Does Prayer Work If God is Not Listening?

Does Prayer Work If God is Not Listening? January 21, 2021


Here, we have another offering from Dana Horton looking at atheism and spirituality, again dealing with the subject of prayer:

Does Prayer Work If God is Not Listening?

(4 minute 30 second read)

Last week we outlined how the Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) taught us to pray in ministerial school. These steps may or may not work for people, but they were prescribed by the CSL Home office. No straying from the rules, please.

Moving on.

Traditional prayer. Sometimes we can be too quick to denounce traditional prayer, which is typically visualized as imploring an all-powerful God to change his (usually masculine gender) mind about something. Or maybe speed things up if He already agrees with us.

But, y’know, this type of praying has a lot of appeal. It can be intuitively appealing to visualize an anthropomorphic God who is listening to our individual needs. It can help us be specific in our thinking. And it can help us let go of the anxiety about a problem if we think an outside deity has got it covered.

Inevitably there will be times when we do not get what we want, no matter how hard we pray it up. Then what? If God is out there somewhere and He is making the best decisions for all concerned, then we have an ‘out’ if things are not coming our way: God has decided it is not time for our manifestation … yet. Or maybe He has decided that the prayer for the Lamborghini is not really for our highest good, and has decided to remain silent on the matter so we can figure that out for ourselves.

And for the record, we are not buying that unanswered prayer is a test of our faith. Why would a loving God need or want to play games with us like that?

Unanswered prayer if we are One with God. But unanswered prayer is a bigger challenge if we have a theological concept of being one with God. That means we are co-creating stuff along with God. If that is the case, we have to accept partial blame for our unanswered prayers. Crap.

Prayer and the Atheist. We assumed that prayer would not be a discussion issue for atheists. We were wrong. This week, we ran across an article posted by Sally Fritsche, an atheist in the chaplain program at the Harvard Divinity School (that seems like an oxymoron, but let’s go with it). Sally says:

But, with no God, what’s the difference between prayer and just reflecting on a concept in the privacy of your own head? And when I need help, or want to express gratitude, it would feel silly to turn to a listening ear I don’t believe actually exists. Why pray when no one’s there to hear me?

That quote is pretty much what we would expect from an atheist point of view. But Sally goes on to say how her entire viewpoint on prayer changed one night in the hospital (she’s a chaplain, remember) when she was asked by a family to pray with them as their father was dying. Sally went through the motions, still not believing she was praying to a spiritual being. But she witnessed the comfort and transformation that happened for the family she was praying with. In that moment prayer became, not a supplication to a deity, but a confirmation of our connection to one another.

Sally still does not pray on her own (there’s still no point to it for her). But she also no longer hides when someone wants prayer to help them through a tough situation.

Here’s the link for the story in her own words:

Wrapping up. We probably did not resolve anything here today. But damn if we didn’t create some new brain synapses for the next time someone brings up the power of prayer.

Dana Horton is from Ohio, United States and has recently retired as Director of Energy Markets a large utility company. In August 2019, he earned his ministerial license through a New Thought religious organization called Centers for Spiritual Living based in Denver, Colorado. He acted as interim minister at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living for several months afterward, where he learned a lot more about religious and spiritual organizations. At this time has no interest in returning to any formal religious structure. But he enjoys investigating spiritual principles, how they originated, and how they might be applicable to everyday living.

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