Pray – Why?

I can’t help it. Being an action driven person, I really think that praying is a complete and utter waste of time. What motivates people to pray is not something I will ever completely understand, nor will I stop being critical of this form of non-action. To be clear, I’m only knocking ‘prayer’ itself, the act of doing it and believing that it has any rational place in situations where action is mandated.

Recently, I attempted to validate what I thought were the reasons that would lead my Christian friends to deem prayer an acceptable response to any situation. It was an incredibly unscientific survey and even sabotaged by a few atheists who thought I was a troll! That part was funny, the atheists sabotaging it… not.

Would my friends corroborate what I thought about prayer by answering a few simple questions for me? More than a few actually answered my short survey. I’ve always understood that prayer was very important to them, probably just as much as it was to me that a much different response was required. When situations present themselves, to me or anyone, I think it is worthy of some type of a reaction that brings a resolution. My immediate response is offering my services or doing something that will immediately solve the problem; those that only offer prayer… well, that’s all they do.

Prior to sending out that survey, I had come to certain conclusions about what the responses might be and was hoping that the answers would either validate my questions or help me to understand something different about my preconceived ideas about their reasons for praying.

The two areas that were of most importance to me were why they prayed and how it made them feel. Out of the 33 people who said they prayed, 22 or 67% answered ‘It gives me comfort.’ On how prayer made them feel afterwards, 23 or 70% of the people answered that it made them feel ‘Better’. Those two questions confirmed what I had thought was the major reason for praying. Understand, this was in no way a scientific study, just me asking some of my friends what their thoughts were, but interestingly enough, the majority answered as I suspected they would. Prayer was primarily a mechanism to make ‘them’ feel better, while they think they are affecting change for those in need of prayer. Whether or not a positive outcome manifests for those requiring it really isn’t the issue. It is irrelevant, kind of like prayer is anyway.

The studies done on prayer also validate what many have maintained over the years. Prayer doesn’t work or do anything, for that matter, and can actually bring about more dire consequences. For me, prayer simply means that it is clasping your hands together rather than actually doing something productive for someone in need. It also means the people in need are left to fend for themselves rather than receiving the assistance that could give them relief or real answers.

I’ll give a perfect example of why prayer alone is useless. A friend of the family is dying a slow and painful death. At his last birthday, recently, there were many friends and neighbors on hand to give him a smile and a hug and tell him “I’ll pray for you.” Mind you these are supposedly friends and near-by neighbors, all wishing that his circumstance wasn’t what it was. How very Christian of them to do what they feel is the most appropriate thing in dire situations, but I have to report that not one of those people has stopped back in for a visit, helped take care of something or done ANYTHING to ease this situation. And interestingly the ones in attendance at that party who really are ‘there for him’, they haven’t been nor will they be praying for him or anyone else. But they are doing everything in their power to help him through this horrific time in his life through acts of kindness, taking care of things that he can’t, being available when needed and helping when he just can’t help himself. Prayer doesn’t make those things just happen all by themselves. To the people who just said “I’ll pray for you.” and were not heard from again; let me just say “Fuck You.”

There are those who may pray and also attempt to solve or provide an actual resolution to the person’s situation. I applaud all those of faith who feel spurred to action in any bad situation, even though they also prayed about it. But then I would ask why do they choose to pray in conjunction with their efforts when they realize that human effort is required anyway? Just go be a do-gooder then! Seems to me that their actions indicate they understand that prayer doesn’t work, as evidenced by the substantive display of action. Why would they choose to also waste their time praying about something that is then resolved by that action? It just simply doesn’t make any sense to me.

Many of faith would say that they benefit when someone has prayed for them. Yes, superficially, I would agree. Those on the receiving end of prayer feel like people are ‘thinking’ about them and ‘care’ about them, just like I would if someone said “You’re in my thoughts.” That’s it, they are ‘thinking’ about me, but they are not actually ‘doing’ anything! Am I grateful that they care? Absolutely, but again, prayer does NOTHING to solve any situation in need of answers or actions.

The act of praying is not even remotely beneficial to a person in a crisis situation. What it does for the people of faith, either on the receiving end or the giving end, is offer them nothing but a false sense of hope. That is sad to me. Why does anyone choose to add a touch of the supernatural rather than deal in reality? Ironically, the majority of people who are in crisis situations dial 9-1-1 immediately anyway, kind of negating having a belief that prayer would do the trick. How much faith do they really have in a god then, if that’s the case?

Thanking god for the positive outcomes in situations that had actual action attached to them is another silly thing to do. Silly and illogical. We have all been privy to many situations in hospitals where every nurse and every doctor are doing everything in their power to make sure the patient stays alive, and when they succeed, a higher power gets the applause. Why does god get the thanks for that effort? Had no intervention taken place that person would most likely be dead, as evidenced by so many situations where children have died at the hands of parents who believed their god would take care of their young one’s illnesses. Listing them all here would make your heart break.

Just talking to yourself with your hands clasped is not an acceptable form of helping, to me. Praying solves nothing, does nothing and contributes nothing but making the person doing the praying feel better. Prayer is useless and selfish. That’s it.

  • John

    Atheists suck

    • William Tran

      How delightfully mature and original. How about a round of applause for Johnny Bravo here?

    • sir_limpalot

      Well, some do, I guess.
      Probably a higher percentage than theists, but as with theists I guess most that do are female or gay.
      But I’ve never been interested enough to find out to actually ask other atheist if they do and I guess a lot of them would find the question offensive.
      Are you speaking from personal experience?

  • Ada_Mod

    Prayer helps those who pray maintain some kind of hope. The fact that it is useless as a way to get results as in get more money or beat cancer does not stop people from hoping. I think it is a self defense mechanism when a person feels all avenues have been exhausted and the only thing left is to hope something bigger takes control and fixes things. The positive effects of praying on the person praying, are temporary which is why they find themselves praying over and over.

    • Calvin Wiggs

      With GODS children we replace hope with faith.And GOD dose fix the things we truly need fixing in our lives.Look a round you prayers have been taken out of schools out of our goverment an so U.S has turned it’s back on GOD now our nation is falling all around us.But as Christians we all ready know whats coming with all these disasters all around the world and here in the U.S at our home . The news is full of heart ack as I said be for most of the U.S dont pray or refuse to trust in GOD so they have no hope . Only GOD can bring real peace and hope in our lives but it takes faith in GOD!!!.

      • William Tran

        Apparently even “god” couldn’t fix your ludicrous spelling mistakes, how “heartackingly” delightful.

        And about how “most of the U.S dont pray or refuse to trust in GOD so they have no hope”? You surely cannot be serious, are you? Do I even have to bring up the atrocities and injustices that occurred in this country not very long ago, particularly in the Bible Belt, gleefully committed and are still going on in the name of “god”, or organized religions?

      • EvolutionKills

        If the people in New Orleans had been dependent only upon prayer, they wouldn’t have known about Hurricane Katrina until the wind was gusting in their faces. Human ingenuity, solidarity, and curiosity ripped this information from mute nature (and god), by means of weather forecasts and satellites. I’m sure that many more lives where saved from the advance warning given my meteorology than by any praying to any god. Those who relied on science and it’s warnings and evacuated the city, had a much better chance of surviving over anybody that chose to stay and weathering the storm with prayer.

        And the weather patterns that have lead to such storms are not the work of god, they are just what happens when the planet’s natural weather patterns are perturbed by our relatively recent and massive affect on the biosphere. What we have done to the planet over the last few centuries, we are now starting to finally feel the effects of. These storms are not god’s judgement, they are the byproduct of our own disregard for the planet and out affect upon it. And if we just sit around praying and trusting in ‘god’, then nothing is going to change for the better. Pious men will continue to use their faith as an excuse to pillage the planet, then call for people to pray on god to save us from ourselves. That hasn’t worked in the past, it isn’t working now, and we have no reason to believe it will magically work in the future. The only people who are going to help us is ourselves.

        But those who choose to pray instead of lending a hand, are part of the problem and not the cure.

        • Calvin Wiggs

          We never would’ve had to rely on science if we obeyed God in the beginning.But we had to let our pride come between us and God but we chose to listen to the satan now we have disasters.So what’s happening in the world to day is all our fault.Yes we have polluted the atmosphere with our industries.Also the oil we drill for has polluted our oceans.You are right when you stated that man has done this.You know at one time we walked in the garden with God beside us.But know we had to ruin that now is disasters are all around us.Also the world is in chaos because we don’t trust and believe in God nor do we pray.As a Christian I do pray for the world I also pray for our nation.But most of all what I pray for is the human soul.We have strayed so far from Christ that we have lost sight and him most of us don’t believe in him but he’s real he’s our God loves us and a son died upon the cross for us.God bless Calvin.

          • EvolutionKills

            Unfortunately there was a time when humanity relied on God and had forsaken it’s meager initial advancements in science and reason. That time lasted for over 5 centuries in Europe. Do you know what we now call that time in history? The Christian Dark Ages. Almost everyone lived in a state of near poverty and complete ignorance, and the church held absolute authority in the name of God. This held western civilization back centuries. If not for the Dark Ages, Columbus wouldn’t have set foot in the Bahamas, he would have landed on Mars. Now if you want to return to that, then I respectfully have to disagree with you in the strongest sense possible and question your sense and understanding of history. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and the last thing I want is a return to the Dark Ages.

            While we can agree that what is happening to the environment is our fault, once again we part company. There is no reason, no evidence, to suggest that our current weather is anything more than the result of our disregard for the ecosystem. So no, I do not ‘know’ that humans once walked in a perfect garden next to some intangible creator. Not only that, I do know that you don’t ‘know’ either, and that nobody can know. There is no evidence whatsoever to support your assertion, and a mountain of evidence against it.

            The world isn’t going to shit because not enough people ‘pray’ or ‘trust and believe in God’. I would argue that the problem is too many already do, and allow themselves to be used because of it. Too many people will rape and pillage the environment and their fellow man in the name of God, or just pray for forgiveness after the fact and never have to deal with a guilty conscious. Too many don’t care enough to save this world for their children, because they are more concerned with getting into Heaven themselves. Too many think that praying to make the world better actually helps, instead of actually going out and doing something about it (and this is something you admit to yourself). Too many people are too ignorant to question their religion or their faith, and follow it blindly into folly. Too many vote for politicians that erode our liberties in the name of corporate greed, and are cheered into doing so because they too believe in Jesus.

            So you can sit here and pray for change, in the full knowledge that pray has never been shown to have any affect whatsoever in reality. But you’ll have to excuse me while I actually try to do something about our slide into the abyss. It’s not Satan’s fault, it’s not that we’re not pious enough. We simply lack the empathy and responsibility that our intelligence and power demands of us. And one of the reasons our empathy and responsibility have atrophied so much in comparison to our intelligence and power, has been our reliance on faith and religion. All too often we pass the buck to God, we trust in ‘him’ to save us or deliver us from our own mistakes. Sorry, but your imaginary ‘God’ is not going to save us. Only we can save ourselves, from ourselves; and if we cannot, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves. We are all there is, and until we wise up to that reality and start acting accordingly, we’re fucked.

          • sir_limpalot

            You are aware that your god didn’t bother to tell everyone of his existence, even?
            Maybe things would have been better if he hadn’t just relied on a handful of goatherds to spread the word?
            Maybe he should have foreseen that not everyone in the whole word would take their word for it?
            Him being omnicient and all?
            The word didn’t reach everyone until fairly recently, for cryin’ out loud!

          • Jose Vela

            Just a simple question…have all your prayers solved, changed or enhanced something? I surely do not think so.
            I have always thought about this and questioned it very much; if god has a perfect plan for all mankind, then, why do you all pray in order to alter the plan?
            I will set a simple example…a relative of mine, is diagnosed with level 4 cancer – set to be dead sooner than later, as a believer I should be blindly convinced that such situation is god’s perfect plan for my relative and the surrounding family. Why then, would I pray to god to change the situation and deliver my relative from such diagnose.
            Ergo, prayer is the way to doubt god (if he exists)

      • sir_limpalot

        No thank you.
        Maybe he fixes the things you think is important in your life (or rather you give him credit for fixing them) but I can’t see him fixing any of the big problems in the world American economy going to shit is not the biggest one, imo.
        All the children around the world dying from starvation or easily cured deseases dies because they doesn’t BELIEVE hard enouhg?
        Or is it because those problem isn’t what they REALLY need fixed?

  • Wobbly1958

    Praying reminds me of a funny scene from Shrek 2 – during a crisis one of the female characters declares “Assume the position girls” where upon Rapunzal climbs into a small tower, Snow White sits on a log and Sleeping Beauty lays down. “Whate are you doing?” asks the princess. “Waiting to be rescued!” is the response. There in lies the purpose of prayer – occupying your time while waiting for someone else (or something else) to fix a problem.

    And @John – if by ‘suck’ you mean fellate or cunninlingate (?) well praise be to your non-existent deity we do, sometimes a good head job just does the trick.

    • Carl

      Lol!! I LOVE a good head job!!!
      You rock wobbly!!

  • calvin wiggs

    Its really funny to me that atheist say they pray but to what power there is only two power’s in this universe the power of LIFE or the power of living death and suffering.Since you don’t believe in GOD JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT.It must be the god full of pride that thought he could over throw GOD HIM SELF .Boy did your so called god get his pride full but kicked out of HEAVEN with his tail tuck between his legs.Well thats who an atheist are praying to no wonder you guys are not getting your prayers answered.And in one of the statements in fact on this web sight was said you prayed to GOD in HEAVEN and he didnt answer your prayers well stupid oops I really didnt mean that word stupid I’m sorry I said that word .Well to begin with you have to truly believe in JESUS CHRIST.GOD BLESS .I truly hope and pray one day you will see the true GOD. for HE LOVED YOU SO MUCH HE SENT HIS SON TO DIE AT THE cross FOR YOUR SINS> Would you let your son or daughter die for some one as sorry as us ? I once was homeless, drug addict stayed in jails went to prison in W.I. and much moer familey lost my kids returned my SAVIOR brouk my bounds triles still here but that brings me closer to my GOD .SAVED BY HIS GRACE.

  • calvin wiggs

    Its really funny to me that atheist say they pray but to what power there is only two power’s in this universe the power of LIFE or the power of living death and suffering.Since you don’t believe in GOD JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT.It must be the god full of pride that thought he could over throw GOD HIM SELF .Boy did your so called god get his pride full but kicked out of HEAVEN with his tail tuck between his legs.Well thats who an atheist are praying to no wonder you guys are not getting your prayers answered.And in one of the statements in fact on this web sight was said you prayed to GOD in HEAVEN and he didnt answer your prayers well stupid oops I really didnt mean that word stupid I’m sorry I said that word .Well to begin with you have to truly believe in JESUS CHRIST.GOD BLESS .I truly hope and pray one day you will see the true GOD. for HE LOVED YOU SO MUCH HE SENT HIS SON TO DIE AT THE cross FOR YOUR SINS> Would you let your son or daughter die for some one as sorry as us ? I once was homeless, drug addict stayed in jails went to prison in W.I. and much moer familey lost my kids returned my SAVIOR brouk my bounds triles still here but that brings me closer to my GOD .SAVED BY HIS GRACE.

    • Carl

      You….can NOT be serious…..are you???

      • Calvin Wiggs

        I”M very serious prayer is a life line to my SAVIOUR!!. I’ve
        seen prayers answered right away some not so fast but still answered and still I’m waiting. GOD has his own timing and I trust in that!. CHRIST knows what is best for us. When HE answers our (Christians) prayers.WHEN faith is applied and a humble heart theirs nothing HE wouldn’t do for us!.If it helps us and not hurt us .I hope on day you also find CHRIST.Start by picking up HIS LIVING WORD (the BIBLE) start reading as a bed time story. This is where you will learn the true meaning of life. Also you will learn who the real GOD is.

        Best Wishers


        • Saris

          I have seen families torn apart because of your religion. (Yeah way, or should I say, Yahweh).If you haven’t seen the article
          The best argument against Christianity…is the story of Christianity I STRONGLY suggest you do. Then we’ll see how perfect your (lowercase) god makes himself out to be.

          Also, nice profile pic. Is she Christian too? It’s not like god has any consideration for women. How can only men be Pastors? No one marvels a feminine Christian “speaker” unless they are feminine themselves. What’s your excuse for that? Each person has a different role? Give me a break. And if you notice some of the most famous Bible characters had their downfall because of a girl. Seems to me god hates females-and he LIKES it that way.

          One last thing, Mr.Wiggs. If I were to give a child all the details of Jesus’ death as a “bedtime story” i’d bet he’d learn the true meaning of FEAR, not life.

          Best of “Wishers” to you too.

          P.S. Thank God i’m not Christian.

        • EvolutionKills

          You my friend, are a shinning example of rampant confirmation bias.

          I could, if I so choose, pray to something other than god. I could pray to Al Pachino, or my neighbor’s cat, or a jug a milk. Let go with milk…

          I could pray to the jug of milk for a raise at work. Now if a week later I get a raise, then praise be to the jug of milk! The jug has answered my prayer! Proof of prayer!

          If nothing happens now, but a few months later I get a check in the mail of a cost-of-living adjustment for $1000 dollar; then the prayer was just answered later! Praise be to the jug of milk! Proof of prayer!

          If however nothing ever happens in regard to a raise, then my prayer hasn’t been answered. But I must trust that the jug of milk knows best, and didn’t answer my prayer for a reason. And once I understand this important ‘fact’, then I’ll understand the ‘meaning of life’. Still proof of prayer!

          Or, it’s all just so much random chance. You see the hits and remember them, but forget all of the misses. But you use BOTH as proof for the effectiveness of prayer and the power of your god. So let me ask you, how would you disprove the power of prayer? If prayers being both answered and unanswered are proof, how can you ever disprove them? And therein lies the root of your problem, your confirmation bias. You see only what you want to see, and are blind to anything else.

          Any hypothesis that is un-falsifiable, is to that extent a weak one. A question to which any answer is ‘valid’, is not a very good question; and should never be used to attempt to prove the basis of reality.

    • R. Abbott

      I don’t pray, I think it’s a waste of time… foods getting cold, I could be starting to fall asleep, I could be out saving a life…just a waste of time. However, if I did decide to pray it would be more logical to pray to the devil. I mean, God has a plan, his will, and he will not deviate from it. If what I pray for fits into his plan it’s gonna happen anyway. If what I pray for does not fit into his plan it’s never going to happen. And if a prayer from a sinful human suggestion could sway God’s plan then it’s pretty flimsy to begin with. Plus God is all loving and benevolent, right? Well, he’s probably already thought of something far better than what I could come up with.

      The Devil on the other hand, he’s the one coming up with all the evil and the injustice in this world. Doesn’t it make more sense to plead with him to stop all this nonsense? Does it make more sense to pray to a benevolent God to do good things? Or pray to Satan who is evil to stop? I would think the answer is pretty clear.

      So, no, I don’t pray to anyone or anything because both God and the Devil were created by uneducated, superstitious desert herdsmen 2000+ years ago to instill fear into people to control them.

    • Tim

      God must be one shitty father. I’d never send my son to die for any reason. The whole premise of Christianity is stupid and you’re truly a moron for buying into the hype

  • Connor

    Write this article- why? Instead of talking about why others should not be praying, you could have been out there doing something productive for someone in need!

    If god does not exist, i.e. there is no trascendental code (moral or otherwise) by which to live, then what is the harm in praying?

    “If only all the religious people would spend all of the time they dedicate to praying to looking for a cure for cancer, then all of our problems would be solved!”

    This article is just as silly and illogical as praying is.

    • susi

      to answer your question, i write because i enjoy it and about praying specifically because it makes no sense to do so in critical times. whether you like to read it or not is irrelevant, but thanks for the productive statements you made in response to reading it.

      to answer your other question – the harm is that praying is inaction. serious situations require attention, not someone who stands by and just watches and prays. a person needing something beyond a thought will lay dying, there’s your harm. can’t believe you don’t understand that.

      • silverspoon

        To say that prayer makes no sense is a belief, at best. Prayer perhaps does not work all the time, but there have been numerous studies that have shown the positive effects of prayer. God may or may not exist, we may never know for sure (those who claim knowledge of god’s existence, or non-existence, are all believers), but prayer, nonetheless can be likened to a placebo effect. It can work.

      • silverspoon

        To address the point about prayer being inaction: Prayer can get family and friends together to offer emotional support. Prayer can help to keep the person who is going through the emotional trauma to stay more focused. Prayer can also help the patient feel more loved, in turn reducing their stress and anxiety levels, in turn greatly improving their chances of recovery. While I can totally appreciate your belief that prayer is not “heard” by anyone, the _act_ of praying can bring several benefits. Very often, people (perhaps like you) forget the psychological aspects of health and wellness, and this is where prayer can play a crucial role, at least to those who believe in praying.

  • James

    Personally, I’m an atheist and I pray for the purely psychological benefits. It does just make me feel better. I have zero shame. It really helps me let go of things I can’t control, at least for awhile.

  • Jesus freak

    God answers prayers every day…. Just because the answer may be “No” or “Later” does not constitute as ignored. A believer relies on God’s will not man’s.. When a person prays for God’s will, their prayer is Always answered….. And Christians are not to ONLY pray. We are supposed to be the mouth, hands and feet of Jesus. We pray for the right choices and we implement the answer we get… Answer not in a thunderous earthmoving voice. It’s in the bible, music, or preaching.. You can apply all these to many trajedies.

    I was addicted to drugs and alcohol for 12 years.. My entire family prayed endlessly for years. I even was paralyzed in a car accident. It wasn’t immediately, but I have been living for God, sober, peaceful, content and grateful for all the prayers. I have a beautiful christian wife and six children all believers. No one physically made me get sober, no legal requirements just a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. When you prioritize God’s needs over your own, you Always get what you want! It’s awesome.

    • EvolutionKills

      I love observing this type of thinking, as it is one of the most egregious forms of confirmation bias out there.

      When you pray, you’re probably going to get one of three outcomes. Either the prayer is seemingly answered, is answered later, or not at all.

      To the believer, all three all positive proof and none of them can be used to disprove prayer. If your prayer was ‘answered’, then God is great! If it was ‘answered’ later, then you just had to wait, and God is great! If it wasn’t at all ‘answered’, then God works in mysterious ways, but don’t worry he’s still great!

      This thinking stems from only seeing what you want to see. When your starting hypothesis is ‘true’ no matter the conclusion, then there is something wrong with the hypothesis. A hypothesis that is un-falsifiable is to that extent a weak one.

      That is not to say that you didn’t see a positive change in your life after becoming a Christian, I’m not trying to take that away from you. It sound like it corresponding with some very important changes in your life. But your experience is just that, a subjective anecdote. And there have been plenty of others who have claimed to have changed for the better as well; only they did so while praying to Allah, Buddha, Crishna, Vishnu, or to other gods or no god at all. Their changes are not any more proof for the effectiveness of pray and the truth of their religion (or lack thereof), than your story is for Christianity.

      In short, your personal testimony is not proof of answered prayer. And until you have any evidence to the contrary, I will remain skeptical of it’s effectiveness, which until this point has repeatedly been proved to be demonstrably false.

    • sir_limpalot

      Good on you that you quit drinking, you should take som credit!

  • Satish

    One of the most foolish beliefs i keep hearing is when something good happens people thank god and when something bad happens they say god is testing them! People have this mindset. If they see something too complicated and dont understand it they assume its god’s work. This happens more in the case of natural phenomenon or calamity because they cant control it. If they cant control something it doesnt mean it is controlled by god. Its just that we r not that powerful yet.
    A prayer is for those who want to keep false hopes. Hope on but dont blame your god for not doing something about it. He will stay neutral. Its people that will serve u.

  • Dennis Hildebrand

    Here’s one for you:

    William Shatner had a show a few years back called aftermath. The show was fascinating. He would interview people that had gone through horrific ordeals and survived to talk about it.

    So he was interviewing one lady of three people that survived the shootings. When Shatner was probing her innermost thoughts, one question he asked was “what did you do? When you were shot, what were you thinking about?

    She responded with a rather long rambling about how she just prayed over and over and over again to live through this horrible ordeal, and also that she was forever grateful to God for allowing her to live ad nauseum.

    Shatner timed it perfectly, after she paused and he said:

    “Too bad he wasn’t there just a few seconds earlier.. Before the shot.”