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(395 Posts)
technodad Thu 13-Jun-13 18:58:52

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.


technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 21:00:22

It is some opinion and I have read it. Thanks for replying.

Any other inputs?

niminypiminy Fri 14-Jun-13 21:10:06

So you are not actually going to engage with what has been posted.

technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 21:12:20

But my first post said I was interested in what others think. I am not sure what I am supposed to engage with. I just wanted to learn about others.

I think that the Christian attitude to prayer has been really well expressed here.

niminypiminy Fri 14-Jun-13 21:18:58

The thing is, Technodad, you ask a question, but you don't seem interested in talking about the answers. Are you really interested in what prayer is, why people do it, and what it accomplishes, or are you merely stirring the pot? It seems to me discourteous to ask people to answer you and then just to say what it is you have learned from their answers.

niminypiminy Fri 14-Jun-13 21:21:30

I mean 'then not to say what you have learned from the answers'.

If you have found that the answers have answered your question then it would be polite to say so.

Whoops cross posted.

I must admit I'm facinated by what you are hoping to learn technodad as you are so clear that God does not exist.

crescentmoon Fri 14-Jun-13 21:34:41

as always niminy iv really enjoyed reading your posts here on prayer explained.

technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 21:50:38

I don't see why it is such a problem to be athiest, but also be inquisitve as to what others think and why. Why am I not allowed to find out about other people's perspectives?

Are you saying that people who vote conservative should not be allowed to ask liberal people why they have their differing views?

To be honest, when people say "it is all about a relationship with god" things don't stack up in my mind (it just doesn't compute), which is why I didn't have much to say and have just read the responses and thought about it.

When directly asked my opinion, I have given it (in my normal opinionated way), but it doesn't mean that I haven't tried to understand the beliefs of others.

I genuinely find it all very puzzaling, and to be honest, the responses on this thread have not helped enlighten me a great deal. I think one of the problems is that the answers are very vague and deal in non-specific concepts rather than facts, which are an alien perspective to my brain.

To me, religion is like politics, in that it is opinion based and there are many people with the same politics, but when you ask them in detail you get as many different opinions as you get people. I find it really difficult to comprehend some of the language used, in a way where it translates to me.

For example:

- I don't see God as an all powerful fixing force, more as a force of love
- it is about also for me about feeling close to God
- prayer is about strengthening your relationship with God
- Prayer is about him, not about us

These phrases mean nothing to someone who has never had faith, and just sound like someone who has been smoking too much pot. I was hoping to get enough responses to get enough information to understand how people think it works.

With mathematics, 1+1=2. It doesn't matter who you ask, that is the right answer. With religion, everyone you ask gives a slightly different opinion. Mathematically, this means that at least "everyone-1" are wrong, but I can't learn about religion if I don't try to listed to "everyone".

yamsareyammy Fri 14-Jun-13 22:02:36

I personally didnt come into the thread earlier, as I may have come across you before when I was using a different name, and I thought you would struggle to come to terms with peoples' answers on this thread.

I have been a Christian for many years.
After a while, I realised that bascially Christianity isnt logical.
Once I started to accept that fact, that somethings that Christians do and say and think and pray and believe are um, I cant quite think f the word to use at this point, then it helps me to accept certain things. So it is no surprise to me at all that a current non Christian struggles to accept the things that are written on this thread.

niminypiminy Fri 14-Jun-13 22:04:02

See, I think Technodad that your answer demonstrates a real lack of interest in understanding the posts. Loads of things in life don't operate like mathematics, yet that doesn't prevent us from trying to understand them. Ordinary language is adequate for talking about all sorts of abstract things such as justice, or beauty, or morality. To say that people just sound as if they've been smoking pot because they are making statements about God is simply a way of refusing to engage with what people are saying.

As I said before, if you were really interested in understanding how people think that prayer works, you would be discussing what people have said about it. What I suspect is that you were trying to provoke a bunfight about miraculous healing accomplished by prayer -- and since the posts have refused to take that particular bait, you are forced to take refuge in a rather weak defence that you simply cannot, as a rationalist, understand them.

yamsareyammy Fri 14-Jun-13 22:09:33

re my post. Perhaps it is getting late. But I cant remember if I meant to post "struggles to accept the things", or "struggles to understand the things". I think it may have been the latter.

technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 22:15:14

Since the discussion in the first post was relating to Mandela, I can't see how I would be steering the conversation towards miraculous healing. Prayer or no prayer, no-one has ever survived from the threat of old age and I can't imagine even the most religious person thinks that they can heal someone indefinitely. Niminy, you can think what you like about me for all I care.

yamsareyammy, I think your post makes the most sense to me so far (maybe because it talks in a specific language). Maybe the concept of religion not being logical is the key. For me it is the blinding light that proves me right, for you, it is the leap of faith that allows you to give your trust to a "concept" without question.

What is an anathoma to me, is the driving force for you.

niminypiminy Fri 14-Jun-13 22:30:17

I did tell you what I pray for for Mandela, but you ignored that, just as you have ignored most of what people have posted. Like Greenheart I'm still interested to know quite what you were hoping to learn about prayer since you start from a doctrinaire atheist standpoint.

technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 22:35:37


I didn't know this forum excluded attempts to learn, without a justification for the precise methodology for learning defined and approved by the mumsnet mafia.

Thanks anyway.

SantanaLopez Fri 14-Jun-13 23:01:31

That's completely unfair, technodad, you've had a fair few really thoughtful, detailed posts.

technodad Fri 14-Jun-13 23:11:37

I know. I didn't say they weren't.

Italiangreyhound Sat 15-Jun-13 00:54:15

Technodad it just seems that people who are very stongely atheistic also seem to be very angry with God, or is it just that they are angry with those of us who believe in him? I do get your point about mutant ninja turtles. I know what you mean.... and yet I don't.... does that make sense?

Is it just that by taunting God and calling him names (and by him I mean him and her but there is no word in English for that) they are trying to get at those of us who are theists?

technodad Sat 15-Jun-13 08:10:52

An athiest can't be angry with something that doesn't exist. I agree that some atheists can be angry with theists, but I wouldn't put myself in that category. I live side by side many different beliefs in real life and my closer thiest friends know my views and I know theirs (it doesn't mean we can't be friends).

I can, at times, get frustrated with some parts of our society, particularly groups that discriminate based upon faith.

I am strong of the opinion that all schools should be secular so that children of all faiths (and atheists) are mixed together so that they learn about each others culture. I also find it very frustrating that children of no faith are often forced to be taught Christianity as a fact in British schools because of the involvement of the church with our education system. People alway tell me that my children can be excused from these lessons, but that means highlighting them as "different", which is not fair on the children.

Other groups like the scouts, who have an anti athiest policy and mandate that people swear to god (any god) to join, are also not helpful.

But am I angry with god. No.

yamsareyammy Sat 15-Jun-13 11:08:17

People are not understanding you, are they technodad.
2 bible verses keep springing to mind.
1 is the first part of the parable of the sower.
[fprgptten what 2nd verses is for the minute]

Lukes version is probably more clear than Matthews
[actually I looked at Matthews first, and it said stuff in not quite the same way as Luke on this point, and helped me understand something in the bibe that has been puzzling me for years - so thank you very much indeed technodad for this thread]

I will just post here the relevant verse, and maybe post other verses, that are useful too, later.
Luke8 v 11 "Now the parable is this:the seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard;then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved".

In other words, it is not his fault that he doesnt get it.

I get the impression, that you genuinely want to understand. That is great. And if it is all right with you, I will pray for you.

But even if I do, the timing of becoming a Christian is up to God.
It may not happen for a few years, never, or when you are nearing death.

EllieArroway Sat 15-Jun-13 11:12:03


You were never going to get a sensible answer to this, because the whole thing makes no sense to begin with.

Christians pray because they believe that their thoughts are so supremely fascinating to an omnipotent creator that he'll make Mandela's antibiotics work just for them.

See - he was going to just let Mandela die. But oh, no....the Christians had a word, so he'll keep a very old man hanging on instead. While allowing a 6 month old African baby to starve to death, even though his/her mother has prayed and pleaded for help.

It's impossible to make sense of something that makes no sense to begin with. But, of course, being aware of that makes us "disrespectful" & too "rational" (ha!) to understand something so precious as a deep, meaningful relationship with the baby murdering Yahweh.

One day our species will grow up - but alas, it won't be soon.

yamsareyammy Sat 15-Jun-13 11:21:59

Ellie, I have been on a few threads with you before, but with a different MN name.
I said then and I say now that personally I dont have a problem with posters or people in rl who may indeed insult us. I understand that it is like double dutch to some people. To some people it will always remain that way, to others it will not.
I have no idea which is which, and who is who, so I have no problem with people asking away, and sometimes getting upset and angry with us.

Thistledew Sat 15-Jun-13 11:51:29

I find it interesting to hear how people actually feel about prayer, rather than what they think it does.

For example, if you pray about something trivial (not getting stuck in a traffic jam, having sunny weather for the church fete) and your prayer is 'answered' ie you get what you have asked for, how does that make you feel when you hear that someone has prayed desperately for the survival of their sick child has not has their prayer answered? Would you still feel happy about the outcome of your prayer? Is there any part of you that might re-assess whether you should pray for trivial things?

If the answer is that it is just up to god which prayers to answer and you shouldn't think about such consequences, does that not just build on a sense of connection to your private god, at the expense of your sense of connection to other human beings?

What about if someone who has no belief in god hopes fervently for an outcome and that hope is realised? Some people who don't believe in god have very happy and fortunate lives. Has god answered that person's prayer? If so, surely that completely does away with any need for any religion? Or is is just 'luck' that that person got the outcome they wanted. If so, is it the case that people who believe in god get their prayers answered and everyone else just has to make do with common luck? Do you think it makes any difference?

yamsareyammy Sat 15-Jun-13 12:03:30

Our lives and prayers lives with God are personal to us.
So whether God does or does not say yes to whatever, how ever trivial has no bearing on what He chooses to do with other peoples' prayers and lives.
He is infinite in the number of things He cand do, prayers answered etc.
just because there are now 7 billion people on the planet instead of 7, does not mean He cannot cope!
[thought He may have made a few more angels!]
Of course we realise that there are absolutely awful stuff going on.

And God gives us enough time to concentrate on othe people, besides Him.

Will answer the last part later.

headinhands Sat 15-Jun-13 12:05:32

Greyhound, you often suggest that atheists are somehow angry closet Christians. What would you say to a Muslim who said you didn't believe in Allah because you were angry with him. It would seem nonsensical wouldn't it. That's how it feels to an atheist when you use the same logic.

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