Last night it occurred to me that I totally get the appeal of prayer.
My husband and I found out that our 16-year-old neighbor was missing and in danger. We like her and her family a lot, and we felt terrible. We really wanted to do something to help, but we had no idea what we could do. We posted her picture on our facebook pages, asking our friends to keep an eye out for her. We figured we could bring some food over to her family the next day if she was still missing. And then we got ready for bed, because we had no idea what else we could do to help the situation at 10:00 at night.
We felt pretty helpless. And it occurred to me that this is why people pray - they can feel like they're helping when they're in a situation where they actually can't (or just won't). It feels bad to want to help and to not be able to, and praying helps that feeling go away. "I'll say a prayer for her, and then it's in God's hands." Voila. I have helped. I am a good person and can go to sleep now.
The good news is, they found her last night, and she is safe. I know that I had absolutely no part in bringing this about. The people who prayed, however, can feel even better about themselves thinking that their actions directly brought about her safe return.
Sure, but hoping isn't helping, you know? I wanted to help, but there was just nothing for me to do. Praying gives people something to do that they see as useful. I could hope for her safe return all I wanted, but I was not deluded into thinking that that was actually accomplishing anything. Prayer offers that delusion.
You can prayer for good or bad, so what is prayer just a word. What if she had not been safe then the prayer would not be answered so after that what would the assumption be that god was not listening or was too busy answering a footballers prayer.
Or that it wasn't his will! That's my favorite.. isn't there quote somewhere that says something like "God answers all prayers, sometimes the answer is just no."
Seems like it isn't so cute when it's a person's life at stake.