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LostInParadise's avatar

Why should praying make a difference?

Asked by LostInParadise (31905points) 1 month ago

If there is a God then this God knows if you are suffering and whether it would be appropriate to intercede on your behalf by performing a miracle. Why should it be necessary to ask for assistance? Is this God so vain as to requred a direct request, perhaps accompanied by statements telling how woderful he is?

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22 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

And therein lies the rub…

elbanditoroso's avatar

Prayer is a chimera. It may make the sufferer feel better by passing off responsibility to a supposed higher power, but that’s it.

My prayer doesn’t obligate any deity to respond to my prayers, nor to act in the way that I would like. But god gets a pass on that too, because people say “it is god’s will” – which is a huge cop-out. Why would god will someone to suffer and die?

Prayer is a psychological panacea for the person praying. Nothing more.

LostInParadise's avatar

So it makes no difference iwhether or not there is a God. You get the same psychological benefit from praying and believing in a God who acts on prayers.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@LostInParadise that’s my opinion.; I like how you restated it. Others will disagree.

seawulf575's avatar

Praying is the way we show acceptance of God. Jesus said (in Matthew chapter 6) that praying is not to be done to show others how holy you are. He suggested, rather, that you pray in private and when you do you pray like:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil.

This prayer does a number of things. It acknowledges the One (obviously you believe if you are praying to Him), it acknowledges His holiness and it acknowledges your subservience to His wishes and plans. It then goes on to you, as the petitioner, for God to provide what you are asking for. And even then it shows you are not just asking for hand-outs. Asking for forgiveness of your debts has the caveat of as we forgive others. In other words, if you aren’t following the rules, you will get treated as you treat others.

Does God know all your needs? Yep. Just because he knows them, you have your role to play. And just because you want something and pray about it, sometimes the answer is no. Just like with being a good parent: you know what your children need. You provide for them to help them be the best adults they can be…to be quality human beings. But your kids will come to you telling you all the things they “need”. Some of those things might be needs (I’m outgrowing my shoes) but others might not be (I need the new iPhone). It is your decision as the parent to give them what they need but not spoil them.

janbb's avatar

If it feels like it makes a difference to the person praying, I’m fine with it but please don’t ask me to pray for something or to someone.

filmfann's avatar

I am a Christian, and I believe in prayer.
God knows what you need, or want, but if He just gave it to you without your acknowledging it comes from him, how would you know?
I think a bit of contrition and surrender to God’s infinite wisdom and love is best.
I have seen the power of prayer, and I accept that He sometimes says No.

jca2's avatar

I believe in God. I don’t pray very often and I’m not very religious.

I don’t question others’ beliefs or judge them, when it comes to their religion. I wouldn’t question someone who was a fundamentalist Christian any more than I would question a Hindu or a Sikh or a Jehovah’s Witness or a Pagan or a Wiccan or an Atheist or an Agnostic or a Buddhist or a Jewish person.

I know on Fluther, about 15 years ago, there were lots of discussions about religion and a few people (who I don’t think are here on Fluther any more) used to be very vocal about making fun of Christian beliefs.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I pray to express gratitude, to express remorse or ask for forgiveness, and if a problem is out of my hands I ask God to intervene according to His will.

We are to pray without ceasing, talk to our God as our Father and friend. I can’t answer the question for others, only for myself.

If it didn’t work, or if I had not received intercession, I wouldn’t be doing it still.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

I think it was CS Lewis who said, I don’t pray because it changes God, I pray because it changes me. I like what he says and I think it’s very appropriate.

kevbo1's avatar

A spiritual awakening is the inevitable result of consistent and earnest prayer. Earnest prayer is prayer that comes from the heart.

Who is the “you” in your question? You might say this is a personal “you,” one that is caught up in exerting will to make things happen and is suffering as a result. But you may have had moments where you experienced another “you” that is more like a higher self that likely isn’t struggling and more just watching things unfold. If so, does that higher self also suffer? If you’ve experienced more than one “you,” then which one is the real you? Which is the greater? Earnest prayer or asking for assistance brings your attention toward one and away from the other. A spiritual awakening is seeing with clarity the answer to the question of which one is the real you.

One of my early and smaller-stakes experiences where prayer made a difference was a period after I recognized that I’d always had anxiety-driven dreams (couldn’t get to the place I was supposed to go or find the person I was supposed to find—that kind of thing). For a few weeks, before falling asleep, I asked (prayed) for better dreams. What I got wasn’t better dreams, but after a time, I found myself being at peace within the dream instead of feeling anxiety. Continuing to follow that vein of prayer led to other significant changes in my life.

@gorillapaws, there’s a nuance in your citation that is important. The study is about receiving intercessory prayer. It doesn’t measure to the patient praying themselves.

gorillapaws's avatar

@kevbo1 “The study is about receiving intercessory prayer. It doesn’t measure to the patient praying themselves.”

Correct. It would be impossible to design a double-blind study where the patient was unaware if they were really praying or not.

Furthermore It’s arguable that the claim isn’t truly falsifiable, as a believer in God may simply claim that he/she/it didn’t like being tested so didn’t work miracles “this time,” but that it would work if it wasn’t being formally studied (and it’s even conceivable they’d be right—the point is that it reaches past the boundaries of the scientific method).

Dutchess_III's avatar

I gave up on religion many years ago but praying is like meditation. It calms and sooths.

LostInParadise's avatar

@seawulf575 , The analogy between God and parents is faulty. God always knows what we want, whether we pray for it or not. It is not always possible for a parent to know what a child wants unless the child asks for it.

seawulf575's avatar

@LostInParadise That is true. But then there could be no analogy to God by that reasoning. However, the idea that you don’t always give your children what they ask for or every time they ask for it is very applicable. I don’t believe God does that and I don’t believe that everyone who prays does it with humility and acceptance of their place in the grand scheme of things. Some people view prayer as a wish list. Wish for it and it will be given to you. If it isn’t given to you then God obviously doesn’t care. That sort of thing.

kritiper's avatar

Praying does nothing except, maybe, make you feel better.

Brian1946's avatar


”...please don’t ask me to pray for something or to someone.”

I feel the same way.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Blue Bloods, but that’s why I’d never go to any of those theocratic Reagan dinners. ;-)

zenvelo's avatar

We discussed efficacy of prayer in an AA meeting last night, based on this writing of member’s experience:

“As an atheist, I faked prayer on a trial basis in the beginning. The results have altered my viewpoint of the cosmos. An unseen realm does exist. I do not attend church, nor have I experienced a spiritual awakening; I’m still a fire-breathing cynic. Yet I pray regularly to something unseen and so vast that I, as a human being, can never understand or even name it.

I pray because of the positive results that flow from prayer. I’m a pragmatist. So for today, I have become an agnostic, who occasionally experiences violent swings toward faith. With all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me in a year and a half, I still experience doubts and have not made that quantum leap to faith.

All this proves only one thing: that some nuts are tougher to crack than others. Today, I’m still faking prayer and getting results. ”

Forever_Free's avatar

It is cathartic communication even if nobody receives your message. Think it, speak it, or write it.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am a big believer in writing down feelings. It can help clarify what I am feeling. It also helps to combat compusive thinking. I don’t have to go through again what I spent time writing down. I do not, however, feel the need to address my thoughts to some supreme being.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I’m not religious but prayer is a way of mentally coping and replacing negative feelings with positive ones. It can be highly effective in making people feel content with not being in control.

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