[I]PRAY[/I] for the Pope? You gotta be shittin me!

I read last week that one of the Cardinals is asking the faithful to pray for the pope, because is frail and not long for this world. This might be kind of a rant and destined for the pit, but what the heck is going on here. The pope needs prayers? Isn’t he supposed to be the God’s main man here on earth? So what are you praying for? That God will let him in? That he doesn’t suffer too much? Does the Cardinal actually think that God hasn’t made up his mind about what to do with this guy? What if only a couple of people do the praying - God says “Sorry, you didn’t poll too good, I’m gonna burn you for a few centuries, then let you in”?

After my father died, one of his old running buddies told me that he prays for my dad every day. Of course I didn’t say what was on my mind, not wanting to freak the old guy out, but what the hell was he praying for? If dad made it to heaven, he shouldn’t need prayers, should he? And if there is a hell and he’s in it, what good would prayers do? God emails Satan, saying “Hey, turn down the temperature from 8 billion degrees, to about 7.9 billion” ?


One retired Episcopal bishop says that prayers are the adult version of letters to Santa Claus.

I’m confused.

Is that a rant about prayers regarding the Pope, or a dig at the whole concept of prayer?

If the former…why is the subject matter of prayer important, since your arguments about the “silliness” of it apply to any prayer.

If the latter, why not just come out and say “anyone who has ever prayed is an idiot”?

It seems like the primary debating tactic of religious apologists is to passive-aggressively fish for insults rather than back up their claims.

Well, the Cardinal might be wanting people to pray that the Pope gets better, or isn’t in pain or something. Or maybe it has something to do with that purgatory thing. Prayers help there, I’m pretty sure.

Believe it or not, I’m truly wondering if somebody at the Cardinal level actually thinks these things through. How could a bunch of people praying for the Pope actually change anything? It’s obvious that I think the whole thing is bunk, but if there actually was a supreme diety who had a plan for somebody, wouldn’t the pope qualify? It would seem to me that this is very different from saying “anybody who prays is an idiot”. The pope has to occupy a somewhat slightly different position than the common man in the eyes of the religious, and there ought to be obvious reasons and goals of the prayers, no?

No it’s not different from a general slam against the practice of prayer. You’re saying (essentially) " why should anyone pray for the Pope…because any supreme diety has already decided the course of action."

That same line of thinking applies to ALL prayer requests, doesn’t it?

If I’m praying for peace in the middle east or praying for a friend with breast cancer…aren’t those equally dubious actions, following your reasoning?

IOW…you’re making a general slam against prayer.

Well, I think the idea is that the Pope is just a person like everybody else, and needs prayers just like everybody else.

Well, I see how the first part (the part about the Pope) is very slightly different – evidently, if the Catholic theological universe were as Dragline supposes, the Pope would not need supportive prayer.

Unfortunately, it’s not so. Suppositions about how it should make sense to be some other way don’t change the actual doctrine. The Pope, being still just a man, albeit a privileged one by rank, can use as much supportive prayer as any other member of the church. Maybe even more.

That’s enough for me, yeah.

The OP presents an example of the fallacy of attacking the strawman. The Catholic view of prayer is that it not merely an act of asking God to cause a particular event to occur - although this is undeniaably a part of prayer. The Catholic view holds that prayer is much more than simple supplication. As such, prayers for the Pope - indeed, for anyone - are appropriate and internally consistent.

  • Rick

“The Catholic view of prayer is that it not merely an act of asking God to cause a particular event to occur - although this is undeniaably a part of prayer. The Catholic view holds that prayer is much more than simple supplication.”

OK, so what more is it, other than an appeal to god to change something or set a specific course of events in motion? If you are calling it a strawman, you should at least point out what it really is.

Praying for the Pope?

Isn’t that like “jogging for Jim Fix”
or “having a drink for Keith Moon”?

No, actually he does not. Or at least, he shouldn’t, in the eyes of God.

Seriously, I was always taught that prayer was something like meditation, with god involved.

What does it mean to say that somebody “needs” prayers? Isn’t al petitional prayer rather illogical in that it represents an attempt to influence an omniscient, omnipotent deity to do something different than he would do otherwise?

Doesn’t God already know everything he needs to know? Doesn’t he already know what everybody wants? Isn’t his mind already made up? Petitional prayer is an attempt to change God’s mind, isn’t it? How can God change his mind?

Also, does anyone really think that God will respond differently if lots of people pray than if one person prays? What will God do differently if people pray for the Pope than if they don’t?

Yet another futile attempt to apply logic to religion.

[Fiddler on the Roof]
“Rabbi, is there a prayer for the Pope?”
“Yes, my son. God bless and keep the Pope, far away from us!”

After thirty-three years since I came to know the Lord, I have absolutely no idea whether prayer changes outcomes, in some clear, Cartesian sense of “say this prayer, and the duck will come down and give you $100” or something similar.

But Guin and Bricker are on the right track, here. This whole silly God business isn’t about putting a quarter in a gumball machine, pulling the lever, and getting a gumball. If it’s about anything, it’s about an interior communion with God, which (one hopes) leads to closer communion with one’s fellow creatures as well. Prayer is part of that.

Prayer is God’s gift, “…the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” Catechism § 2559, quoting St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.

Prayer is a covenant: Catechism § 2564: Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.

Prayer is communion with God:

(Catechism 2565, quoting St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio, 16, 9: PG 35, 945.

It sounds like a legal brief. But if I have to describe a rainbow by explaining the electromagnetic spectra in which its lights appear, then that’s what happens.

Here’s perhaps a simpler way of looking at it. Forget the citations to authority above.

When “his hour” was at hand, Jesus prayed to the Father. His prayer encompassed some key points: yes, a request for things to happen… or, more accurately, to not happen. But also, and critically: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Prayer is not simply a request. It’s an acknowledgement of the fact God is God, lauding God for his own sake and giving him glory, quite beyond what he does, simply because HE IS.

  • Rick

I’d like to add that, at least in my view, Christianity isn’t about rewards and punishments; it’s about relationships, wjth the central one being the relationship between the believer and God. It’s not that if you pray sufficiently, you will go to heaven; it’s that, by spending time making room for God in your heart, you will be forming a bond with the One whose presence is heaven.

Do you spend time with those you love simply to gain material rewards and exchange useful information? Of course not. Time spent with them is its own reward. Time with God is like that, too.


OK. (At least in that aspect of life.)