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  • Tag Archives prayer
  • distracted

    Though I’m pretty godless I still pray once in a while (because I’ve experienced too much of the spiritual world to be an atheist).  I find now that I’m more distracted with my eyes closed than open (because my mind is in overdrive).  So I pray with my eyes open.

  • On Prayer Working

    One can ask am I taking this bike ride to get me somewhere or am I taking it to get some exercise.  One is doing both simultaneously but is usually focused on one or the other.  In the same way it is helpful to tease out the components of prayer, the spiritual and the kinetic.  The prayer is a spiritual action but may be priming you to do some good that couldn’t come about by appeal to the divine (because God can’t counter free will).  For example prayer for a job.  When you pray for a job you are asking free will to be preempted.  The only way the prayer can be answered is the person being primed to help and work connections.

  • Power Struggle

    I find, on analysis of my thoughts that a large number of them and possibly the majority involve a power struggle.  I’m trying to get someone in power to take my ideas seriously because I think they are more well thought through than the existing ideas.  And prayer?  All that is is a power struggle with God to try to get him give you want you want.

  • Prayer and Privileged Social Networks

    Another wrinkle in the problem of the efficacy of prayer is the fact that most of the good things in life (jobs, friends, etc..) come through being connected to privileged informal social networks (usually consisting of people of privilege).  When one does not have access to said networks one can pray but the prayer is to change someone in power’s heart, not a prayer that has an easy shot at being answered.

  • Countering Free Will and the Declining Efficacy of Prayer

    When one brings up the problem of evil (probably the worst problem there is, especially when it’s your problem) Christians trot out free will as why suffering is necessary.  However they are not hesitant to use prayer to try to counter people’s free will (to get people to act justly or in their favor).  From what I gather it’s harder for God to change people than non human actors and factors.  As humans have mastered more and more of the world, the problem of evil is more and more on us.  For example we weren’t culpable for stopping the 1349 black plague because we had no technology to do so but we are more so for the 2014 Ebola epidemic in west Africa (an Ebola vaccine research idled for ten years because a disease that only affected the most remote parts of Africa wasn’t a priority).  As the culpability for the problem of evil falls ever more on us we need to redirect more and more of our prayers towards changing people.  And these prayers are less likely to work hence the decline in the efficacy of prayer.

  • Prayer

    Praying in Faith
    Long ago, I lost the luxury of being able to pray without faith.  While you may think praying in faith is a sign of spiritual maturity, for me it was just a sign of desperation.  I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere in this ableism-soaked world without Red-Sea-parting divine intervention.  I don’t think praying in faith is expecting what you get, I think it is more akin to the analogy below:

    Imagine feeling quite ill with some kind of a disease; you have no idea what it is.  Fortunately that day you are visiting a friend who is a doctor.  During the visit you never successfully steer the conversation towards your illness.  After the visit you’d most likely experience emotional pain and this would show that you had faith in your friend’s ability as a doctor.

    And therein lies the gotcha–it HURTS to pray in faith.  It is a lot less hurtful to pray without faith and if I had that ability I think it might have saved me from leaving Christianity.

    Public Prayer
    Imagine a basketball team with players so insecure that they never attempted a shot unless it was at such an easy vantage point that they were sure it would go in, or so far from the basket that it wouldn’t hurt their self-esteem if they missed because there was no chance of the ball going in anyway.  I feel the church is like this with prayer.  They tend to reserve prayer for crises that are likely to be resolved and situations so desperate, no one will be offended if the prayer goes unanswered.  The chronic conditions (which generally don’t respond kindly to prayer) get overlooked.  When was the last time you heard your pastor pray for someone with chronic unemployment, chronic pain, or a disability that continually destroyed their livelihood.  Chances are, you haven’t, and for a good reason.  If we prayed for things like this, it would give us a more realistic picture of prayer’s effectiveness.  A picture none of us would like to see.


    Why Prayer is Counterproductive

    Prayer makes you think you did something when you didn’t do anything.  Doing something that does nothing is not harmful in and of itself.  What is harmful is when you think the thing you did (that didn’t do anything) did something.  You do this thing at the expense of things that could have done something.  For example, you think, because you signed an online petition to recall a Republican governor (which does nothing) you don’t have to sign an actual paper petition (that does something).

    Prayer engenders a frame of mind not conducive to solving problems.  Rationality and goal-orientation are generally agreed upon ways of tackling tasks.  Prayer teaches us to “have faith”.  Specifying a timeframe for a prayer’s answer or progress targets is considered a lack of faith (and can nullify the prayer).  However, these things are just what are needed when one goes about approaching a problem logically.  Worse, the frame of mind prayer produces can often cause us to gloss over others’ problems–”God” must be taking care of it–as opposed to the skeptic who might ask for an updated, rationality-generated progress report.

    Prayer engenders this pernicious idea that life is not a zero-sum game.  A zero-sum game is this idea that there are limited resources–that we all can’t have everything because the cosmos would have no way of sustaining it–and that me having something often necessitates you lacking it.  For example, you and a spouse are sleeping together on a cold night and there is one blanket on the bed which is only big enough to keep one of you fully warm.  The idea of prayer is that God is some celestial chef ready to cook you up anything out of nothing.  But in most cases when your prayer is answered it is at the expense of someone else.  For example, when you get that good job, someone else stays unemployed.  When you get that nice house, you outbid someone else who has to rent, when you get that beautiful wife, someone else ends up single for longer if not indefinitely.  On a more global level Christians have been taught to subdue the earth and that God creates good things out of nothing.  This idea has permeated American culture to the detriment of the environment.

    Prayer adds to the weight of ableism.  Individuals with disabilities in Christian circles are often looked down upon because they somehow couldn’t get their disability prayed away.

    More on prayer.