Does anyone believe that prayer works?

Prayer is a requirement for certain people. Moslems, for example are required to pray 5 times a day.

Asking for specific things in prayer, however, is a different ball game. Prayer cannot gurantee that your sick relative will pull through. Or that your loved one will get the job. Or that the missing child will be found alive and well. On the other hand, we can’t possibly know what God will or will not do to intervene.

As a relgious person, I credit God for all my successes, while realizing that my efforts also played a role.

So, for those who do it, prayer is a good thing. No one knows for sure, though, if it brings results.

There was a headline in The Onion a few years ago which said something like:


Which is what scientists have found, I’ve heard, when studying this subject, even in cases where the patient being observed didn’t know (s)he was being prayed for.

Divine guidance? The power of positive thinking? Interesting thoughts.

Yes, prayer works. Sometimes the answer isn’t what you want, but I know of times in my life when it has worked. I would never expect to convince anyone else (who was predisposed to not believe me) of this, though. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.

Most “answers” to prayer can be explained as good luck or coincidence, or wishful thinking, even if you (the person praying) believe they are neither coincidence or good luck. Some prayers are kind of like a conversation, where you derive comfort or insight.

One of my sisters, however, had a prayer that, while it could be explained away as “coincidence,” would be a stretch. She’ll never be convinced that it was anything other than an answer to prayer, and since I believe she is not lying in her account of things, I believe it is an answer to prayer as well. I won’t go into the details (if you’re inclined not to believe it, there’s no way I can convince you), but it involved a freak of nature so dramatic that it got on the local news. Yeah, that will get your attention. :wink:

Herbert J. Muller

Having quoted that, though, I’ll agree with the others: I haven’t myself gotten any Western Union responses from God, but… I’ll keep praying to God. It feels like the right thing to do.

The life of George Mueller would be difficult to explain without the power of prayer. A skeptic would be forced to say either “He must have been lying” (which runs counter to his character and self-sacrificing lifestyle) or “He experienced an amazing series of coincidences during his many years of ministry work.”

This is one of the reasons why I do believe in prayer.

I think praying does you good. I think praying with others, and for others does you good. I think God hears your prayers. I think He knew you were going to pray, (or that you would not) and knows beforehand what you would pray for. I think some things happen because of prayer, and some things happen for reasons not to do with prayer. I think I pray at times for things that are not good. Sometimes I even get them.

I think praying is a human thing. God is just the one who is listening.

Of course no part of the above is falsifiable, logical, or subject to proof, or other types of objective analysis. That doesn’t matter to me, much. But then, I don’t pray for bridge designs, or software upgrades, either. Those take engineering. Babies, disasters that have already happened, new loves, and old friends don’t benefit much from scientific analysis. Prayer helps, though, in those cases.

God as a swap shop clerk trading adulatory prayer for penny ante miracles seems pretty . . . disrespectful. I’ll light my own fireworks, and pray for infinite salvation, and healthy newborns. Keep things in perspective, ya know?


“The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” ~ Lao Tzu ~

I just thought I’d mention that we had a thread on that awhile back. Some issues were raised as to the reliability of the methodology of the study(ies).

That sounds like a false dichotomy. If you gave us the details, I’m sure a skeptic could come up with more than those 2 possibilities.

Is it bad form to link to the Onion in GD? Specifically the “God answers boy’s prayer. No says God” article.

People make jokes occasionally in GD. I don’t generally notice too many people complaining, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

I was recently in the hospital overnight. All was well and I was released the next day.

While I was there, two Catholic women entered the room and wanted to know if I wanted to pray with them.

My “roommate” said yes, but as an ex-Catholic, I thanked them, but said no. I left the room. When I came back after they left, my roommate told me they prayed for me as well.

I guess it can’t hurt if you belive in it…but as a Gay man, I have my doubts about Catholics chanting my name to some all knowing being who supposedly hates the fact I have lived (sexually) with the same man for 24 years come next Monday.

Unlike the homophobic Catholic church, I believe people should have the right to do what they want…and if prayer helps them, unlike the Catholic church, I was happy to leave the room and let them do whatever they want in the privacy behind closed doors.

I also believe prayer works, and I’ve seen it do so in a few different ways. It’s complicated, though, in that there are all sorts of prayers which are responded to in all sorts of ways. Let me toss out a few examples I’ve seen and/or done. (Good Lord, I’m actually making an outline! I must be sicker than I thought!)
[ul][li]There’s formal, ritualized prayer which, for this Episcopalian, amounts to the prayers found in the Book of Common Prayer. Ideally, when I’m praying the prayers in it, whether as part of a church service or at home, I should be thinking about the contents of the prayer and praying like I mean it, although I admit my mind tends to wander during the Eucharistic prayer. There is Power in these prayers, although I’ve noticed the Wiccans have better ways of describing that than I do. As a friend of mine puts it, the act of groups of people saying the same words in the same ritual over hundreds of years sort of wears a rut in the universe. It sounds ludicrous, I know, but on the other hand, when I was near catatonic with depression, the words of that Eucharistic prayer provided the Power which hauled me out of the catatonia, back into touch with reality and, as far as I’m concerned, miraculously saved my life.[/li][li]Then there’s less formal, conversational prayer. In some ways, I admit, it’s a glorified version of talking to myself. On the other hand, by talking to God just as I’d talk to a trusted friend or confidant, I’ve been able to find calm and hope. I’ve even been known to pray myself to sleep. I find very real comfort and assurance in this. I’m a grown woman, proud of my independence and competence. Nevertheless, it’s rather nice to have Someone I can turn to for companionship or comfort, whether it’s telling God, “I’m scared” five minutes before I’m laid off or talking to Christ about how difficult it is to get out of a warm bed on a cold morning. [/li][li]There’s also prayer as a way of focusing the mind. Sometimes this does take the form of Zen meditation for me; sometimes it takes a more practical form. The meditative form is intended to take my scattershot mind and help me focus on becoming one with God and adjusting my will to his. As for the more practical form, let me give you an example. I hate driving in bad weather conditions, thanks to an accident several years ago. If I do have to drive when I’m facing snow or ice or when I’m more tired than I’d like to be, I will pray out loud that God keep me safe, give me the wisdom not to do anything foolish, and give that same wisdom to the other drivers around me. This does not mean that, if I hit a patch of black ice at 60 mph I expect God to keep me safe! It means that I expect myself to use the wisdom and experience He gave me to drive in a way which suits the conditions, which includes not going too slowly because I’m nervous. [/li][li]Finally there’s straight petitioning, asking God for something. I don’t remember much of the 48 hours or so that I was catatonic; I doubt I’ll ever will. One thing I do remember from my first night in the hospital is my roommate praying for “the woman in the next bed”. I don’t know her name; I was too far gone for it to register. I don’t even remember what she looked like, although I think she was old. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know I heard her. I just remember hearing someone, a complete stranger, praying for me, a person who was beyond all hope, or so I thought at the time. Sometimes, though, these prayers require action. Sometimes? Make that most of the time. When I was laid off a couple of years ago, praying alone wasn’t going to get me a job; there was a lot of pavement pounding needed as well. Several years ago I was going to a church retreat in the mountains east of here. Halfway up the largest mountain on the route, I came across a couple stuck by the side of the road. Now, I know nothing about cars, but I still stopped and offered to help, something I don’t usually do. Sure enough, there wasn’t anything I could do, but I said something about being some kind of a Christian on a retreat and offered to pray for them. I got in my car and started praying, “Lord, please send someone to help these people.” Halfway down the other side of the mountain, there was a policecar stopped, waiting for speeders. As I passed her, I got the message. “OK, Siege, you want Me to send someone? Guess what. You’re ‘someone’.” I turned my car around as soon as I could, drove 1/4 mile back to the policewoman, told her about the couple on the other side of the mountain, and got back in my car, knees shaking. I’m not used to a 5 minute turnaround on prayers. My plan was to say nothing about this, since it seemed odd or arrogant even by my standards. Wrong again. You see, I forgot to allow that this was on the main route to the retreat center and I was driving a rather distinctive car. When I got to the center, I was surrounded by four women who’d travelled together, seen me talking to the policewoman and wanted to know if I’d been stopped for speeding. It seems God had other plans. ;j [/ul][/li]Yes, I believe prayer works; I’ve seen it do so. I also, however, believe the ultimate goal of prayer should be for us to help align out wills with Gods. I’ve asked God for things over the years, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. Among other things, I’m still not done grousing at Him about this lovely collection of ailments which have had me flat on my back for a week. On the other hand, ultimately, Christ had it right as usual when He prayed in Gethsemane, “Yet not my will, but thy will be done,” “thy will”, of course, being God’s will. That’s how I try to end my petitioning prayers. God knows what I want, what I need, and more than I can put into words. As a devout Christian, it’s up to me to trust Him to take care of things.

There are, however, three things I figure God doesn’t interfere in: weather, lottery tickets, and sporting events: weather because if God did answer all prayers, we’d never have bad weather on a weekend or any other day, although an incident when I was a kid could contradict that; lottery tickets for obvious reasons; and sporting events because, if He did, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been in and won the Super Bowl! :wink:

Respectfully, mostly,

George Mueller was a fervently prayerful man who claimed to experience astoundingly dramatic responses to his prayers. Any summary of his life would be woefully inadequate here, and so I suggest reading up on his biography to get the full impact of his story.

Some would insist that he lied in his memoirs; however, this would have been severely out of character, and he would have had nothing to gain from such deception. (Indeed, Mueller was known for never letting others know about his acute financial needs.) Others insist that his answers to prayer were mere coincidences, but if so, these coincidences were quite astounding, and he sure experienced an awful lot of them.

“He lied” and “Amazing things happened that can’t be explained”, are not the only two options. It could be coincidence, but it’s more likely that the things that happened weren’t really all that amazing, and that he used selective reinforcement, only remembering when things he prayed for did happen, but not remembering when they didn’t. Another possibility is that he didn’t lie, but maybe exaggerated things due to his religious ferver. Not to take away anything from the man - I’m sure what he did was wonderful - I’m just skeptical that it proves the efficacy of prayer.

If these were such unbelievably incredible occurences, surely you would be able to remember a few, and not have to resort to the lame, “Read the book” response.

That doesn’t fly, which is why I didn’t list it as an option. The incidents that he described are nothing short of amazing. To pretend otherwise is simply foolish.

And even if he did engage in selective recall (i.e. remembering the more amazing incidents, and forgetting the less spectacular ones), his accounts are still incredible by any stretch of the imagination. Any one of his stories would be reason enough to pause, and yet Mueller led a life of fervent prayer to which he received dramatic answers.

I recognize that someone could insist that his “miracles” weren’t all that amazing. Given the nature of his biography though, I submit that no amount of evidence would convince such people.

Ad hominem.

And yet you still can’t describe even one.

So were the children exercising their free will, or were they just following your Master Plan?



No, it isn’t. An ad hominem remark is one in which the person is denounced. What I am denouncing is the notion that Mueller’s experiences were anything less than astounding.

Again, not true. I have referred people to Mueller’s biography, which duly records numerous such experiences. This is NOT the same as saying that I can’t describe even one.

In the interest of fighting your distortion though, I refer you this snapshot of some of Mueller’s experiences. I do this with a measure of hesitation, since I know that hardened skeptics will inevitably say “Mueller must have been lying,” “Well, that’s nothing special,” or others words to those effects. To say that these are fairly ordinary experiences would be simply absurd though. It reflects a mindset in which evidence is evaluated in light of one’s desired conclusion, rather than vice versa.

As an atheist, I believe that prayer works. Of course, the stuff about Great Sky Fairies listening to prayers and responding with miracles is a bunch of bull. But the psychological mechanism of prayer is fairly obvious: a believer who has some worry or concerns prays, and in doing so consigns those worries and concerns to the Great Sky Fairy, leaving the one who prays free to take concrete actions (or not) to deal with the problem without having to deal with the anxiety and fear so much (as the Great Sky Fairy “has” them). It makes for a huge advantage over those who dont’ have any method of transferring emotional baggage.

Of course, there are other methods of transferring emotional baggage when dealing with problems, and they work, too. But yer Great Sky Fairy technique works, too, for those who can buy such bullshit.