I know this has been discussed as part of other threads before, but the recent news articles discussing the fact that "everyone" is praying for Nelson Mandela has got me thinking about it again.
Why do people pray?
Clearly there are many people across the world who pray, from the rich Monarchy, to the African child dying from Malaria. Some people pray that they will get a parking space close to the supermarket, others that their daddy won't abuse them, and some that they will survive the night. Yet, sadly, children are still abused, and die, whilst fortunate people like me don't have to walk far to the shops.
So, since it is evident that if prayer does work, then it doesn't work in the way people think it should, then why do people do it. Is it:
a) Because people think it does work in a simple "ask and you shall get" sort of way, even though they see poor African children on TV breathing their last breath, which provides overwhelming evidence that it doesn't? (these people can't all be uneducated and stupid, so why think it?)
b) Because the act of praying and belief gives them an inner strength to continue with life despite it's hardships and they genuinely don't believe it will work (this seems a contradiction to me)?
c) Because people don't think about it in a conscious way and the un-thinking habit produces a reduction in stress (like clicking the end of a pen, or biting ones finger nails)?
d) I don't know what else any other thoughts?
Also, what are people praying for with Mandela? Do they want him to survive for ever (they seem to)? Or are they praying that he will pass peacefully to "heaven" when he does finally pass? Since he is regarded as such a saviour, then surely he is guaranteed a pain free route and pride of place, so why does everyone need bother?
I would be interested in the views of any faith, or those of none equally.
I pray to join in my thoughts with God. Just like I talk to my husband or chat to my friends. I do believe God can act and sometimes if things change I feel a part of that change. I can't for a moment explain why God does not right all the wrongs of the world in a single sweep except to say we have free will.
These are my beliefs. I've had them a long time.
Praying gives me peace and makes me feel calmer about life, it is very rewarding, spending time with God is very good. Prayer is a bit like oxygen for the spiritual life (I think).
To look at your multi choice options:
a) I believe to some extent in "ask and you shall get" but that is about the kingdom of God, it's not about physical or material things. And like most people I am very cery sad and troubled by the suffering of the world. I don;t think believing in God means you care more or you care less, it just means you wrestle differently.
b) (IMHO) Prayer does 'work' it connects me to God but it doesn't work like a vending machine, put your £1 worth of prayer in here and get this from here.
c) It is a habit, but not necessarily just a habit, it is more, it is a kind of living part of a relationship.
d) Sometimes in this tough old world it seems like the only option (after you have spoken to the person you fell out with/lost someone dear/written protest letters/donated money) and you can't solve the issue on your own....)
It's a two way process too.
I think a lot of people automatically say that they will pray and the meaning gets lost a little bit. A prayer is a conversation with God or with Mary or with your particular saint (for me, I am Catholic).
I know that it's not 'ask and you shall get', but it is a chance for me to reflect on my problems and the good parts of my life, to ask for advice and guidance and to hope that God will help. I am quite sure Our Lady is fed up of me at the moment but I do think that you can get a wonderful sense of peace from praying.
What are people praying for with Mandela? Do they want him to survive for ever (they seem to)? Or are they praying that he will pass peacefully to "heaven" when he does finally pass? Since he is regarded as such a saviour, then surely he is guaranteed a pain free route and pride of place, so why does everyone need bother?
When I hear of someone ill, I pray that their life and death is as peaceful as possible. We all want loved ones to stay longer, so sometimes we do ask for the miracle to happen and a little more time to come. I don't think someone is ever guaranteed a pain free route, bad things happen to good people all the time, but we can ask God to lessen their pain and also to help their families and friends.
I pray quite a lot in a kind of general chit-chat with God musing kind of way. My most fervent prayers are usually about my own situations, often about relationships with my dc and dh. For example if I'm feeling angry or resentful with the kids or dh about something and can't seem to let go of it, I've found having a good rant to God and asking for his help often shifts something in me so that I finish the prayer feeling different and lighter. So I can then go and be with the people I love and actually be loving rather than grumpy and unpleasant!
I don't often pray about situations that are far removed from me unless I happen to read something or hear something on the news that touches my heart for some reason. I then often find myself praying about it. I guess it is the only thing I can offer when I am powerless to do anything about a situation myself.
The primary purpose of praying is to be in relationship with God. Prayer is about him, not about us. It's about thanking him for what we have, and learning to love him in return for the way he loves us, and attuning ourselves to what he wants and not what we want. Prayer is for telling God about how things are with us, for opening our hearts to him -- sharing our joys and sorrows, our gratitude and anger, our despair, our regret, our happiness.
When we do the kind of prayer that is called intercession, where we pray for people or things, it's not that we are asking God to do particular things -- who are we to order God about? But we are telling God that we are concerned about something, and sharing with him the pain and sorrow of the world, our desire to change it and heal it.
God never accomplishes things on his own that he plans to accomplish through us. When we intercede for people, often the answer to our prayer is that we are more likely to look after the people we are praying for. God changes us when we pray for others. The question we always need to think of when we are praying for others is 'what does God want me to do in this situation?'.
I've prayed for Mandela. I pray that he will know the love of God in the care that he gets from doctors and nurses, and I pray that he would know that he is held in love, both human and divine. I pray that when death comes to him that it comes as a final healing. I thank God for his life, and for all that it has contained, and for his amazing spirit and courage.
I don't know what other people have prayed for him, but those have been my prayers.
Do you imagine everyone who prays, is thanking god for what they have, or is that just something we do in a privileged western society?
I sort of get the 'having a conversation with god' part, but when people say "I'll pray for you" they say it as though that is likely to help. As though they were offering something to the person in need. People even say "Thank You" in those situations
But if the person offering just means "I know you are suffering so I'm going to have a chat with my god to make me feel better about it" that doesn't make sense does it. If people thought that was what 'praying for you' meant then they wouldn't be saying "Thank You" would they.
backonlybreifly there are different kinds of prayer.
Prayer between me and God - maybe like just a chummy chat is different from 'interceding' on behalf of person. When I say I will pray for you to someone I mean it to bring them comfort, I sometimes ask 'can I pray for you', and very often people are pleased or simply say thank you. If someone ever said don't pray for me I would have to think about that! I am not sure it has ever happened.
Of course I think it will help people or I would not bother doing it. Sometimes people come back to me and say, you know that thing you prayed about , well it is better etc etc.
Technodad I am pretty certain thanking God for what we have is in no way limited to our western society. I think from hearing from those in other places that people in the majority world who have a lot less than us in the west can be very thankful for what they have. People in the west sometimes seem to be less grateful!
I think niminy has given an excellent answer and I feel the same.
I'm not always structured in pray but there's a mnemonic I have to help remind me when I am; ACTS. That's Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. So asking for things is lowest in priority and the majority of prayer is about strengthening your relationship with God.
I often find that by giving my work to God or bringing a problem before him that I gain grace or understanding of the situation, and a drive or some direction with regards my work (in literal sense as only SAHM at the moment) to help me get through it.
You say "of course people think it will help" and that sometimes people come back to you and say things have got better.
This infers that sometimes things have not got better for people you have prayed for when you thought it would work.
Has this never made you think - maybe life is all about pot luck (good and bad) and this whole praying thing doesn't make any difference (in a supernatural way) to anything?
I honestly can't imagine that a dying child who has had an overwhelmingly horrid life is lying in the dirt thinking "thank you god for all this". I find that idea pretty sick. Similarly if someone is being assaulted, that person will be praying "stop this, stop this", not "thanks oh lord".
Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells a story of an occasion on which he visited a family in one of the townships (during the time of apartheid) whose house had just been razed to the ground, and who had lost his home and all his possessions. Tutu was so shocked and distressed that he could find no words of prayer. But the man simply said, 'Heavenly father, we thank you that you love us.'
Even though if god exists, then he clearly doesn't love them much, otherwise those people wouldn't have been put through that experience.
I am unsure how that example demonstrates the "power of prayer".
You say *"This infers that sometimes things have not got better for people you have prayed for when you thought it would work.
Has this never made you think - maybe life is all about pot luck (good and bad) and this whole praying thing doesn't make any difference (in a supernatural way) to anything?
I honestly can't imagine that a dying child who has had an overwhelmingly horrid life is lying in the dirt thinking "thank you god for all this". I find that idea pretty sick. Similarly if someone is being assaulted, that person will be praying "stop this, stop this", not "thanks oh lord".*
I did not say I thought prayer would 'work' all the time, I clearly said earlier' I can't for a moment explain why God does not right all the wrongs of the world in a single sweep except to say we have free will.'
What I do know is that some people seem to like being prayed for and some people come back later and say things that imply 'my' prayer/their prayer/other people's prayers about a specific thing have been answered/the situation has got better on its own/however you want to put it. This is an encouragement often to me and to them.
No one has ever come back to me (to my memory) and said 'my' prayer did not 'work' but as I explained - to me prayer is not about asking for things and getting them. The supplication or intercession part of prayer, (which is as EugenesAxe says is the final bit of prayer - good way of remembering) is about asking and obviously hoping that things will change for the better, it is about also for me about feeling close to God and also to some extent feeling closer to the person or situation you pray for.
I think there is a lot of luck in life, good things and bad things happen in a random way. It challenges my view of God all the time. Yet I would rather live life with God in it than without. Much as I am very sad for the plight of so many in the world, and many Christians do work for change for good in NGOs and charities, I would rather have God in my life than not. So the random-ness, at times, of life does not stop me believing in God.
niminypiminy's story was not to explain how prayer works (IMHO - please correct me if wrong niminypiminy) it was to show that even amid suffering some people of faith. We can't always understand how they can. The Archbishop could not, but they had faith God loves them. Who are you to tell them he does not. Would you want to take away even that small thing they feel they have? I'm not telling you off, they are not reading this (I would imagine) but I am genuinly asking why you feel they would be better off without God?
What do you think about prayer Technodad?
it was to show that even amid suffering some people of faith can have faith in God, against massive odds - was that it niminypiminy?
To understand my example, Technodad, you first have to understand that the man in question was made homeless not by God but by human beings -- human beings who have free will. Free will is something that God will not intervene with (otherwise it would not be free will). He will not stop human beings doing dreadful things -- and, if you think about it, this must be the case, because otherwise there would be no morality at all. We would simply be part of a huge game of toy soldiers, all moved directly by God.
To do any kind of purposively good act, we must have free will, and to have free will, we must be free to act badly as well as rightly.
So, in the situation of the man made homeless, he is made homeless, that is a human action that God will not intervene in. What, then, are we to say about his prayer?
Well, one understanding of it is that against all the odds he has faith in (that is, trusts) God, as Italiangreyhound says. Another, and the one that I think is probably the case in this instance, is that we have the love of God, whatever happens to us, whatever we do. We can do nothing to lose it. If we have lost everything else, we still have that. Even if, in the eyes of the world, we are simply and object of pity (like the starving child in your example), only minimally human, simply a suffering body -- or worse, something less than human, as in my example -- to God, and thus for ourselves, we are an infinitely valuable, utterly beloved and unique person. Even if we have nothing else to thank him for, we can thank him for that. And if we don't have that, well, we really do have nothing.
"What do I think?"
This probably sums up some of my thoughts: youtu.be/74SQ6w6LdU0
Prayer is something I struggle with. I know life isn't fair but it seems that it would be terribly unjust for God to fix situations for some people because they had lots of people to pray for them whereas some people have no one to pray for them.
I do believe in a God of some kind and I do pray. I'm on a cancer support thread on this site and I pray/send good wishes to my friends on there. It isn't because I believe it will magically make their situation better but because I hope that I will provide some comfort to them to know that I care and am wishing them well. I also pray for people I don't know and for everyone who is hurting in the world, for whatever reason, again I'm not expecting a magical solution, just hope that if there is a God he/it will bring them comfort.
I don't see God as an all powerful fixing force, more as a force of love, perhaps some kind of collective consciousness or something. Not such a traditional view I know. I just see prayer as a way of trying to direct that force to where I feel that it is needed. I also see it as a way of examining my own thoughts and beliefs, opening my heart and being honest with myself about how my own thoughts and actions may have been wrong and where I could improve, asking for forgiveness/giving myself permission to forgive myself and move on to try and do better.
I'm not sure that makes much sense!
Yes, agree Ninny - Another, and the one that I think is probably the case in this instance, is that we have the love of God, beuatifully put.
Tchnodad am busy working will watch the clip when I can.
Thank you Technodad I knew what was coming with dear old Tim Minchin. I think he is very funny. Although this one is not that funny. I wonder why he is so anti-God. Any ideas?
Is that exactly what you think Technodad or have you any other thoughts on this not from Tim.
My thoughts are clear.
I deal with facts and evidence alone in my life, so I don't have any beliefs and Tim pretty much covers all bases for me. God either doesn't exist, or if he does, he is clearly a c***.
But I was interested in why people pray rather than entering into a debate about the existence of a god.
Just to add to my last message.
If you think Tim is anti God, then I think you have missed the point.
Tim is anti God, in the same what that I am "anti Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".
Technodad, it doesn't seem to me that you are really interested in why people pray. Otherwise you would engage with what people who are explaining what prayer means for them are saying.
I was waiting for lots of comments, I was only responding to direct questions.
There are posts from Italiangreyhound, Goodbyerubytuesday, anunziata, zulubump and me. Is that not enough to be going on with?
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