Given recent events, there is much that the religious community feels is worthy of prayer. Between the rising death count in Nepal, the state of violence in Baltimore, and the general level of entropy that seems to be the status quo for our world, there is more prayer sentimentalized on Facebook, Twitter, and in casual conversation than I remember hearing before.
It would be too easy, I think, to slap down prayer for its obviously blasé method of contribution. Besides, that is a song that has been justifiably sung many times before, such as in the meme below:
But the true problem with intercessory prayer is that, even if you were to give the theist the complete benefit of the doubt and assume that all the standards on which prayer is based are real, prayer would still be an ineffective method of giving aid in worldly issues.
Primarily, it must be assumed that, in the monotheistic mentality, prayer is offered to an omniscient, omnipotent deity, one that has by many accounts “a plan”, and that such a plan must have been constructed by the utilization of omniscience and omnipotence. Therefore, when one offers a prayer for intercession, for whatever purpose that will result in a change in the material universe, that prayer is either in accordance (by chance or otherwise) with the plan that god has made, or it isn’t.
If the ends of that prayer are in tandem with the plan that god has already set in motion an infinite amount of time ago, then your prayer is meaningless to achieve said ends.
If the desired outcome of your prayer is not within this plan, do you truly think that your voice will alter a scheme that was carefully crafted by an all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe? What rhetoric do you think you employ to make such an awesome creature reconsider the logic of his predetermination?
In other words, prayer is little more than lip service even for those who actually believe in the god to whom they pray. It would serve the faithful and humanity in whole much better to quit assuming that quiet and lazy thought will offer material help to those in need. Prayer, in this way, is doubly narcissistic, as the one who prays rarely does so without bannering it in some fashion, advertising that they have done something to help.
Lastly, it may be offered that the smallest of material actions, by definition, must serve a greater good than prayer does, as even “sharing” a news story on a Facebook feed, while being composed of the sometimes absent-minded click of a button, at least can be said to spread awareness, to proliferate information, to further inform. As tired as we all are of pseudo-concerned outrage cluttering up our newsfeeds, and impotent rants pinging our phones, we can at least give them the distinction of being infinitely more useful than those conversations which happen only in the heads of those who think they’re sharing concern with the almighty–then bragging however “humbly” about it afterward.
(Image: ABureauPhoto / Creative Commons)