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ragingloli's avatar

Assuming there was some kind of god that listens to and answers prayers, would someone who prays ever know the difference between an unanswered prayer and a "no"?

Asked by ragingloli (49145points) April 6th, 2020

Or do they interpret every silence as “I did not pray hard enough.”?

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28 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

No. Unanswered prayers means there’s a greater plan that only God knows. We trust that.
Speaking for myself, God is rarely silent and often louder and more pushy than I’d like ha!

stanleybmanly's avatar

If He hears & knows it all, there’s no difference between an unanswered prayer and no

Jeruba's avatar

I’m not one of those people, but I’ve lived a good part of my life among them. Some of them do recognize a distinction clearly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an honest, devout person say, often in so many words: “God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is no.”

This is often accompanied by a story in which a person prayed earnestly for something that was not granted, only to find that what eventuated was what they really needed—“I didn’t know what I needed, and God did.” Sometimes what they got instead was a lesson.

I don’t doubt those people’s sincerity in this, not if I find them sincere otherwise—people such as my grandparents and other relatives. And they aren’t necessarily crazy or stupid either. As has been written in numerous books and articles, smart people aren’t immune to irrational beliefs. Rather, intelligence makes them really, really good at defending beliefs they arrive at emotionally.

seawulf575's avatar

The difference between an unanswered prayer and a “no” is pretty simple. The unanswered prayer will eventually be answered. A “no” is a clear cut answer. Sometimes, it is not God’s answer, but the prayer that is the problem. God doesn’t treat prayers like a wish list. You can pray for the winning lottery numbers and then not get them. That isn’t a prayer, it is a wish. Prayer goes along with your relationship with God. He has told us what He expects out of us and has promised to watch over us.

LostInParadise's avatar

Since God knows what we want, what we need and what we deserve, why do we have to ask for anything? Isn’t a prayer just a way of sucking up to God, telling him how wonderful he is and how appreciative you would be to have your small wish granted?

LostInParadise's avatar

Put differently, who are we to advise God as to what he should do? What arrogance! If I were God, I would not only not answer prayers, but I would cancel prior plans to help people if they were so insubordinate as to advise me as to what I should do.

kritiper's avatar

No, since most people pray for things they want for themselves.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lost It’s for gratitude, forgiveness and asking for help with particular struggles. I know people here like to joke about religion more often than not, but I’m answering seriously just in case you’re a bit more openminded.

LostInParadise's avatar

When you pray, you are asking God to change his mind. Otherwise there would be no need for prayer. What makes you think that you know better than God what he should do? Pure arrogance!

zenvelo's avatar

Prayer is an opening o fetch heart to the Creator’s love, and finding the Cretaor’s love within oneself.

Prayed for something one wants without love is never answered. The only answered prayers are those which expand the heart with God’s love.

Jeruba's avatar

Today Trump says of Boris Johnson: “Americans are all praying for his recovery.” No, we’re not! I vehemently reject the presumption that we are all praying, no matter for what. I hope Johnson recovers, but nobody has any business asserting on my behalf that I am calling upon any deity for anything at all.

One of the things I have noticed over time is that the atheists among us are generally pretty tolerant of the believers, but that the tolerance tends not to go both ways. Believers typically don’t mind trying to force their convictions on others. But I’ll take a sincere, principled believer any day over a phony who treats religion as nothing but a useful prop.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lost You are entitled to keep repeating your belief as fact but you couldn’t be more wrong in my opinion. Prayer isnt a wish list at all, its communion.

LostInParadise's avatar

A communion in which you tell God what he should do. If it makes you feel good then do it, but there are only two possibilities. Either God was going to do what you request, in which case the prayer makes no difference, or God has already decided not to do what you request, and again saying a prayer makes no difference.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise Throughout history humans have been supplicants to their gods, building temples and bringing gifts to show gratitude and submission.

Your whole concept of religion seems completely backwards to me, based on history and my own experience in multiple religions.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is a mistake lump in pagan gods with the Christian God. The pagan gods were far from perfect. They could act out of rage or jealousy. It made good sense to try to appease them. The Christian God is perfect, or so I have been told. This is at all times the best of all possible worlds. The Christian God does not need to make decisions based on our prayers. He already knows our needs and wants.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lost Well He sent Jesus to better understand the human condition so to me, that’s an admission of lack of empathy to some degree. He is most definately a jealous and wrathful God, too. Only people who disregard the bible entirely could conclude otherwise, as many examples are given.

My understanding of pagan gods is much the same. Obey or reap the repercussions.

LostInParadise's avatar

Do you think this is the best of all possible worlds?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise Not at all, I tend to think of this as Purgatory actually. Do you?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Pangloss aside, isn’t it pointless to assign motives to an omnipotent god? Where has this one stated a lack of understanding of his own creation? If the “flaws” in the creation are apparently inherent in its design, whose fault is that? And what possible need for a 3rd party to investigate the matter? The whole concoction makes no sense. And the Bible? The old testament is clearly little more than a rolling horror story concocted keep the flawed “creation” in line through the promise of stark naked terror,

LostInParadise's avatar

@KNOWITALL , I am an atheist and don’t know how to compare one possible universe to another. Your view of life being like purgatory is not one I have seen before from a Christian. If you see God as a jealous and perhaps capricious being, able to persuaded by flattery, then prayer would make sense.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise Any world where babies, animals and old people are raped and murdered every day is not a world I would call paradise.

As far as Purgatory, I mean that the concept of Valhalla, Fólkvangr back to ancient Egyptians and what it took to reap your rewards in the afterlife (aka Heaven) is common in most cultures/religions. What’s really fascinating to me is what determines if you go to ‘hell’ or not ie Tartarus and Niflhel.

That’s probably part of the reason I find atheists intriguing. It’s much more common to believe than it is not to believe, even now.

Here’s an interesting article:

I don’t really see prayer as flattery as much as gratitude but yes, the bible does say God is a jealous god in several places.

Exodus 20:5 ESV
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t understand why you would include a link to an article saying that religious decline is the key to economic development. On the face of it, that would appear to be an argument against religion, unless you think there is something wrong with economic development.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise Because many athiests won’t talk to Christians openly because they think we are all science deniers.
Like politics, I try to examine all aspects dispassionately out of curiosity. The decline of religious belief is interesting.

ragingloli's avatar

You should watch “The Atheist Experience”.
It is hosted by a former fundamentalist Baptist, and basically all they do is debate with christians that are calling in.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ragingloli I will do that, thanks!

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ragingloli I’ll be honest with you, even the opening song is offensive. When will you start questioning and open your eyes, then Face Palm Sunday and cussing?

I’m looking for respectful intellectual conversation minus mocking if you know any other sites or shows with this format.

LogicHead's avatar

Your idea of prayer precludes the basic condition of Jesus, namely that you pray with perserverance
Consider St Monica All she wanted was for Augustine to quit his perverted ways.
She prayed and prayed and prayed. The final answer: Just about the greatest mind of all Christianity turned to Jesus

For nearly two decades, Saint Monica prayed for her wayward son. Years and years of prayers, seemingly unanswered. Countless tears shed with no relief. Yet she would not give up.

That very act of persistent prayer blessed the entire Church, for we have all benefitted from the conversion of her son, Augustine, who became one of the most revered saints of all time.

Brian1946's avatar


”...Face Palm Sunday….”

Isn’t any Sunday, when someone demonstratively reacts to a person they feel is exasperatingly obtuse, Face Palm Sunday? ;-)

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