Another entry from my blog:

Well, it's the second week in a row without a dismantling of Billy Graham's fragile claims. In my Sunday paper he tackled the hot button issue that everyone wants a answer to. Yes, he went big and answered the biggest question of our day... 'Do you need to kneel when you pray?' I wonder if he'd humble himself and weigh in on the ongoing drama as well?

So yes, he took a question about kneeling when you pray, with your hands pressed together. How about answering if there is any point in prayer or if it even works at all. Those are much more interesting questions, so let's talk about them instead.

Does prayer work?

From personal experience, I've seen no evidence that prayer works. I don't recall any prayers being
answered when I was a believer. Some say that God doesn't answer selfish prayers, which is what you'd expect from a child like I was at the time. But the truth is that I didn't make selfish prayers. I was usually praying for others, rather than myself (other than 'Now I lay me down to sleep', many a night before bed). My most vivid memory of prayer would have to be the days leading up to me grandfather's death. I would pray and pray for his recovery, ultimately, to no avail.

I understand that some would say that God was ready for him to be with him, or that we can't understand his ways. Before anyone says that that's a bad reason for you to lose faith in prayer, let me tell you that I didn't. I actually blamed myself, not God for my prayers failure. Did I not pray well enough? Did I disappoint God in some way and was being punished? Rather than turn from God, I strove to be closer to him. But despite my past and my efforts, I can tell you that I've never witnessed a prayer being answered. True, personal experience is shaky at best, but I thought I'd share none-the-less.

Instead on relying on personal experience, lets look for something more reliable and testable. Probably the biggest study on the effects of prayer included 1,802 coronary bypass patients, at six hospitals, three churches (in different cities), and lasted a decade. The patients were broken into three groups. The first was not prayed for. The second group was told that they may or may not be being prayed for. The final group was told that they were definitely being prayed for. Of the two prayer groups, the churches were given the names and asked to pray however they normally would for the swift and complication-free recovery of the persons in those two groups.

The final findings found that the first two groups had an equal rate of post surgery complications, at 51%. The final 'prayer group' wound up with 59% of that group having complications. This notable rise may potentially be due to stress or 'performance anxiety'. They likely began to wonder how bad off they are if they have so many people praying for their recovery. Stress can be a powerful thing, an has been shown to have similar effect prior. I feel like that's an interesting result that finds contrary to
what many believers would expect to see.

The results are welcome to me, as they seem consistent with my experience (although I would have accepted them even if they found a significant trend toward prayer working). Additionally, this suggests that if you're going to pray, that it 'works' better if you pray in private.  So believers, heed this results, as well as Matthew 6:6, and pray in private. Apparently it should be 'better' for you, and would certainly be a welcome relief to me and many other non-believers who are tired of being told that they're being prayed for through the years. 

Is there any point in praying?

Personally, I'd say that there isn't. Let's put aside that fact that I don't think that there's a deity to pray to, and that I don't think that prayer works. Ignoring that, let's pretend that there is a god up there to pray to. Is there still any point in praying? Again, I'll say no. The reasons for this are two fold.

First there is the problem that God is said to be omniscient. If this is the case, then there's no reason to pray in the first place. That's because that an omniscient god already knows what you would pray for, what is bothering you, what you want, who is sick, etc. He already knows that your uncle has fallen on hard times and that you want God to bless him with luck or strength to make it through. He already knows that your daughter is sick and that you are hoping God will aid in her recovery. You see, if he knows all, he knows what you would pray for before you do, before there's a need, even before you were born. Because of this, prayer becomes an unnecessarily redundant ritual. It's kind of like telling someone that your car is red after you've already taken them for a ride in it.

God's plan is another category that messes with the whole 'prayer thing'. Some believers will tell you that God has a plan for each and every one of us. That he plans the path of our life before we are ever born. But being that this plan comes from God, it's a perfect plan. Being all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, it should be impossible for him to mess up your plan. Yet when you pray to God, you are asking him to amend his plan. It's like you're saying that you know better than the very deity you worship!

Couple that with the previous point of him being omniscient, and prayer becomes all the more futile. If you pray for something and it doesn't happen, you chalk it up to God's will. Maybe you were praying for something that wasn't part of the plan, so the prayer goes unanswered. Or maybe you pray for something that was part of the plan, an it happens so you pat yourself on the back. The thing is, if it was already part of his plan, your prayer made no difference. What was planed to happen was going to happen no matter what! With that in mind, why bother praying at all?

So we have a notion of prayer that has not been shown to work, and even defies the 'logic' of the very belief system(s) that birthed it. Yes somehow the practice hangs on... Pray if you must, wish upon a star, carry that four-leaf clover, or rub that luck rabbit's-foot. It may make you 'feel good', but that's about it.

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