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Aethelwine's avatar

Is a prayer from an agnostic meaningful?

Asked by Aethelwine (41229points) January 9th, 2017

I’ve struggled with the concept of prayer since I was a child. I have an empathetic soul, but I’m not religious. I was raised without a religion, but my parents were open to me learning from my friends who were.

There have been many times when I prayed (wished?) for a good outcome for someone suffering. I know of a young boy, age 7, who has been battling cancer for 3 years and he’s struggling right now. His cancer has spread and he will undergo an 8 hour surgery tomorrow to remove some of the tumor from his spine.

Is my agnostic prayer meaningful?

Is it a prayer or just wishful thinking from me?

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26 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

A simple prayer does not carry more water because it is backed by a particular religion. People pray for a myriad of reasons. I may not believe in baby Jesus but I believe in the power of prayer. Prayer can be a very powerful message.

cookieman's avatar

It certainly couldn’t hurt. And good thoughts from a good person such as yourself can only be positive energy whether you’re religious or not.

I hope his surgery goes well.

Pachy's avatar

I believe Believers and Non-Believers alike can benefit from praying, because I consider the effort of prayer a positive motivating talk with one’s inner self.

If it happens to reach the ears of a greater power, all the better.

JLeslie's avatar

I think don’t overthink it. If you feel compelled to pray, wish, meditate, or hope for the best for someone then that’s ok by me. I think people who do believe in the power of prayer, believe all positive thoughts counts. That it’s not just asking God, but that the energy of asking helps. If that makes them, or you, feel better, then at minimum it is working in that way.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It depends what your goal is in praying.

If you intend for your prayer to make you or others around you feel better, or to change your mood or your mindset, then regardless of whether any higher power is listening, your prayer is meaningful. In fact, it may have these effects even if this was not your intent.

In other words, if something motivates you to pray, there is probably some benefit to you or others, even if it cannot actually affect the boy’s health.

Personally, I would rather channel that motivation into something I wouldn’t call “prayer”; I’d perhaps meditate or talk or listen to others, which is basically the same thing, without pretending I’m speaking to someone that I don’t believe exists.

Nostromo's avatar

In my opinion no prayer (“directed wishing,” if you will) is ever wasted. It’s an outward expression of deep concern for the wellbeing of another person. The fact that you’re an agnostic is completely irrelevant.

I wonder, though, how a positive or negative ‘result’ would affect your agnosticism.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

That is tricky, I am going to take it as effective in influencing an outcome, from that perspective, I would say if the agnostic stepped out of their usual modus operandi and believed and had faith they were praying to God who could intercede, and then it would be meaningful. What some mistakenly believe is that a prayer need have no faith behind it. If you have no faith that the one you pray to can do anything, the prayer is hollow. If you are praying to something that has no power to intercede, the prayer is useless, you might as well pray to a fire hydrant, it can do as much as any entity, object, idol, token, etc. that has no power. To pray without any direction or to any entity that is omnipotent and sovereign, who is there to hear and act on it?

arzikass's avatar

Religious Experience or Sacred Experience, although having “religious” in the name, has little to do with religion. It is something more eternal than the religion itself. It is something put in the man’s soul since far far ago. The eternal moment of old.
Prayer is the only way to connect to that eternal moment. Do not miss it! I hope that little boy will gain his health again.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I think your prayer must be as meaningful as any other. I mean even a mathematician will buy an occasional lottery ticket. As my Jewish friend tells me “It can’t hurt”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think it is meaningful. The simple act of praying has noted mental health benefits. You can just pray into the void of nothingness and are probably doing yourself some good.

Pandora's avatar

Only you know if it is a prayer or wishful thinking. I believe that God hears an honest request. Now whether he will answer the way you wish is another matter. I have been blessed several times with answered prayers and each time my prayers were sincere and even when it helped me out, I truly was concerned for someone else. I believe he knows what is in our heart but at times our prayers may not align with what is to be. He will know if you believe or not and why you pray. When I pray for a love one, I often ask for his protection over them and I pray it is his will to cure them or to take away their suffering and comfort those who are in pain who love the person.

Bill1939's avatar

Animals have an instinctive nature that promotes the survival of the individual and its specie. However, we have the ability to empathize with others. I consider this ability to be a spiritual nature. Even if there is no higher power to respond to it, prayer shifts our consciousness from our animal nature to our spiritual nature.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Is any prayer meaningful?

The question is: are you praying for God (or some external force) to do something? Or is prayer for your benefit – to comfort you and make you feel better about some situation.

What are your expectations when you pray?

LostInParadise's avatar

Don’t overthink this. Prayer is a way of expressing your feelings when you have no control over the final outcome. If I were to be cynical about this, which I am not, I would say that a drowning man grasps at straws.

flutherother's avatar

It isn’t religion that gives prayer meaning it is prayer that gives religion meaning.

BellaB's avatar

@Nostromo , I’m quite taken with your phrase – directed wishing. That makes more sense to me than a lot of other ideas about prayer.

cazzie's avatar

I always write ‘sending you positive thoughts and warm hugs’ and I’m positive it is every bit as effective.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

If someone prays for me, it means that the person is thinking kindly about me. At least under my own beliefs, that’s as far as any prayer goes. But, those good thoughts are very meaningful and always get my gratitude.

When someone tells me, “I’ll pray for you,” I would never give a lecture about how I’m an atheist so please don’t bother. I just say, “Thank you.”

kritiper's avatar

Agnostic prayer is just wishful thinking and there is no harm in that. And no meaning, either. If it feels good, do it.

cazzie's avatar

@kritiper There is absolutely meaning in sending good wishes and thoughts to someone for Agnostics and Atheists. If you only think it can be done through some sort of deity, that is a self imposed handicap and quite a mean-stingy thought.

tinyfaery's avatar

Prayer has no outcome on reality. Keeping good thoughts helps you and the injured, if they know about it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“Prayer has no outcome on reality.”
If the person praying feels better I’d call that a positive outcome on reality.

BellaB's avatar

Given the research results, I would never tell anyone I was praying for them. Too dangerous.

kritiper's avatar

@cazzie I assume your assumption felt good.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’ve enjoyed your answers. Thank you.

tinyfaery's avatar

Feeling better is reality, but only the subject can determine if that is true.

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