Tonight, a group of Christians asked people to pray for the safety of people threatened by the hurricane in Florida. Do most Christians think the prayers are useless? I last entered their church after Sept. 11 when they asked us to pray for the life of firefighters.
Does the Christian God reject prayer from the unfaithful as the Old Testament says? I am an agnostic, but I could not turn down a chance to help those who might be in need by the hurricane.
I seriously doubt anybody here knows God’s position on prayers from atheists. Although I’m sure some will claim to.
And, as an atheist (although I would have said the same thing when I was a “practicing” Christian), I agree with x-ray vision’s suggestion.
Some Christians assume that everyone else is a Christian, too (or damn well should be). If you comply with their request, you are praying to someone, therefore you are a theist.
I’m not familiar enough with the Bible to know what part of the OT you’re talking about, nor do I believe that the Bible should ever be taken literally, but perhaps you are thinking of those who would pretend to pray but don’t really believe? Those ‘prayers’ from the unfaithful would of course be useless (in another Christian’s eyes), because they are not really prayers. But any genuine prayer would never be ‘rejected’ – at least, not by any God I ever knew.
First, a mild reprimand for using ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic’ as synonyms. I would expect anyone who proclaims him/herself to be one or the other to at least know what the words mean.
Second, as John Carter of Mars said, atheists don’t pray. If you believe that praying for someone could be of any “help,” you are a theist.
(And, while there are all sorts of shades of gray where agnosticism is concerned, it’s my thinking that you aren’t an agnostic any more than you are an atheist.)
The first clause is probably mostly true, but I suspect that there are soft* atheists who might pray in the same way that they (or Christians) might perform minor superstitious rituals (“Don’t mention the streak or it will be broken.”) as a hedge against some ominous event. In that case, most Christians (and there are exceptions) would say that God, being merciful, is perfectly willing to hear their prayers.
(I am not trying to be insulting: I have simply drawn a blank, this eveneing, on whether the atheist terminology distinctions are referred to as weak/strong or soft/hard. I am referring to those who do not believe that there is a god, but are open to the possibility that they might be mistaken.)
None of us can be sure what answer we’ll get to our prayers, or even if we’ll get any answer at all. But if, in a moment of desperation, an atheist cries out “I don’t think there’s anybody oput there, but if there is, I could sure use His help,” God is bound to listen.
I point to Mark 9:25. The father of the sick boy isn’t sure if Jesus is divine, but he’s desperate enough to ask His help anyway. When Jesus seeks some sign of faith, the man can only answer “Help my unbelief!” And that alone was enough. Jesus healed the boy.
Jesus didn’t turn the man away simply because his faith was lacking. Apparently, even an effort at belief was good enough. And the God I believe in won’t turn a deaf ear to an attempt at prayer by someone who’s not normally inclined to try such a thing.
When momentuous events happen, and some believing friends or acquaintences ask me to join them in prayer, I will often do so - not in prayer to god (who is this god person anyway :)?) but rather in companionship with my fellow man.
I think that sometimes, joining people who need the comfort of prayer (or any other sort of outlet) for their anxiety is far more important than posturing about god, religion or the lack of either.
That said, I have to admit that my “prayers” are definitely a case of going through the motions; it’s something I will do because I think it can help those I am praying with, not because of some hope that any being will actually hear it and act on it.
I hope this doesn’t come off as being offesnsive or insensitive to religious people - it’s an attempt to explain something I see as part of a “live and let live” philosophy.
So you’re a father with a small child, and you know that the kid wants to go to the beach. And you plan on doing it – because you yourself like the beach, and you love the kid and want to make him/her happy.
So you let the kid ask you if the family can go to the beach, and when he/she does, you say, “Sure!” And the kid’s ecstatic because you’re gonna do it.
Now, did you or did you not fulfill the kid’s request when you as a family go to the beach? Remember that you planned to anyway – and that you did agree when the kid asked.
I’m sure it depends on the atheist, the prayer & the mood God is in that day- His response could range from “It’s about time! I’m right on it! Welcome home, Kiddo!”
to “Oh, NOW you call upon Me! Too late, buster- see ya in Hell, sucker!”
The term ‘agnostic’ has expanded from its original meaning – someone who believes that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable – and now includes anyone who is simply ‘not sure’ if there’s a God, or any kind of higher power. Many people who are not comfortable calling themselves either theists or atheists seek shelter under the ‘agnostic’ umbrella. I don’t agree much with the latter definitions: I think that someone is only agnostic if they believe that the ‘truth’ about God is unknown/unknowable.
The OP says that he/she believes prayer can help those who are being prayed for, and therefore obviously believes that the truth is knowable: an agnostic would not pray to something unknown any more than an atheist would pray to something that doesn’t exist. The very definition of prayer involves theism.
But are you praying? Or are you just folding your hands, bowing your head, and being in company with your friends? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, in fact I think there’s something to be said for spending reflective time with others; that’s what I do in situations when everyone else in the room is taking ‘a moment for silent prayer.’ But something tells me you’re not really praying during such times, because that would make you a theist.
Hmm, I just realized that you may not be talking just about silent moments of prayer…do you mean that you actually say the words out loud with your friends when asked? Personally, that is where I would have to draw the line; I would feel like a hypocrite. I believe it’s possible to decline an invitation to pray out loud without “posturing:” I would never make a big deal about my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), but if others choose to do so, or choose to not respect them, I wouldn’t back down just to avoid conflict.
That’s vastly oversimplifying the idea of prayer. So to give you an oversimplified answer: yes, praying often does much good. Just not in the way(s) you – or the person doing the praying – might expect.
I think you’re reading in to things a bit. Isn’t it possible that the OP doubts that there is God and also thinks that the question of whether God exists or not is unknowable? The OP believes prayer might help those being prayed for. Even theists that I know agree that the existance of God is unknowable (whick by your definition would also make them agnostics). That is why it is said that their belief is based on faith.
A writer I like once commented, “God doesn’t need the half-baked and begrudged worship of human beings – He has the willingly given praise of the heavenly choirs. Rather, He mandates it because it’s good for us – it keeps us in the proper level of humility and dependence on His Providence, and the right state of mind to do what He calls us to do for our fellow man.”
But a feeling of “humility and dependence on His providence” is not the right state of mind for motivating us to help our fellow humans. It’s the state of mind for motivating us to prayer and worship and otherworldiness, not this-worldiness.