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 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/06/5-facts-about-prayer/.
**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.