Another of America’s really bad ideas, the National Day of Prayer, has come around again.
That prayer doesn’t work has been amply demonstrated, both practically and scientifically, so I thought this time I would take a different approach and examine the practice from an (almost) purely religious perspective.
Assume I am religious or, if you are religious, feel free to substitute yourself for me if you like. I (or you) have defined a need for prayer, I’ll make one up, you may choose a real life situation if it simplifies the process.
By entering into prayer, what are we actually doing? I would submit, correct me if I’m wrong (Note: Not if you would like me to be wrong, but rather if you can actually present a reasonable argument for same), but it seems to me prayer is the practice of recognizing a mistake your deity has made and then asking him (her/it) to correct it.
I know what you’re thinking, but yes it is. Aunt Millie has cancer, and has been told she has six months to live. I therefore enter into a dialogue with the almighty and point out that when he was apparently busy with something else, perhaps knocking down the Himalayas and burying 8,000 or so men, women and children, he seems to have forgotten to take care of Millie and now she’s in really bad shape. So, lord, could you please refocus and correct your oversight?
The problem is, god is omniscient, he knows everything. Not just what happened yesterday or what’s going on at present, but what will happen tomorrow and next month and a thousand years from now. It’s all in his grand plan, you see.
Now is the problem clearer? God has a plan, Aunt Millie succumbing to cancer in agony is part of that plan, but I’m going to talk him into changing his plan just for me. (And Millie, of course.) If he responds and Millie gets better, was that part of his plan all along? (In which case my prayer was sort of narcissistic and a complete waste of my and god’s time.) Or did he change his plan because of my intervention, which begs the question how firm of a plan he has and just how omniscient he really is.
In conclusion, prayer is a rather self-serving claim that I (or you) know better than our all-knowing deity. Which, I believe, comes pretty close to clarifying who really created whom.