Prayer is Futile


Just to get them out of the way early, here are a couple of my favorite go-to Bible passages:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

What Jesus is telling us, essentially, is that if we pray for something we will receive it so long as we have faith. Obviously any prayer I offer to test this would be futile considering I am faith-less. But what this is telling me is that no truly faithful Christian has ever prayed for an end to cancer, to world hunger, or to war. For if they truly had faith, their prayers would have been answered. All of those child-abusing parents who would rather rely on faith healing and prayer instead of medicine to heal an ailing kid only to have the child die from neglect? Not true Christians. Not truly faithful. I find it hard to believe that somebody who has the utmost faith in their god’s power has never once prayed for an end to all of the terrible tragedies humans have suffered and continue to suffer to this day. Assuming at least one “true” Christian has prayed for such things, we can now discount Jesus as a liar.

And don’t tell me prayers work; that you’ve personally had prayers answered. Think to yourself, were you really praying for something that could only have happened as a result of divine intervention? Or were you praying to pass a test, or for your football team to win, or for a surgery to go well? Here’s a little secret I’ve been keeping: sometimes people pass tests they didn’t expect to pass, sometimes the underdog wins, and sometimes (just sometimes) surgeons know what they’re doing.

Don’t tell anybody I told you that.

With that out of the way, here’s what I really wanted to get out in the open: prayer is futile. Useless. Counter-productive. Selfish, in fact. Prayer has been proven to be ineffective. Insofar, at least, as results are concerned. Prayer can be good for the pray-er in the same sense that meditation can be good. In the same sense that sitting at home, listening to music and letting my mind wander is good for me. With that in mind, praying for somebody else is selfish because the only person who can benefit is you.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe if I were laying in a hospital bed with some horrible disease, or after a terrible accident, somebody simply saying to me “I’ll pray for you” would brighten my day. Probably not. I’d rather somebody just sit by me and talk, or call me, or write me a cheerful letter. After the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) in Japan recently, I heard a lot of people offering to pray for the victims and their families. Do you think that’s what the victims wanted? Prayer? While everybody else was kneeling beside their bed praying I was writing a check to the American Red Cross.

I found a quote online recently, and I wished I had saved it because I can’t seem to find it anymore, that basically said, “The only thing worse than inaction is inaction under the guise of action.”

**EDIT: I had intended to mention this in the post originally, but got carried away and forgot, so I’ll just keep it simple right here. If the Christian god is omnipotent, omniscient, and never changes his mind (Numbers 23:19), then what’s the point of praying anyway? According to the Bible, asking the Christian god to do something is basically asking him to change his mind (or his plan) according to your present desires. Just another example of the selfishness of prayer.