Why Pray?

38 posts

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The concept of prayer has always bothered me, especially in the Chistian tradition, or anywhere else that supports the idea of a nearly or fully omniscient god (as a quick aside, I was looking, and I actually can’t find a Bible passage that definitively says God is omniscient – can anyone cite one?).

If God knows everything, why pray? He knows what you’re thinking, what you know, what you desire. So when you pray you’re not communicating anything to him.

So, the purpose of prayer then is to convince God to do something? How egotistical are we? God’s planning on killing someone, but then a bunch of people pray for the person’s life so God says “Oh, I suppose I was wrong, let’s let him live…”. Riiiight… I heard about a church that’s doing a “24-hour prayer drive” to pray for…something, I don’t remember. Is their intent truly to change the will of God?

I can certainly understand the psychological benefits of prayer, but I don’t think that’s usually the reason that people consciously do it.

 
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I left a message in your profile.

but on topic [raying has always been a way to communicate with God, or gods depending on which religion your in, but other than that I don’t know. Some people find comfort in it.

 
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But communication isn’t necessary as God knows everything, and people seem to clearly think they can change the world through prayer, which to me implies that they think they can tell God how to do his job.

 
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Like Phatcat said, prayer to most is simply a way to talk to God. Further many find that it helps in becoming closer to God and self-actualizing.

 
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I typically consider myself agnostic, but I’ve been known to pray, and to communicate via thought/prayer to the dead at viewings/funerals. Reason? Well, I guess it’s because it doesn’t hurt to try — and it’s better than doing nothing.

 
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If you’re a parent, you can probably tell what your children want without them asking. However you’d rather they ask you for things than expect them. That’s if God is comparable to a parent.

 
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So does that imply that God will change his mind or be swayed by prayer?

 
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So does that imply that God will change his mind or be swayed by prayer?

according to the old-testament he is forgiving, “if you ask than you will receive”

so yea but then again if he knows everything then he’ll have already forgiven you because he knew you were gonna ask :P

 
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Possibly, but I’d see it as possible for God to decide “If they ask, I’ll do it, if they don’t then I won’t”, i.e. not really changing his mind but taking into account that his little creations have asked.

You could probably lump things into 4 categories. Some things you won’t give no matter what (you life savings), some you will give no matter what (your time to comfort someone). Then some things you’d give to someone who asked (a lighter for their cigarette) and some things you would have given if not asked you wouldn’t if you were (a kiss?).

 
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Phatcat, that’s an interesting point too:

John 16:23 And in that day you shall not ask me any thing. Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto, you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.

Yet many prayers go unanswered…hmmm…

I suppose it really struck me with prayer groups doing “prayer drives” because they somehow thing it will enact a change. It just seems like faulty logic. And, slightly off-topic, I hate that sports teams will pray for victory. If I was Christian I’d be offended by that. What a waste of God’s time!!

Kyriva: Possibly, but I’d see it as possible for God to decide “If they ask, I’ll do it, if they don’t then I won’t”, i.e. not really changing his mind but taking into account that his little creations have asked.

That’s one of the better arguments I’ve heard for prayer. God’s decision is not to do something, but rather to do something based on the actions of his believers. I’m not sure what I think of that – will have to ponder.

 
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I left another whisper.

Prayer Drives never heard of them…I can guess what they are but based on my understanding of the bible they don’t sound like they are the best choice i.e really worth doing.

 
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My opinion of prayer is that is just a way for people to do nothing and feel good about it or at least not feel responsible for not doing anything. “Its in God’s hands now.”

Phoenix: I always used to wonder about that when I was a child. No one has ever been able to explain it.

 
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I’ve never heard of a satisfactory answer to why people should pray or why God should be worshipped, and I’ve put it to several vicars and divinity teachers.

 
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Speaking of prayer drives (although I hadnt known about them before). Take a look at this:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/story/0,25642,23634833-5014108,00.html

 
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Any person with the faith they’re supposed to have in traditional religion is not meant to question it, and the abstinence thereof makes them uncomfortable to approach it. I see most phenomena as psychological; I believe it serves as a wonderfully delusional comfort mechanism. Were it not for tradition, prayer would be considered a symptom of schizophrenia or other psychopathology.

 
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More than anything, I think the concept of prayer just goes back to the basic psychology from which religion was created in the first place.

It basically boils down to people not being happy, and wanting change through a supernatural force. Our ancestors were unhappy with the idea of mortality, so they basically willed religion into existence. It’s sort of like the Stephen Colbert “truthiness” concept, of creating facts about what you want to be reality.

As a species, we created religion as a strong desire to take control of how we view our existence. It doesn’t really make sense, but the logic is the same as the logic behind prayer — someone is upset that his brother is sick in the hospital, so he takes control by strongly willing for his brother to recover, through a supernatural force. I think that the psychological process is pretty much the same as the origin of the religion itself.

From a logical standpoint, no, it doesn’t make sense. But then neither does religion in the first place.

 
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I have conflicting thoughts about your post, greg. While I agree that religion does help us feel more in control and explain the unknown (whether true or not), I don’t think that it was necessarily created for that purpose. I do believe that there was a man named Jesus who did many of the things in the Bible. The religion was created from his teachings and feats (or magic tricks depending on interpretation), but it caught on because of the psychology you’re talking about. In other words, I have a hard time believing someone just sat down and “created” the story of Jesus and the Holy Trinity (seriously, who could even come up with that without drugs??), but perhaps that’s not what you meant.

I was thinking a little more about it, and the psychology of prayer is intensely powerful. For humans, the most psychologically addictive and effective training is random/occasional positive reinforcement (I can’t remember if it also works with negative reinforcement). This is seen with gambling, where you win (huge positive reinforcement) occasionally but not always. Prayer offers this same type of random reinforcement and thus would provide a very psychologically satisfying result when it succeeds.

However, in addition to this, when one does not get a prayer answered, you can acknowledge that God meant for it turn out differently. This is also very psychologically satisfying because it makes you feel special in the eyes of God, even if you didn’t receive favor. Many people would rather feel that they are acknowledged by God and receive a poor lot in life rather than being ignored by God. It means that you are special and noteworthy and that there is a purpose to your life and what has happened to it.

 
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Religion was around LONG before Jesus, long before the written word, and in pretty much every society that’s ever existed. Haven’t you played “telephone”? It’s not hard to see how “wouldn’t it be cool if…” could transform to “it is the divine truth that…” pretty quickly, especially when the latter aligns pretty well with how humans wish the universe worked.

 
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Praying is like slipping the doorman a twenty to get on the reservation list.

 
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I’m fine if people pray, its a lot better than fanatically attacking other religions.

 
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i agree with strawman

 
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Woah, Greg changed his avatar? What IS it, anyway?

>Religion was around LONG before Jesus, long before the written word, and in pretty much every society that’s ever existed. Haven’t you played “telephone”? It’s not hard to see how “wouldn’t it be cool if…” could transform to “it is the divine truth that…” pretty quickly, especially when the latter aligns pretty well with how humans wish the universe worked.

I’m not sure about your telephone metaphor, because the story of Jesus is still a pretty far fetched tale to just invent as a story, though if it was changing to the truth could be possible. But the initial creation of the story was, I believe, Phoenix’s point. You do bring up a point by saying that religion was around before Jesus: It could just be tradition based on the romans/greeks, who had the gods, IIRC, to have “human” qualities and not have omniscience (praying to Poseidon for a safe trip, praying to Athena for prowess in war, Artemis for hunting or for yourself as a single woman, etc.) who would take heed to the prayers if they were directed towards them.

 
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I would think that if I prayed, it would be mostly for guidance, as I can’t really see how a god could change things in a material sense without breaking the concept of free-will (and, if it does turn out he can change things, there is all the death and suffering in the world he has to account for).

 
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Woah, Greg changed his avatar? What IS it, anyway?

baby possum?

 
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Sorry, off topic; but it’s a sugar glider.

But just to throw in something on topic, there have been studies conducted with random number generators in relation to prayer and meditation and it has been discovered that such acts can in fact influence the outcome of such devices. They have a nice bit on it in “What the Bleep: Down the Rabbit Hole”. I will look for some online references to provide, but this delves more into the realm of quantum physics and would answer the question ‘Why should people pray?’ not ‘Why do people pray?’.