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JLeslie's avatar

If you believe God has a plan, why does praying help to get what you want?

Asked by JLeslie (59599points) December 14th, 2016 from iPhone

This is a serious religious question. I put it in general (which I very rarely do) to further demonstrate it’s a serious question.

It seems to me if God has a master plan, asking Him to protect you, heal you, or help others, would be in vain.

Please state what religion you are talking about when you write your answer.

Anyone making fun of religion, God, or people who believe in God will be flagged.

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15 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

I first have to ask you to clarify your statement that why you feel asking “if God has a master plan, asking Him to protect you, heal you, or help others, would be in vain”

How are you sure or not so sure that God’s Master Plan did not include protection, a dose of healing or help for you and others” that asked him in prayer?

(I was raised Catholic, Agnostic for 25 of 35 years of my life…a spiritualist for the last 10 years of my life)

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would assume that he lets some room for free will. I’m a Roman Catholic apostate. I would assume that his plan for us is in general and has some wiggle room.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ve always seen God as a high-level manager, maybe a CEO-level operative. God sets policies and directions.

I don’t see God as a micro-manager, involving himself in peoples’ lives on a one-to-one basis. I see that sort of ‘mess with the small stuff” level as personal responsibility, and decidedly not the responsibility of God.

I was born and raised Jewish, now largely atheist.\

So to directly answer your question – God may well have a master plan for the world and the universe. (I’d like to read it to be sure).

But God does not have a personal master plan for me, you, your neighbor, or your distant aunt. On that level, we look out for ourselves.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

It seems to me if God has a master plan, asking Him to protect you, heal you, or help others, would be in vain.
That is a point secular people miss (even some saints), a better saying would be He has a intended purpose for everyone. Now, the lynch pin in all of that is He is not going to run roughshod over anyone and force them to follow the path He would have them take. Imagine a parent having a plan (for lack of a better word) that their child walk three blocks to school, then at the end of classes walk back, but allowed to make a stop at the 7–11 to get s Slurpee or something, then come home and do their homework. The child can circumvent that “plan” by stopping off at a friend’s house a couple of blocks over to see his new video game. The child did not stick to the script but that did not nullify the parent being the parent and still in control of the household. The full meaning of prayer I suppose would not be known until we get to paradise. Praying is a form of communication with God for one, and it also is a verbal acknowledgement of what you are petitioning, an action one does out of faith. Would you want to be in a relationship and the person you are supposed to be in a relationship with never speaks to you? Sometimes prays are not answered because they are disingenuous prayers to start. Other times the prayer goes unanswered because there is an action or act the petitioner needs to do that they don’t; so the blessing is stalled.

nondenominational Believer

dabbler's avatar

Judeo-Christian thought about God’s plan concludes that it is part of God’s plan to make our own decisions, exercise our free-will, to align ourselves more with divine energies by choice.

Given that, intention with prayer makes all the difference.
A prayer of appeal (asking for something) will always be more fruitful if it is done in a spirit of subordination to the will of God. With that attitude a good prayer session might result in a change/clarification about what you’re requesting. Your best result will always be a closer alignment with God’s will, whether or not that was what you asked for in the first place.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am an atheist born to Jewish parents. I remember being taught in Hebrew school that Jewish tradition encourages prayers of praise but not prayers asking for a favor. This makes sense to me since it is assumed that God knows what you need, perhaps better than you do.

arzikass's avatar

I’m Muslem and in this religion we believe that everything has been previously written by God and the fate for every person is predestined; But praying is the only way to have an influence on this predestined fate, because the praying goes back to Eternity (the very beginning) and changes one’s destiny. As a matter of fact it is the only opportunity of human to change which seems unchangeable. This is the word by one of grandchildren of our Prophet: “Praying changes fate even when it has been tremendously ordained.”

Judi's avatar

Christian, lean progressive.
I think that immature Christians often see prayer as a magic incantation in order to get wishes met. That’s like saying “I talk to my parents so they will give me stuff.”
For me, the purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what I want him to but to get a better understanding of what God wants me to do.
I love what Pope Francis says.
“You pray for the hungry then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”

rojo's avatar

Christian I guess since that is the one I have the most knowledge of:

There are many ways to reach a goal. Perhaps a little side trip to help you out on the way is doable without affecting the ultimate outcome..

CWOTUS's avatar

I haven’t been Christian since before I was confirmed as a teenaged Episcopalian (that sounds like a good name for a horror movie; it sort of was, at times), but my understanding of the purpose of prayer is the same as @Judi‘s in this regard.

You don’t pray for things that you want; you pray to be able to deal with* what you have.

*“deal with” = understand; cope; manage; be strong; be patient; accept, etc.

janbb's avatar

I once leaned over to a friend in the synagogue and quoted the Doors to him, “You cannot petition the Lord with prayers.”

Bill1939's avatar

My mother was a Roman Catholic, but my father was at best agnostic. While I attended Catholic Church, I was not Baptized until I was thirteen. Finding little emotional and intellectual presence in celebrating Mass, I joined a Unitarian Fellowship when I was in high school. Here the youth group vigorously engaged in discussions about religions and had speakers from various faiths share their beliefs with us. Although my views were liberal, I remained convinced that the doctrine that I had been taught was true.

I was twenty-five when I entered college in the sixties, where I learned more about a variety of faiths and found myself drawn to Eastern beliefs – “Be Here Now” by Baba Ram Dass being highly influential. Over the next fifty-plus years, my thinking about spirituality evolved. However, before I address @JLeslie’s questions it is important that the reader know that I make a distinction between belief and thought. My thoughts are not beliefs as they are subject to further change. Also, I do not dispute what others may believe, as they may be correct.

“Does God have a plan?” That which is continuing to create the universe is not an Über Patriarch. I view this common concept to be a projection of a child’s view of a father, one who protects, nurtures, and will reward obedience or punish its lack. I imagine a spiritual force behind creation encompassing the cosmos that is analogous to a magnetic field. What appears to be a plan is the consequence of actions contributing to creation or taking from it – a continuum of selfish and altruistic behavior.

“Does praying help to get what you want?” Born with instinct primarily focused on individual and communal survival, our nature is innately self-serving. As we mature, the potential to extend awareness beyond self can increase. The spiritual force to which I eluded, which also exists within our biological being, powers it. I view prayer as a means to connect consciousness to this spiritual core.

Other than prayers asking for the strength of mind to resist temptation, the courage to confront the causes of suffering and the wisdom to recognize the foolishness of trying to change those things beyond my ability, self-serving prayers are merely wishful thinking. However, prayers reflecting one’s concerns about other’s needs may reveal opportunities to act on their behalf. Prayers of this kind are never in vain even when it seems that they have not produced preferred outcomes, for at the very least they increase our consciousness of the interconnection of all things material and spiritual.

snowberry's avatar

I prefer to answer questions like this by PM because of the heckling nature of people on this site. At the request of another jelly I am posting it. We’ll see how it goes this time.

As most of you know who I am a Bible believing Christian, and you know that there are many different belief systems inside of what people recognize as Christianity.

I don’t pray to get something. It doesn’t work to try to manipulate God. I pray to have a relationship with God. Yes, sometimes I pray because I need something, but I don’t pray “in order to” get it. Sometimes I pray because I want to know what God wants me to do. Sometimes I pray for the needs of somebody else. It’s a give and take relationship.

I like this quote. “Christians shouldn’t just look like people going to heaven. They should look like people coming from heaven with the gifts of heaven.” I first heard this from from a preacher in 2000. His ministry saved my marriage, and I really live it.

rojo's avatar

@snowberry wonderful quote.

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