Nothing fails like prayer
From a variety of sources, edited by James Robert Watson, PhD
Some ask me why I think religion is so bad, since it does do a lot of good things. Yes, it does, however, the good that religion does can be achieved without religion. One can have hope without religion. One can love, forgive, and have peace - all without religion. The only thing religion provides exclusively is the notion of living forever in Heaven with your loved ones. Well, at least your loved ones that all-loving God didn't send to hell, to suffer in agony for all eternity. So, the bad things that religion does increase in significance without the positive balance. Bad things include murder, hatred, ignorance, intolerance, and arrogance.
Prayer can provide hope and comfort for those who believe in such myths, but when it comes down to the wire concerning a medical need - most sane people would select medicine and science over prayer.
If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished; for they are forever praying for evil against one another. - Epicurus, Athens, 341-270 BCE
We know that most prayer fails, but the value of prayer is that it makes those doing the praying feel better. They know God is not likely to change the preordained order of events just to suit their selfish wishes, but they feel better turning over their problems to an imaginary higher power. Following are some observations about the impotence of prayer.
Plane crash of God-fearing youth
In May 2012, a small airplane crashed in southeast Kansas carrying five people to a Christian rally in Iowa. Several were associated with Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and one was the daughter of the founder of Teen Mania Ministries, which was sponsoring this weekend's Acquire the Fire rally where young people come together and learn about God. "May God grant them peace and they reflect on the precious lives that were so dear to their hearts. We continue to pray for those who are recovering."
Trusting God to heal children
Three Oklahoma children whose parents attend a Church of the Firstborn have died without medical care.
1. Aaron, age 9, died of complications from diabetes after his mother did not get him medical help. She told police that she believed her son would be healed through prayer and faith.
2. Troy, age 4, died at his family's trailer home after being sick for a week.
3. Silas died hours after his at-home birth. His mother, 25, died 20 days later.
The Church of the Firstborn is a network of more than 100 churches in 20 states; 41 in Oklahoma, more than any other state. Some of the churches go back more than a century.
A bishop of the Church of the Firstborn said congregations are strictly Bible-based. "We conduct our lives by the New Testament. We're a God-fearing people. It is our belief that God can heal any illness. I know if we put all our trust in God, he can heal us."
One Oklahoma woman said, "if you do go to the doctor, they look at you as weak and treat you different. You're shunned." She has seen adults die before their time, "but that's different. Children don't know any better." When she was in her late 20s, she realized it was not a sin to cut her hair. "Once I realized that, I asked God about other areas, and the Lord started speaking to me. I was delivered from goofed-up thinking."
An Oklahoma man who left the church said, "People focus on the children, but a lot of people let their (adult) family members die," he said. "They'll take their cattle to the vet, but won't take their children to the doctor. Is that messed up?"
From the Tulsa World, May 20, 2012
Texas just isn't praying hard enough
In 2011, Texas had the hottest summer for any state in US history, beating a record set by Oklahoma in 1934, according to the National Weather Service. The dearth of rain has wilted fields and led to destructive wildfires across the state.
"We're just hanging on, praying for rain," one Texan says.
So are others: every Thursday night, a few residents of Llano, 75 miles west of Austin, gather in the gazebo in the town square and pray. Recentlyy, 15 of the faithful met at the gazebo - they joined hands, squeezed their eyes shut, and prayed for an end to the wildfires, for the thinning deer and cattle, for neighbors who have lost homes; and they prayed for rain.
The problem plaguing Texas is not so much shifting weather patterns as a lack of fervent faith from its residents, says another Texan. More prayer could open up the skies, he says. "When enough people get serious and do whatever it takes to get God's attention, that's when we'll have our rain."
Shouldn't we describe this person and the thousands like him, delusional? They are spiritually ignorant, believing they can overcome God's will. Texans began praying for rain last April, over 5 months ago, per request from the governor, Rick Perry. How long will God wait before responding? Is there a specific number of people that have to join in before He will grant their request?
And watch - when it does finally rain, many of these Texans will thank God and sing praises to His almighty power. Even with their ruined crops and devastated livestock industry.
11 religious people killed when a truck and their church van crash in Kentucky.
During a church meeting the night before, Esh family members asked the congregation to pray for their safe travels to Iowa, where they planned to attend a wedding. Police credited child safety seats for sparing two 3-year old brothers, the lone survivors. Hearses brought some of the bodies back home on Friday night, and church members were preparing to bury them in coming days at graves they would dig by hand at a churchyard cemetery. The only person currently buried there is another family member who died in a snowmobiling accident during a religious mission in Ukraine.
Even as some fought back tears of grief, members of the close knit Mennonite community said they were convinced the deaths were God's will. "It's a little like a tapestry, if you focus on one piece, it looks black and bad, but it has to be a part of a bigger whole." The Meshes were Mennonites who believe that entry into heaven is immediate and assured for their followers.
"It's joyous, yet the loss of a loved one is sad, tough to bear." As crews cleaned up debris, one of the workers found a brown woman's purse containing a Bible. A bench seat from the van rested on the road with two children's' car seats attached.
"These were wonderful people," an emotional friend said to a somber Kentucky Senate chamber, which had observed a moment of silent prayer. "They were hardworking. They were great citizens."
(If only God had agreed, they might still be alive today.)
Obama and Michele prayed not for peace or comfort, but "for his recovery".
Three days later came this announcement:
Shouldn't God answer a prayer from the Leader of the Free World and from a Christian nation?
Oral Roberts is hospitalized
Oral Roberts remained hospitalized Monday near his Newport Beach, CA, home after a fall Saturday in which he broke bones. Roberts, 91, was listed as stable. He also has a slight case of pneumonia. The family appreciates prayers for Oral Roberts as "they trust he will make a speedy and miraculous recovery." Mark Rutland, ORU president, said, "The Oral Roberts University family is praying for a quick recovery for Chancellor Roberts."
He is a pioneer of the healing evangelism movement of the 1940s and '50s and the founder of Oral Robert University, the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, and the now-closed City of Faith Medical and Research Center. Oral Roberts has faced several health challenges in recent years: a broken hip, prostate surgery, surgery to alleviate narrowing of the carotid arteries, surgery to improve blood flow to his heart after suffering chest pains, shoulder surgery that failed to heal for more than a year, and heart problems. From the Tulsa World, 2:30a Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Evangelist, university founder Oral Roberts dies at 91
Oral Roberts, the evangelist known to millions by catchphrases such as "expect a miracle," died Tuesday at age 91, from complications of pneumonia. This article goes on to honor Roberts with accomplishments and successes and it mentions his "clownish moments". But nowhere in the article does it mention that his family and friends had been praying for a quick recovery and they trust he will make a speedy and miraculous recovery. From USA TODAY, 5:30p Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Two years of prayer - wasted
A year before her disappearance, Susan Powell thought about divorcing her husband, but after fasting and praying about it, she made the decision to stay in her marriage. She was reported missing on December 14, 2009. From the article above: A prayer service attended by about 100 people. Friends and family are praying for her safe return. And on January 27, this appeal was published: "We'll keep praying." How effective were these prayers and a 24-hour fast by church members in their appeals to God?
Epilog, after 2 years of prayer
In Febuary 2012, Susan Powell's husband murdered their two sons (apparently with a hatchet) and then blew up the house with the two boys and himself inside. He left a voicemail message: "I'm sorry to everyone I've hurt. Goodbye." Susan Powell's body has yet to be found.
Important note: All prayers for her marriage, her safe return, and the safety of her children have been completely ineffective.
Lesson: God's will for us will be done whether or not we tell God what we want Him to do.
Some other examples of the power of prayer
Florida Today reported December 17, 2009: two-year-old Bryson Ross died in the family's swimming pool Monday. Mother Shellie Ross, who has 5,000 followers on Twitter, wrote that she was outside with her son Monday evening and "it took him two seconds to slip away." She called 911 at 5:38 pm to say she had found him in the bottom of the pool. At 6:12, she tweeted: Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool.
The County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the child died.
Dale Neumann was convicted in the death of his 11-year-old daughter from undiagnosed diabetes. He should have rushed the girl to a hospital because she couldn’t walk, talk, eat or speak. Instead, his child died on the floor of the family’s home as people surrounded her and prayed.
Neumann, a “full-Gospel Christian” who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, testified that he believed God would heal his daughter and he never expected her to die. God promises in the Bible to heal, he said. “If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God,” Neumann testified. He considered Madeline’s illness “a test of his faith.”
Doctors testified that Madeline would have had a good chance of survival if she had received medical care, including insulin and fluids. Defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter said Neumann sincerely believed praying would heal his daughter and he did nothing criminally wrong. “Dale Neumann was doing what he thought would work for his daughter,” Kronenwetter said. “He was administering faith healing. He thought it was working.”
Of course, the praying didn’t work, Kronenwetter said: “He was terribly wrong.” From The Associated Press
The medical examiner called the death of 16-year-old Neil Beagley “an absolute waste of a young life.” The boy died of a simple urinary tract condition that could have been treated easily with a catheter. Without treatment, the boy was unable to urinate for a week. He suffered stomach pains and shortness of breath until the toxins in his blood caused heart failure. The medical examiner suspects that his “final days were excruciating."
The boy and his family believe that prayer, not medical treatment, is the best way to cure illness. His 15-month-old niece died of an untreated bronchial infection and her parents have been charged with manslaughter. Their lawyer says that their Constitutional right to religious freedom has been violated and that “they’ve been called upon by God to face this challenge.” They have set up a Web site to help present their case to the public and raise money for their cause.
A former Church member says that the whole group is a cult - the parents “are victims of the church and they were just following their beliefs that they’ve been taught since they were born.”
A man in Oregon is facing jail for relying only upon prayer to cure his 15-month-old daughter of pneumonia. The mother was acquitted since, in families of the 'Followers of Christ', husbands make all important decisions. The child died in March 2008 after family and church members prayed over her and anointed her with olive oil. The 'Followers of Christ' shun conventional medicine in favor of faith healing - the state medical examiner said she could easily have been saved with antibiotics. The County Judge told lawyers that he had already determined the Oregon City couple had a duty to seek medical care for their daughter, despite their religious beliefs. “There are limits, especially when it comes to the protection of young children.”
John Travolta may leave the Church of Scientology after 34 years. The actor is wracked with guilt and anger because he didn’t seek conventional medical treatment for his son, Jett - who died after years of seizures - relying instead only on treatments approved by Scientology. Travolta is upset “his religion was not able to help his son more.” said author Rick Ross, who has written about Scientology. “It’s led him to question his faith.” Friends said Travolta might be afraid to leave the religion because it keeps files on members’ personal lives. From The Week magazine, August 7, 2009
My brother suffered through the effects of liver cancer, chemo treatment, and various medications. However, some of his greatest pain came from falling and breaking his arm, which happened only after many people began praying for him. I was sorta hoping they'd quit praying so he wouldn't suffer so much.
The odds are good that every plane that has crashed had several people on board praying to God for a safe landing.
There were most likely people on those 4 planes on 9/11 that were praying for a miracle, a safe resolution to the hijacking.
Victims of the Katrina hurricane and flooding most certainly had prayed to God to save them.
Nothing fails quite like prayer.
God Bless America - we have been praying for God to bless America for about 200 years. God has sent hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and fires during those 200 years. His actions have killed thousands and thousands of innocent Americans. America has a high rate of crime, abortion, murder, and greed. Just how long will we wait for God to bless America?
For several decades now we have followed the suggestion to Pray for our Troops. Why do US soldiers continue to die awful deaths even though many devoutly religious people have been praying for their safe return?
A study, appearing in The American Heart Journal, showed that cardiac patients who were prayed for had no better chance of recovery than those who were not. Even worse, patients who knew they were being prayed for actually did worse, (possibly because of performance anxiety). However disappointing the outcome of the $2.4 million project was to the researchers, most believers are likely to remain unfazed. One of the coauthors of the study, a chaplain in Minnesota, noted, "You hear tons of stories about the power of prayer, and I don't doubt them." That is all the evidence most believers require. This has always been the quandary - science and religion are not playing by the same rules. No laboratory finding can compel a person to give up what is taken on faith. Looking to science to prove a miracle is a losing proposition, for both believers and skeptics. The skeptics continue to trust in science, and the believers in miracles.
Another study, the largest and most accurate study so far of the effect of intercessory prayer, published in the American Heart Journal has shown that prayer fails to make any difference whatsoever. The study was conducted by a team led by Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson, who is sympathetic to the idea that prayer has healing effects, and funded in large part by the Templeton Foundation, an organization devoted to the scientific improvement of our understanding of spirituality. Complete story.
Another resource of failed prayer
A CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.
She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.
"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"
"Morris Fishbien," he replied.
"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"
"For about 60 years."
"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"
"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews, and the Muslims.
I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. I pray for all our children
to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."
"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"
"Like I'm talking to a fucking wall."
1. God doesn't listen attentively to our prayers.
2. God ignores us.
3. God must not like it when we tell him what to do.
4. God is just not going to intercede to save lives.
5. God listens and answers prayers but then bungles the task.
6. God is just a mythical being that we use to help us feel better.
Response from an OSU student
I agree about getting off one's ass and making things happen rather than just wishing and praying. I grew up in a Christian home and attended a private non-denominational Christian school from 5th-12th grade. From the time I was young until two years ago, I constantly questioned my faith. In what was called "Bible Class" but really was a theology course, I asked many questions about faith, prayer, other religions, and scientific facts. But, all of my questions were answered with non-relevant answers from Bible verses or typical church answers. I wanted proof that what I was being told to believe was real. The proof never came.
In my experience, God never has responded to my prayers. One occasion was during my freshman year in college. My friend was visiting in Stillwater and had to drive home pretty late to get back to Oklahoma Baptist for her campus curfew. On the way out of Stillwater, her car was hit by a drunk driver. She was immediately sent to the ER in Stillwater. After being put in ICU, the doctors told her parents and the friends that were there that there was nothing they could do and that her survival depended on the strength of her body to recuperate. For hours and hours we prayed and prayed that God would spare her life. It never happened.
After her death, I continued to pray and ask that God watch over my friends. I asked to take me instead of my friends so that they could continue to live their lives to the fullest.
A month after my friend's death, another one of my friends drowned while kayaking. Six months later, my friends little sister died in a horrible car wreck. A month after that, one of my best friends was murdered. During that funeral I had my last conversation with God. I asked him, Why, if he was such a benevolent God, would he take away my friends so violently? After I asked him to watch over everyone of my friends, why would he do this? To prove a point? To fulfill fate? To simply be an asshole? I asked him to show me that he was sorry, or that he had a purpose. I asked him to just speak to me, to help me come to peace with what was happening to my friends.
Nothing ever came of that prayer. I wondered if I was being too selfish, or maybe I was challenging God, a big taboo in Christianity. I wondered if there was something I did wrong, if I was living the sinful life. Then I finally decided that prayer just doesn’t work. The only thing I understood was that this God had a plan, and I wasn't going to change it. Fate is going to happen regardless, because it's fate. Praying to God to change it isn't going to do anything. Maybe you might get the outcome you wanted, but it's only because fate had it planned that way.
So enough praying for your sick daughter to be healed, enough praying for people to give enough money to the church so that you can have new TVs for the youth, enough praying for the murderer of your close friend or family member to be found. Sometimes, it takes a little of yourself getting up off your ass and stop relying so much on an omnipotent being to do everything for you, especially if you're daughter is sick and needs to be taken to the hospital immediately. If you rely on prayer, you're bound to be disappointed.
To thine own self be true, Ex-Prayer
Crosses along the highway
The crosses we see along highways are more visible evidence of the failure of prayer. They represent prayers for safe journeys; for recoveries in the hospital; and/or for protection of loved ones. Each cross along the highway honors a dead person who didn't receive blessings for life from God. If their death was a result of God's preordained plan, then why does one even need to pay attention while driving? Free will? Free will defies preordination. How can both exist for one person?
Some words of wisdom about prayer
Benjamin Franklin, American Founding Father, author, and inventor
• Lighthouses are more helpful then churches.
Billy Joel, musician
• I believe that all important matters have to be settled here, not in the clouds somewhere after we kick off.
Dave Matthews, South African rock musician
• I'm glad some people have that faith. I don't have that faith. If there is a God, a caring God, then we have to figure he's done an extraordinary job of making a very cruel world.
Frederick Douglass (former slave)
• I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
Gypsy Rose Lee
• Praying is like a rocking chair - it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere.
Lance Armstrong, cyclist, in reply to a question about what beliefs had helped him as a cancer patient
• Everyone should believe in something, and I believed in surgery, chemotherapy and my doctors.
Robert Frost, poet
• I turned to speak to God, About the world's despair; But to make bad matters worse, I found God wasn't there.
• Forgive, O Lord, my little joke on Thee and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.
Robert Green Ingersoll, politician and lecturer
• Hands that help are far better then lips that pray.
• Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?
More wisdom quotes about religion
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