So I had an interesting discussion with a few religious friends of mine the other day (anyone else get grilled about atheism on a regular basis?), and at one point we were talking about prayer and its utility. Of course, I argued that prayer is completely pointless. One of the more liberal Christians there agreed with me in the sense that God "doesn't always answer prayers" (which almost led to the whole 'omnipotent/omnibenevolent' debate), but that prayer is useful in other ways. Specifically, he said that when someone tells him they are 'praying for him', it makes him 'feel good'. At the time, I immediately thought 'Oh hey, this is bullshit', but I've been thinking about it and it seems that a lot of people feel the same way. 


So here's my four-pronged question/topic of discussion:

1. Do you think most Christians realize that prayer is useless, but 'pray' anyway because it 'feels good'?

2. If/when someone says they are 'praying for you', do you feel better?

3. Is there something special about the word prayer? (What I mean by that is that when you tell someone that you 'hope' things get better for them, it doesn't seem to have the same effect as telling someone you're 'praying' for them.)

4. And now for the rhetorical question: Is 'prayer' bullshit? ;) hehehe


I've formulated my own answers to these, which I may post, but I wanted some outside feedback first ;)


Praying for you, atheists!


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It irritates me when someone says they will pray for me even though I know they mean well. I don't get irritated at the person who said it. It's just that when I hear someone say that to me, it brings up the whole "exasperation" thing I feel about religion. I thank the person and hide my irritation.


I remember a few years ago seeing something on the news that said a study was done that showed that patients who had people praying for them did better than those that did not. But I don't give much credence to some random "study" that made the 6pm news. I don't know if the patient knew people were praying for him/her or not. I never thought of that angle until I just now read your post.


I feel uncomfortable when I want to say something to comfort a religious person but I dont' want to say "I'm praying for you". 


I also read about that study. But the conclusion was that prayers didn't make recovery any faster. In fact, patients who were told that people were praying for them fared worse. I think it was conducted by Darwin's relative.
They also experimented on plants. There was no evidence to prove otherwise.

I have only heard that there is proof that people who know that someone is praying for them in a hospital do WORSE than those who don't...


All other studies haven't been done with proper controls and whatnot.


I'll probably add more to this discussion later but right now I have to get to class. Bye!

Most christians I know believe prayer actually works and when it doesnt there is some higher reason for it.

When someone says they're praying for me, I feel sorry that they say that to me, knowing I dont believe, and I have an urge to tell them, thank you, but we both know it doesnt help.  Somehow i think it makes them feel better saying that to me.

As for special - I reckon overall people feel better when you say you pray for them instead of hope, cause when you pray you put the people into the hands of the higher power.  (Christian viewpoint)


In my opinion, prayer is bullshit.  Ive been a christian for most my young life, and I cant recall any of my prayers EVER being answered. 

(Besides, you cant pray to something that doesnt exist...)

Against what most people here seem to think, I truly feel theists are being dishonest when they say they pray for us. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're consciously lying, but IMO they "well wishes" emanate more from a moral superiority stance than a sincere "I wish you well" stance.


I react with vitriol or satire when anyone says it to me. If people wish to "wish me well" I want it said honestly: "I wish you well", or "good luck" or "best wishes". final.


As for the elemental effectiveness of moral support, it has been demonstrated time and time again that patients who have emotional support from their peers and family heal faster, and that married and coupled people fare better than singles.


Honest moral support is beneficial, to an extent, to the healing process. One need not make it a prayer to a supernatural being, that obviously provides no added benefit over honest emotional support.

When a Pastor throws in a prayer during prayer service because he knows I am atheist and he wants me to 'discover the truth and the light' , I tend to think they are being serious about it : P


I guess it depends on why they say it.  Are they really going to go home that night , fall on their knees , and pray for you?  I think probably not.  



Yes indeed, I have noticed that the future tense is usually used in these situations (I will pray for you) which makes me doubt their true intent even more.

When my grandmother told my formerly Jewish, essentially nonreligious for my whole (21 year) life father that she was praying for him so that he wouldn't go to jail, she was sincere.


The situation was really unfair and really serious and she was desperate to do anything at all to help him, I think. She didn't have much else to think about, her life is boring, and the trials were very stressful. I'm sure she actually did pray. She had to prepare to be there to testify against her own daughter - my mother - and say yes, her daughter is delusional, and malicious, and manipulating the court system, and lying, and that my father is a good father who wouldn't assault anyone. She had to possibly recount the time when her daughter assaulted her, or verbally abused me and my brother (her grandchildren) in her presence.


She ended up not having to do any of these things because the cases ended up being dropped (yes plural, it happened, over the course of years, and eventually they would always be dismissed), the first time WHILE I was testifying and when I brought up the word abuse they finally were ready to drop the case... and for all I know this would be a positive reinforcement that prayer does work, to her. Her prayer was "answered", right? Nevermind the idea that we had to go through the WHOLE ridiculous and stressful ordeal in the first place, wasting tons of time and money on lawyers and missing work and school (my brother & I were both still in high school at the time). Nevermind that I'm sure my grandmother also prayed that her daughter realize she needs psychological treatment even though my mom is still deep in her own delusions and no where close to realizing that her court-ordered psychological evaluation (to help the judge decide what the best custody arragement for me and my brother was, they forced both my dad and mom to have psychological evaluations) that diagnosed her with: "generalized anxiety disorder, dysthymic disorder, alcohol abuse, and a personality disorder not otherwise specified with borderline, dependent, histrionic, and obsessive compulsive traits, as well as a global functioning level of 50" was actually CORRECT and she shouldn't just brush it off in some crazy conspiracy theory with incompetent doctors and the whole world out to get her...


Still praying is comforting to the person praying, if they truly believe "it can't hurt" and "it's better than nothing" or even if they really truly think it helps. It's kind of nice to know she's on our side and didn't want my dad to go to jail - but I knew that whether or not she said she was praying for him. It brings up the subject of prayer and religion for me & my dad and we get a bit irritated and annoyed by the sentiments... because it tempts us to say "do you really think that works" or "we don't really believe in god" or something along those lines. But we don't, it's not the time or place, and we simply smile and mumble thanks or something and try to forget about it. Does she realize what she's doing in saying "I'll pray to you" to the two of us, at least 1 of whom certainly doesn't identify as Christian (my father)?


I don't know. But I like to give her the benefit of the doubt and just think she means it with purely good intentions and it's more of a well wishing type thing than anything else.

1.)  No, Christians think prayer is a direct message to God of which can be answered. The feeling good does not come from the prayer , but from thinking you have a personal relationship with an invisible man in the sky.

2.)  I tell them to save it for the suffering children who are starving , being raped multiple times daily in sex trafficking, or infected with your Lords diseases.  

3.)  Prayer is not just bullshit , it is a waste of precious time.  


Prayer is actually harmful because it makes people think there is a magical pill to achieve an outcome , rather than taking the time to fight for the outcome with your own mind and body.  

1) I think SOME Christians pray because it feels good.
I'm always shaking my head at the ones who thank god they survived cancer but I'm like, why didn't god prevent you from getting cancer in the first place?!


2) I don't care if someone prays for me. It won't help and it won't hurt.
I do however get offended when someone says they'll "pray for me" after I tell them I'm a lesbian or I'm an atheist, as if these are somehow horrible things and need "god's" intervention.

3) FOR ME, there is nothing special about the word prayer. I don't get too much out of "hope" either. The two are interchangeable for the most part.
4) Of course it's bullshit.
Remember George Carlin's video on religion and he said "god" and George Pesshie (spelling) had about the same answer rate for his prayers. Ha ha.

I totallly, fully, whole heartedly, vehemently, completely agree.

I grew up enmeshed in the church. After shedding my religious beliefs completely, I still find prayer to be the hardest part to let go of. When I find myself in an intense or worrisome situation, my first impulse is to close my eyes and offer up a silent, "Dear God. Please, let me do the right thing" or "Please help my teenager drive safely through the snow this morning."  Sometimes I can pour out a small monologue. LoL.  It is sincere and well intentioned.  I know that there is no higher power who can hear me, so I think that it must clearly be for my own benefit.  It must be that I am feeling helpless and mentally recognizing that although things are out of my hands I am keeping a positive attitude or making mental notes or something. Don't worry. I am trying to put it to rest completely, because I also believe that it is a false sense of having done something constructive to remedy things. But it is like smoking cigarettes - its harder to quit a habit that got such a regular fix. To stop going to church was easy.  But the prayers throughout the day may take years to purge.

As for people who tell you outright that they will pray for you -- it is also something that is clearly for THEIR own benefit, whether they know it or not.  They get a personal gratification that they have done something to help with the added bonus of recognition from their peers that they have contributed. However, I do believe that it is well-intentioned, sad as it is.


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