The biggest complaint atheists have about prayer — at least when it comes to praying for something as opposed to mere meditation — is that it makes you think you’re doing something useful when you’re totally not.
Catholic blogger Meg Hunter-Kilmer has a list of 50 ways people can talk to God. I’m not calling attention to it because she’s advocating for prayer (a Catholic is acting Catholic? Shocking!), but because some of her examples are so obviously useless for the task they’re trying to accomplish.
Close your eyes and just repeat the name of Jesus.
Our God is a good God… a good, egomaniacal God who wants you to repeat his Son’s name ad nauseam. (Which, by the way, is kind of hard to do. Try it.)
Hold a crucifix while you pray.
If God wasn’t listening before, I seriously doubt he’s going to listen while you hold an instrument of torture in your hands.
Pray over pictures of starving children. Ache for them as Christ aches for you.
Your prayers are literally doing nothing for those children. You want to help? Send money. Or food. Or adopt them. Reciting incantations over their images helps no one.
Go through the motions if it’s the best you can do. It’s better than nothing.
Actually, it’s worse than nothing. Going through the motions when you don’t believe in what you’re doing is a waste of your time — I did this myself when I realized I was losing my faith. Unsure of whether or not I still believed in God, I hedged my bets and said my prayers with my arms folded properly, even though I sorta knew in the back of my head that no one was listening. It’s one thing to do that in a period of transition. But why bother when you’re just not feeling it? Go do something more useful with your time.
You have nothing to gain by following any of these suggestions. If you want to change something in your life that’s within reach, then go take some action. Talking into space, even with the best of intentions, won’t change anything.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Austin for the link)