something in favor of the good guys.

webmdave said...

Mriana, your thesis is certainly correct. But, prayer is not always 50-50 as you portrayed it - it depends on the situation. If you were walking down the street and prayed the next person you saw would be male, then your chances would be about 50-50 since half of us are male.

However, if you prayed that your lottery ticket was the big winner, the chances your prayer would come true would be one in several millions. Conversely, if you prayed that the commercial airplane you were flying on would not crash, then the chances your prayer would come true would be millions to one, almost a certainty, since commercial airliners almost never crash. In the US, there are about 10 million flights per year and maybe 3 or 4 crashes.

webmdave said...

Yes, I agree it is silly, esp considering that we build roads in the country where deer constantly cross the road. IMO, one needs to pay more attention to their driving in the country.

My sons and I were driving on farm road outside of town to see my mother, when she lived closer to us. I was driving along and out pops a fawn. I suddenly stopped- one of those stops that if someone had been behind us, we'd surely have been hit by them.

Well, the fawn scampered into the woods without a look back, as far as I know. I waited, expecting to see another and we did. A doe. I could only assume she was the mother. She stood in front of our care and looked at us briefly as though to say, "Thank you" and then went on her way, not having one ounce of fear that would I would be a bad human and decide to hurt her. It was one of the most numinous experiences I've ever had with other animals.

At this time I was a Xian, with the same love of animals I have always had, but I never said a prayer about the incident- not even a "thank you" of some sort to God. However, I was well aware deer were plentiful and I could easily kill one with my car, if I did not pay attention. I've been told I should have a bumper sticker that says, "WARNING! This car makes sudden stops and brakes for animals." Only once did I run over a squirrel, but only because swerving didn't keep him out from under my tires as he ran. That was in the city and luckily I didn't hit anyone due to my actions.

Prayer would not have helped you or your friend. Only paying closer attention would have helped.

webmdave said...

No, I haven't read that. I rarely go to that site- not enough time for starters. Thanks for sharing that.

webmdave said...

Excellent point!

"These people need human intervention."

The great Robert Green Ingersoll said something similar to,"Hands that help are more useful than lips that pray."

If we don't help our fellow man there is no one or nothing else that will.

webmdave said...

Which is what I was trying to say towards the end of my story. If one needs help, they get another person- such as a doctor, psychologist, policeman, fireman, or just a friendly shoulder to cry on, because prayer isn't going to do a thing to resolve the problem. By the same token, these same people who pray instead of taking action, need to take action to help others.

If one feels like dying due to stress, they need to get a psychologist, maybe even a psychiatrist, not pray for a god to intervene. If the stress is financial, they need to get a job, find better work, and maybe apply for help with utilities, food, and alike. Not sit back and pray. Of course, none of these things are instant cures for stress, but they can help to relieve some of the stress and there are just some stressors that cause one to want to just roll over and die that cannot be solved by personal action (death or incarceration of a loved one), but a counselor can help the one who cannot take the action to solve the problem themselves and trust me, one can feel extreme pain over a loved one and be unable to do anything to help, yet feel like rolling over and dying because of it. I'm sure there are people in Haiti who may feel like this right now due to the deaths of many loved ones, save themselves. Pray won't help them, but counselors, food, medicine, shelter, clothing, etc, will.

webmdave said...

Someone on Face Book posted something to the effect of "please pray for Haiti" to which I responded "Haiti needs cash, please donate something, even if it is only $5". Believe it or not, but people defriended me over that one, LOL.

webmdave said...

I believe it. Prayer is sacred.

webmdave said...

Thank you for that. I took statistics in college. You examples are pretty simple, but when it comes to whether her kids would become involved in gangs or not, there are so many factors to consider, the equation would be very complicated. It most likely would not be 50/50, though. Life choices are seldom that simple.

webmdave said...

I am cautious as to who is approved to be a friend or not. All too many Xians, unless I do know them personally, do not meet the cut or IF they do, the first time they evangelize, they are out of there. One Xian is currently on shaky ground right now, because she keeps sending me things like "Put Jesus back into EVERYTHING!" and alike invites. I reject each and everyone of them, of course. She happens to be a friend of a friend, who happens to be an atheist, so I gave her a chance. She is coming very close to being defriended currently- farmville or not farmville, which I have very little time for and hardly play it anymore.

webmdave said...

Hey, I de-friended my own sister for sending me that "dead teenager speaks from hell" horror show that I posted on here--and then acting like there was something wrong with me because I did not feel "blessed" to have received it.

webmdave said...

Yeah, we were zipping along at 60 mph at dusk. I never even saw the deer. Had to ask what had happened.

Lady behind us stopped to check on us, said the deer did a complete flip in the air, landed on its feet, hopped a fence and ran off.

webmdave said...

Agreed. I didn't attempt to speak to the family matter.

webmdave said...

Mriana, Yes, Nothing Fails Like Prayer, as I'm sure every single person on this site can attest to. I wish that I had a dime for every time I'd prayed, I'd be a rich woman now. And only about 15% of the things I prayed for came to pass ( I wouldn't call myself the luckiest person on earth ! ) and that's all it is...good luck, bad luck and indifferent luck.
It's true that prayer has the relaxing qualities brought on by " purging our thoughts ", and turning the problem over to " The Lard ", but as you know, there are lots of other things that a person can do to bring on relaxation & a sense of calm too.
Meditation is one, and I use that to calm myself down, and it really works.

My big beef about prayer, other than the 100% USELESSNESS of it all of course, is the huge burden of failure that it puts on the shoulders of the person praying when that prayer is not answered over & over again.
During the entire time I was a christian, I felt like a failure, that I was doing something wrong, because The Lard answered so very few of my prayers. And I did that to myself 100%. Because I believed in something that was never there. Now I use my time, instead, trying to do practical things to bring about what is desired...instead of getting rug burns on my knees ! .......and what doesn't " come about ", well then that's JUST LIFE.....good, bad & indifferent !

webmdave said...

Yes, it's just like faith healing. If it worked we could save billions and billions of dollars that we spend on hospitals and medical staff as they just wouldn't be needed.

webmdave said...

Yeah, when Mriana mentioned the heredity factor, I thought of my grandbaby. Her heredity: two drug-addicted petty thieves for biological parents. Had she remained with them, I would imagine her chances of growing up to be a productive member of society would have been pretty slim.

But, she was adopted by my daughter and her husband. She is provided with love, consistency, regular meals, lots of parent-child activities, an attentive extended family, little friends her age, appropriate medical attention (she has some problems), educational experiences, etc. Her odds have gone WAY up.

If we're lucky, heredity may have provided her with nothing more than her physical features and coloring, and perhaps a few health issues.

Mriana, your kids have YOU. They have better than a 50/50 chance at doing well in life. Keep up the good work.

webmdave said...

Good topic Mriana!

I second summerbreeze's wish, but if I could only get back the time wasted, that would be nice. I also second the total uselessness of prayer, it's like talking long-distance on a disconnected phone, there is no listener. Now that I think about it, the unconstitutional "national day of prayer" is a productive day wasted.

I am happy you realize addiction has a very strong genetic component, it would help break harmful stereotypes if more were informed like this. I'm surprised that no one has brought up the link between addictive behaviors and religious experience, both phenomenon are located in the brain's limbic system. This is perhaps why twelve step programs stress spiritual experience, it is a substitute stimulation of this pleasure center.

The dismal track record prayer holds should be enough to convince an unbiased person of it's futility. As you mentioned, prayer may have a calming effect, but so does focused deep-breathing exercises. I have better things to do today thay pretend I have a verbal influence on reality.

webmdave said...

Christians don't pay attention to the dismal track record prayer has. Just the other day my niece posted this tired, old christian saying to her Facebook page. "God ALWAYS answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is, 'No.' "

webmdave said...

ahh, the facebook missionaries. a pathetic narrow minded bunch if there ever was.

webmdave said...

lisa....Yes I also believe that good nurturing can GREATLY improve the effects of "bad" DNA. I think that within each and every one of us lies the opportunity for change, given the right situation and the right attitude.

webmdave said...

lol Good one! Defriending your own sister. I love it!

webmdave said...

I agree lisa.

If both biological parents are chemically dependent, the probability is still 50% in the child's genotype. If a sibling is addicted, the probability drops down to 30%. This is fairly old information, the percentages may have been revised.

You brought up the so important nurture part of the equation. I don't know of anything that would more improve a child's odds to avoid genetic predispositions. If the child develops positive self esteem and genetic awareness of potential hazards, the outlook would seem good.

The bottom line is, people seek relief when they do not like the way they feel without their chemical (or process) of choice. If a person feels good about themselves in a natural state, they are much less likely to seek external relief. Also, if they are aware that something that seems as innocuous as an alcoholic beverage can become a serious health problem for them, again they should be more likely to resist consumption.

It sound like your grandbaby is in great hands, I send my sincere best wishes for her healthy future.

webmdave said...

Around here in my neck of the woods, zipping around (hilly and curvy) country hwy roads at 60 mph could get you more than just hitting a deer. Many a person has died on MO's back hwy roads doing just that- day and night.

webmdave said...

Sure, faith is belief despite of or even contrary to evidence.

webmdave said...

My big beef about prayer, other than the 100% USELESSNESS of it all of course, is the huge burden of failure that it puts on the shoulders of the person praying when that prayer is not answered over & over again.

It does more than that to a person, even after they have left religion. BTW, I have part 2, with an interesting and creative spin, coming soon.

webmdave said...

Oh yes. Something else I will briefly address in part 2.

webmdave said...

Thank you for the good wishes for our little one. I don't know the circumstances that put her gene donors into the situation they are in.

But I think our baby has an excellent chance of a bright future.

webmdave said...

bruno.. "Never discount the resistive power of a closed mind".
I Love It ! ! .......and so true, I see it all around me.

My Grandmother had a saying, kind of in the same department:
" His ( Her ) mind is like concrete, all mixed up and
permanently set !"

webmdave said...


webmdave said...

Sigh. They may have me, but apparently it was not enough to override the genetic factors.

webmdave said...

Oh, yes, Lisa, and that is something I will address in part 2.

webmdave said...

Although from a former Episcopalian POV.

webmdave said...

Mriana, I think your sons are very fortunate to have an intelligent, open-minded mother like you.

There is nothing I could possibly say to asuage any unpleasant feelings you may have, though I wish I could. I can only offer you and your sons my best thoughts and the assurance that we all have the capacity for positive change. I've shared on this forum a couple times that I have been sober for quite a while, if you and your son think he may benefit from some e-mail dialogue, I would be honored.

webmdave said...

Saw this on an Episcopalian Web site, a quote by the Archbishop of Canterbury: include what is gained through practice and relationships; for people of faith to establish a clear definition of themselves (identifying the myths and fantasies that need to be shed); and to establish a trust at all levels of society that will hold humanity together."

I like the bit about identifying the myths and fantasies that need to be shed. It wouldn't leave much in Christianity!

webmdave said...

I appreciate the offer, Bruno. While I don't mind at all, I don't know about my son- he still denies he has a problem, even with all the MIPs and other charges.

I would not allow him to even get a driving permit, so he has no driver's license. He took a car (he says he had permission to drive it, but the other party said he stoled it), was high on marijuana at the time, and crashed into another car (thus the property damage charge, I suppose. Not sure what that one is). He said, "I had no idea that I would be heavy foot and slow to hit the brake." I have tried to tell him, just like his alcohol, it impairs reaction time.

The fact he was stealing other things from me before I threw him out of my home and the questionable story about said car (which he actually did crash into another car), it makes me glad I made the decision to give up my car when I did. Kept him from driving my car and jacking up my insurance.

That said, his trespassing charge is due to being drunk on someone's roof. He tried to convince the judge that if he was drunk and on a roof, he'd fall off and kill himself. *shaking head* Not sure if I want to laugh or cry about that one.

Here is the saddest part of all- one of his "buddies" said that rehab will be good for him, because he was getting very bad [before he went to jail]. When your buddies say that something you are doing is getting bad, that should be another clue you have a problem. Sadly, he just doesn't see it. Which means to me, he has not hit his bottom yet.

webmdave said...

That is, I would not allow him to get a driver's permit until he stopped drinking and doing anything else that could impair his driving, esp as a minor. So, he still doesn't have one at this time.

webmdave said...

lol Why do you think I left? However, if you read the Book of Common Prayer you would find his statement contradicts what is in that book, which is not only for worship, but Catechism, statements of belief, Historical documents of the Church with the articles of religion, and alike.

So, don't let that fool you.

webmdave said...

Great post, Mriana, and an excellent analysis on prayer and how it simply doesn't work.

There was a recent medical study where a group of people who needed surgery were involved in a blind study of the efficacy of prayer. Group 1 was prayed for by Christians for a successful surgery and speedy recovery, but the group didn't know it. Group 2 was prayed for by Christians, but the group did know it. And Group 3 was not prayed for at all, to the best of the study's knowledge.

The results were that there was no difference between the groups as to successful surgery and speedy healing. All three groups had about the same statistical results of successful surgery and length of recovery.

Prayer is a crock. It is an ancient superstition that attempts to calm our fears by appealing to a deity who, supposedly, has control over events in our lives and our world. And it simply doesn't work.

webmdave said...

A christian telling someone that they are going to pray for someone is appalling.

Let's get with reality, christians and come to your senses and realize, that praying for people, is just a lazy, christian ploy, where it sounds like you are doing something, which you are not, all the while you wallow in a bogus sense of accomplishment. When, in actuality, an all-powerful, all-knowing deity should know what a person needs without the likes of of a christian ringing him up on the cosmic phone to let him know.

If a christian really want to help someone -- bag the superstitious praying bit -- and tell the person that they're in your thoughts and you care by actually doing something. Throw away that prayer-crutch and do something tangible for someone in need, like, fix food, run an errand, mow the yard, clean, babysit, give money, anything, but begging and groveling to a god in the delusional hopes that he will supersede the laws of nature and alter an outcome, big or small, especially when atrocious and egregious acts happen everyday, while presumably god watches and does nothing is a deplorable in-action.

Two hands working, can do more than a million clasped hands, praying.


webmdave said...

I have been thinking about this and hope I have the guts to do it. Next time someone says, "I'll pray for you," I'll say, "Well, but what I could really use is a ride to the doctor on Wednesday."

I must give my devout next door neighbor credit. She offered the ride, then when I said that I had it covered, she said she would keep me in her prayers. I like her. She is a doer and a very sweet person.

webmdave said...

Thanks and yes I did read that. I don't know why I didn't include it in this or the second one that is coming. Gee, please don't say I should do a part 3, esp after you see Part 2. lol I probably could though with this article and other ones like it.

webmdave said...

That would be a good response lisa.

I was listening to the ffrf's weekly podcast a couple weeks ago, the featured guest was the philosopher Daniel Dennett. He was sharing that while recently recovering from a surgery, people would offer to pray for him. His response, "I forgive you."

webmdave said...

Which is equivalent to, pardon my French, FO!

webmdave said...

I hit a deer once, in New Jersey (of all places). Of course, it was a criminal deer who deserved to die.

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