Sitting here on the first floor of Memorial in a snack bar I hear conversation behind me. From their dress and mannerisms the people are Pentecostal. There were two families talking. One person ask another, “what can we do for you?” The answer: “just pray, that is all.”
A couple weeks ago my brother, his wife, my family and I were getting a late night burger at Whataburger after being with mom in the hospital. He said something about prayer and I told him I have never known any prayer to be answered and no recollection of any prayer I prayed that was answered in such a way that I knew it was answered.
What is prayer? What is it for? Why bother? There are, of course, as many answers to that as there are religious persons. Most religions pray. All of them claim to have answers. None of them can prove it. If there’s one mass delusion among all religions it is the delusion that prayer for “things” is effective.
In war Muslims and Christians pray for each other to die. Protestants and Catholics pray that one or the other will be “defeated.” Countless other people in other religions pray. Satanists even pray to the devil. Do those prayers make any difference? Depends on who you ask.
There are many reasons I rejected the religion of my youth. One of them is the fact that prayer is a waste of time. At least “directing prayer” is a waste of time. What I mean by that is people are praying for what THEY want, trying to direct God’s hand (or twist it). Even when they’re not sure how to pray the religious person’s thoughts, attitudes and beliefs focus their prayer towards their own personal goals and agendas. Most Christians tack on “thy will be done” at the end as a cover for their doubt the prayer will ever reach heaven. Then, when their expectations are not met (which is the vast majority of time) they can simply say, “God’s ways are not our ways….” No Kidding.
I quit praying. It was one of the first things I did. Many times a religious person will drift away from their faith and then will actually pray harder, crying out for answers that are not coming. Praying harder only causes headaches. who really and truly believes God’s hands can be twisted by a teeny human shouting louder? I mean, come on!
The “personal nature of God” idea has shoved many people towards fruitless prayer efforts. I’m no authority on Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or other religions but I believe they, like Christians, personalize deities. Christianity I know very well. Evangelicalism I know intimately. THEY personalize God, Jesus, a personality they call the Holy Spirit, to the ‘n’th degree. They pray and pray and pray. Pentecostals do the “tongues” thing. Hey, I used to do that too. I have no idea what I was doing. The sensation seemed real and the language sounded real, sure enough. The effect, however, was negligible. After years and years I concluded the only real purpose of that Holy Spirit stuff was to feel good personally. That did not seem right.
I am a handy-man, a fixer and builder. If I have a bolt that will not come loose with a pair of pliers I need a wrench. If a wrench doesn’t work I get a stronger wrench. Sometimes the bolt breaks and has to be drilled out. I keep working at it until I get the job done. If all I do is keep on trying to get the bolt out with pliers I will accomplish nothing but tiring myself out. Why keep trying something that doesn’t work? Why keep cranking away with a pair of pliers knowing you’re getting nowhere.
I quit praying because it never “worked.” I observed family and friends, people everywhere, praying and praying and seeing nothing close to an “answer.” Every time, every single time, when the outcome wasn’t the desired one the person praying rationalized: “I guess it was not God’s will” or “I didn’t pray hard enough” or “my faith wasn’t strong enough” or whatever. The belief that prayer “works” is one of the strongest beliefs in Christianity. But if prayer really “worked” how different would this world be? Millions pray for wars to end and they get worse. Millions pray for people to stop starving and more people starve. Families pray for a loved one to get better and the loved one dies. Poor people pray for more money but stay poor. Rich people pray for enlightenment and never get it. Churches pray for pastors who are crushed in cars. Pastors pray for strength and then get a member pregnant. ALL THE ABOVE are personal experiences of mine.
Of all the world’s major religions Buddhism alone is not obsessed with praying. Prayer and organized religion, to Gautama, seemed a waste of time and a distraction. He didn’t care for the dominant religion where he lived. Hinduism, a religion that keeps people within their caste and does little good for its members, was not the answer. He saw people throwing away their lives making sacrifices and praying, living in poverty, never rising above the muck. The same thing happens in all praying religions. What does Buddha say do? He says seek, find, and do yourself. He said all that happens to us is the direct result of how we interact with the world and what we do personally. He took the responsibility off of a deity and put it back in the lap of each person. Are you suffering? It is your fault or the fault of someone else or simply the result of living in a dangerous world. Stop making yourself suffer and learn how to stop the suffering caused by other factors or people. Don’t blame God and don’t run to God to do what you should do.
Most praying is selfish. People ask God to do something THEY want to happen. Even though they say very fervently that they want “God’s will” they are lying to themselves and to God. Who prays over a suffering family member, asking for them to get better and come back, who is willing to say, “let it be God’s will” even if “God’s will” is that the family member die? I know I prayed very selfishly when my dad died. We don’t want that. Let me ask though, who are we to tell God what to do?
On the flip side, people accept results as God’s will when those results seem about as cruel as as could be. They pray for a person to be healed and the person gets sicker. They pray for peace and get anger. They pray for strength and grow weaker. They pray for unity and get conflict. And THEN they say God is not a God of confusion. Oh yeah? Praying for things, like I said, is a useless thing to do.
Do I believe all prayer is a waste of time? No, not at all. I pray. I never ASK for anything. Never. Not ever! I’m not going to fall into that trap again. But I do pray, quite often. I just talk. I express my thoughts to the Creator. And I say thank you a lot. And sometimes I express consternation or concern or anger. But I never ASK.
God is neither caring nor loving nor even the slightest bit kind IF the Creator is anything like the God of Christianity. All the texts and teachings and admonitions and sermons run completely counter to the reality of how the Christian “God” works. The whole focus is on praying and expecting a fickle God to go their way once in a while.
It amazes me that it took so long for me to realize how futile my praying was and it astounds me that so many continue in the delusion. I know any Christian who reads this will say that *I* am deluded, blinded by satan, backslidden, blah blah. THEY are the brainwashed calling ME brainwashed. I merely point out some obvious facts. Facts and Christianity have never, ever been compatible. They never will be. In a spiritualized world manipulated by deluded preachers and self-serving church leaders logic does not exist. Sad.
I believe we are created. I believe in a Creator. Is the Creator a person? Is the Creator a universal essence? Is the Creator and the universe the same thing? Beats me. I am convinced the Creator is not a big white guy with a white beard sitting on a throne somewhere. It’s an absurd notion. Neither do I believe the Creator is sitting around waiting to jump when somebody asks.
When I pray I speak to the consciousness I believe we all sense and I speak to it (gender makes no sense beyond humanity) in such a way as to acknowledge its existence, give thanks for good things, express my feelings for bad things. I do not expect the Creator to do my bidding.
Even these prayers are for myself. A universal, greater than the universe Creator does not need my acknowledgement. The Creator already knows my feelings, my love, and is aware (as am I) that my emotional attachments does not matter very much. So, I pray mostly for my own psyche. It helps me keep perspective.
My brother often says in response to someone who says they are praying for him: “I need the prayer and you need the practice.” I used to say the same thing. To be honest, though, I do not believe I “need” the prayer and I am concerned about all that “practice.” It’s like telling someone to keep trying to get a bolt loose with a pair of pliers when I am convinced it’s a wasted effort. Move on! Go deeper into reality, into Truth, into knowledge and understanding. Seek answers to the “why doesn’t prayer work” question, don’t keep bashing your head against the wall.
Just now I heard another comment from someone talking about saying a prayer for someone here in the hospital. Prayer is a habit. is an exercise in psychology. Prayer is a way of putting things off, of excusing oneself, or shifting responsibility from self to God. Prayer is a lot of things. What it was never meant to be is a free pass or a way to get what one wants.
Christians often repeat the quote “Pray without ceasing.” Christians believe prayer will change the world. I think it will too, but only if everyone stops the praying “for” and start the praying “to.” Put down the pliars. Go get a better tool. Make the world better. Forget what you want and say “thank you” for what you have. And like all the other paradoxes in this life, your prayer will be answered over and over as you realize your giving thanks grows with everything you find to give thanks for. Weird, huh?
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