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“Prayers for (fill in the blank with truly unfortunate person’s name)…”


I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see no requests for prayers for someone on my Facebook feed.

However, in just a few hours, that changed quickly, as I predicted it eventually would.

Every other person in my life (note that I said “every other”) is touched by and believes in some sort of divine power, one that may-or-may-not bestow its influence and intervention upon someone or some event. The more prayers that person (or event) can accumulate, the more likely Something Positively Miraculous Will Happen.

Even more all-encompassing, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans pray every day*.

Bit of a gamble, yeah?

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand prayer, that expression of “the power of faith” whatsoever. It’s touching and well-meaning, of course. I can appreciate its sentiment. Those who pray and collect prayers en masse all WANT so very much to believe that things will change, things will come out for the better. They want the best to occur, and well, who the heck wouldn’t?

But when things falter, when bad things come crashing down on genuinely good people, what then?

Here’s my controversial disagreement with my dearest ones who pray:

Prayers don’t work. It’s magical thinking. It’s clapping-hands-believing-in-fairies-saving-Tinkerbell hoopla. Prayers don’t change what may be tragically inevitable.

There have even been (ridiculous) costly studies conducted to see if the effects of such miraculous thinking could result in positive outcomes upon hospital patients, like the infamous STEP study**, a massive waste of 2.5 million dollars***.  The study, as so obviously expected, could prove no feasible correlation between prayer and healing. And why is that? Well, because it Simply Isn’t Possible To Do. Again, it’s magical thinking, the thought of that sort of divine intervention coming to the rescue.

Prayers don’t work

Prayers didn’t help my mom while she was starved for O2.

Prayers didn’t help my elderly relatives who were too fragile to continue on.

Prayers didn’t help various friends who’d had devastating setbacks and/or had lost their own beloved family members.

Prayers didn’t help when the hurricanes hit, the tsunamis thundered down, the snowstorms raged, the tornadoes whirled and wrecked. Prayers did nothing for the victims.

Prayers didn’t help those who’d suffered from an economic downturn so devastating, they’re still trying to recover nearly a decade later.

Prayers didn’t help the victims of absolute evil, their families, their loved ones. Prayers may have seemed a comforting thought for their families at the time, and, again, the sentiment is evident, but even time itself doesn’t necessarily heal such raw wounds so deep within. How on earth would prayer help if time cannot?

Prayers. Didn’t. Help.

I am, somehow, supposed to understand that prayers conducted only by the faithful are inclined to have more power and meaning than those by those who aren’t particularly faithful. Still, there IS NO feasible, tangible, accurate evidence that shows any sort of correlation at all, that prayers actually work upon the disadvantaged. It does not exist at all.

So whenever I see a prayer request via email, text, or social media, I find myself unable to respond in the manner I think would be suitable, considering the circumstances. What I know I MUST do is offer my help in whatever way possible.

Then, inevitably comes the  “Thank you all for your help! Our prayers have been answered!” as if divine intervention was responsible for the decisions and actions of people.

(Sigh. Again, there is no proven correlation, kids.)





In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Agree to Disagree.”



*Lipka, M. 2015. 5 Facts About Prayer. (2015, May 6). Retrieved from

**Benson, J., J.A. Dusek, J.B Sherwood, P. Lain, C.E. Bethea et al. (2006.) Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Patients: A Multi-Center Randomized Trial of Uncertainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer. American Heart Journal. April, 151 (4): 934-942.

***Flamm, B. 2006. One Big Step: Another Major Study Confirms Distant Prayers Do Not Heal the Sick. Skeptical Inquirer. July-August, 30(4): 5.

15 thoughts on ““Prayers for (fill in the blank with truly unfortunate person’s name)…”

  1. Two things: first, what about the clash of prayers between those wanting diametric opposites (or both parties wanting the same lottery win), and secondly, in my years of enforced attendance at the boarding school chapel, there was always an out clause – ‘if it be Thy gracious will’ – which pretty much ensured He’d do what He had in mind anyway, so why were we faffing about?
    Praying for comfort/strength to endure is like an affirmation, I think. Practical outcomes? How do you even know what the ‘best’ practical outcome is?

    Liked by 2 people

    • If it’s a supposed “divine will” in charge of determining the “best” practical outcome, we’re not to say anyway, right? I’m just assuming this is how this all works, having had so little “divine” faith in much of anything these days.


  2. If outcomes are determined (as I was taught) as part of some kind of divine plan, what exactly are all these prayers for — for Him to change his mind? If there is a God, I’d hope its not part of any plan for people to suffer or that one isn’t expected to crawl on one’s face for mercy that might never come. That seems pretty sadistic if you ask me. Me and my father had a pretty voracious argument about that very thing once. People can do whatever they feel like they have to do go get through the day, of course. Just don’t pester the people who know better ;).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an appeal for prayer on my fb. Big cultural difference. I think when I encounter American tourists I assume they’re gonna profess ‘faith’ if I bring it up, whereas I’d assume the opposite with anyone from the UK. Happened to me with this pair from Oklahoma I was talking to, otherwise great to chat to and was pleased to be chatting to them. Then it’s all- ‘oh we understand suffering but we simply have our faith. You need to have it to understand’ They went on weird lockdown on me and the convo was over! Should add I’m actually not sure if mainland Europeans would be more faithy than UK people. Need to get about a bit more to know that. Great post again, referenced and everything though!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds about right (the strange, stiff reactionary of the ultra-devout when it comes to suffering and reality). I lived in the UK and on the mainland (Belgium and Germany), and I don’t recall such intensity for prayer whatsoever. Church, sort of, but it was never something entirely willful and…well, flat-out obsessive. Then again, I never ran into anything akin to the born-again fanaticism we’ve here, especially in the South. Anyway, thanks for reading and the compliment! (I really miss the UK, btw)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yeah. This. After the Oregon shooting today, a like-minded friend posted this: ‘Dear America, I think it’s pretty clear that your prayers aren’t doing shit to stop gun violence.’ I really don’t have a problem if people who believe want to pray. What I DO have a problems with is when people TELL me to pray on social media — ‘Keep so-and-so in your prayers.’ ‘Unspoken prayer request.’ I find prayer/mindfulness/spirituality pretty darn personal, and in my own way, I guess you could say I pray, but I don’t tell everyone I’m doing it and I don’t solicit prayers from others. I sure as hell don’t think some white bearded elder is gonna wave his magic wand because I asked for a miracle. I mean, how do people truly believe that stuff? I do take comfort in understanding that good things happen and bad things happen, and if we live long enough we’ll all have our share of both. When I pray, meditate, imagine a good outcome, it’s my own way of helping me cope — in a give me wisdom, strength, peace, whatever. I do find that learning more mindfulness techniques is calming and helps me ward off severe depression in this crazy world where shit inevitably happens. But yeah…don’t tell me to pray for your miracle unless you want me to punch you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like you, I also find the act of mindfulness (I really like that word, btw) or any sort of expressive devotion to be a private matter. Also like you, I meditate, primarily due to chronic insomnia and depression, which, for me, isn’t really an act of internal “prayer,” but just a bit of time spent thinking about the ones I love. It IS soothing, so I have no qualms/issues with any sort of form of solitary contemplation, even in the form of prayer. There’s just something so invasive to publicly make these sweeping declarations and assumptions (“America went to hell as soon as prayer was taken out of schools” for example), like public prayer is what keeps us all from damning ourselves and the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well said. I wholeheartedly agree, especially with this: “There’s just something so invasive to publicly name these sweeping declarations and assumptions.” And since I recently moved from a more traditional and less progressive Southern town, the prayer in school argument makes me crazy!!!

        Oh! And the hypocrisy that surfaces when you point out that allowing prayer in public schools would mean lots of things that the loudest Christians most certainly do not want…Years ago (pre-911) I worked a flight during Ramadan where a man approached me and asked if it would be okay if he could quietly kneel in the area by the kitchen for a few mins to pray. He was clear that he didn’t want to draw any attention to himself, and I told him as long as the flight was smooth it would be fine. Well, as he was quietly doing his thing — just as he decribed, another passenger came into the galley to ask for a drink and discovers a Muslim quietly kneeling on a blanket in a corner and completely freaks out. He more or less said that by allowing this “freak” to pray to “his god” on an American airline we were putting all passengers in jeopardy. It got so bad that we had to have security meet the plane. Sorry that got long, but my point is — prayer in school doesn’t necessarily mean just Christian prayer in school. And no one is preventing anyone from silently praying, which kind of comes back around to the private nature of prayer. Enough with prayer warriors, as they love to call themselves.Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

        Liked by 1 person

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