The Real Purpose and Effects of Prayer
I’ve been gong back and forth with myself over whether or not to publish this article. It’s a force that’s been building up inside me, and it wasn’t until just now that I’ve decided I would go ahead with it. Everything I’ve typed below was typed yesterday, but I never published it. I was succumbed by self-censorship for fear of the negative backlash that I’d potentially get from it. After all… It’s not entirely “necessary” to publish. Then again, neither are my feel-good stories, or my travel stories, or anything else I write here. Yet, if I am to have any respect for myself and the “good ol’ freedom of speech” we American’s love to abuse so much, is it truly right to censor myself? In many cases, yes. In this case… I don’t believe so. It is my firm belief that this writing will change absolutely nothing in the most stubborn of people (most, if not all), and that it’s very likely the more unreasonable of them will lash out in spite. I suppose that’s the risks I take. I would hope though, that people are mature enough to take criticism and, admittedly in many ways “targeted” negativity with the same ‘grace’ that they accept praise. Before you decide that I’m somehow beneath you, or that this is offensive to you in some way, I invite you to practice a bit of a thinking exercise. Read THE ENTIRE THING instead of the parts that stand out, and then take a moment to think about it. Actually, no joke, take a few moments to actually THINK about it. Will it change your perspective at all? Will you see where I’m coming from? Probably not. Will it at least calm you down when you’re done? Maybe, but perhaps my understanding of what it means to be an adult with cognitive function is a bit misguided after all. Some of my language here is colorful, but it comes with the same productive intent as yours does. It just has a different flavor, which I’d like to think is titled: “unapologetically honest.” We’ll see how those who claim the title of “mature adult” take this. Here we go then…
Recently, my brother became ill with some condition that caused his platelets to drop to danger-low levels. His admission to the hospital was greeted by well-wishes from dozens of family and friends around the state (and many outside it), and it invited an opportunity for people to send messages pertaining to their “well-wishes” for him… in the form of “prayers.” Massive amounts of people, all using this word to illustrate the fact that they are worried and are sharing in his wish for recovery. In fact, from what I’m actually able to see anyways, the vast majority of people are using “prayers” in their comments. There are a lot of people wishing him well, and it’s great, and I’m sure it makes him feel good, and makes everyone else feel better about themselves.
This post may offend some people.
That’s going to be unavoidable, because there’s no way to speak honestly without doing so. Some will feel insulted, and some may even resort to the standard archaic “I’ll pray for you” direction… which is equally as ironic as it will be sad. Others will fully understand the position, and while it will have no affect on their actions or messages (it isn’t meant to), they will open their eyes and know where I’m coming from. They will accept that my intention behind this post is not to attack a particular group nor to label them as anything other than good people. They’ll know that I speak from a position of facts. For those that don’t know this, and actually believe prayer “does something,” I hope to get you thinking. If it annoys you, fine, but getting you thinking is the goal. I’d be foolish if I thought some religious people wouldn’t be mad about this… that’s kinda their thing.
Then there will be the people out there who think as I do. Obviously I would have a positive bias in their direction, so I’ll ask that for those of you who do feel the same way, you treat any others who show up in these comments with respect and kindness… “for they know not what they do.”
The Good… kinda.
Prayer, in the form in which it is being used, does NOTHING to actually aid a physical condition. It is the same as saying “I hope”. It’s something you say to yourself and your friends to express an interest in a positive outcome, and to let others know you care. That’s the actual effects of it, not the implied or intended effects, and by all means, it does have a positive affect. It’s socially positive, and reinforces “good vibes” within a group of people who share the same wants. That’s it though. It does no more. To believe it actually “does something in the real world” in terms of his recovery is complete foolishness. It is the most popular and passive form of non-action in the world.
To prevent being misunderstood here, I’m NOT saying you should “stop praying for him.” That isn’t at all what I mean. There is “feel good about yourself and others” effects there, much like saying anything positive in his general direction will have (“cool haircut” for example). It’s about on par with “I wish you well,” and by no means is there anything wrong with that. Keep that up. Visit, write your comments, and spread your literary wings for the man. I’m sure it makes him smile. – What I feel some of you need to hear, but likely will ignore outright (as you have been for years and years), is the fallacy of it actually producing some physical result… which it does not.
If it’s okay to say these things, then why are you telling me there is some sort of problem Charlie?
So why do I say this? Because when that positive outcome happens… the right PEOPLE need praise for it. The right SCIENCE needs credit for the discovery that led to that positive outcome. The DOCTORS who ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING get the credit, and they get 100% of it. They are who you should be praising. They are who you should be thanking, because without them, you don’t get the positive outcome you’re all hoping for. There is no good news without the men and woman attending to him, and the medicine that has been crafted and redrafted through generations of scientific experimentation and discovery. Years and years of medical research are what is helping this situation… not days and days of people talking to themselves (or in most cases I’m sure, just a quick type message and go on with your lives).
If you are a person who actually wants to help him, or anyone in a similar situation like his (in the real world), consider doing something real. Like… an action that actually does something, like donating money for the medical research, or calling the hospital and telling the doctors they are doing a great job, or donating to your nearest children’s hospitals and research centers, or fundraising for medical bills… something… anything, that actually has an actual effect on any situation other than “making me feel good about myself because I say I pray.” If you want to do something, then do something real. if your intent is just to “send well wishes” his way, and that’s all… then you’re doing a fantastic job. Seriously, keep it up, even if you want to use “prayers” in there. That’s 100% acceptable. The issue I have isn’t with the word… it’s with the mindset that believes “prayer works” in that way.
When people use the term “power of prayer,” I hope you realize that everyone who’s reached the state of enlightenment looks upon that statement with concern. Concern for the state of rationality in others. Because to actually believe that your “thoughts” can do something… to actually believe that putting your hands together in front of you and talking to yourself can solve any biological abnormality in another person tens or hundreds of miles away… well I can’t finish that sentence in any productive way. I won’t resort to ‘attacks’ of anyone.
So, as a summary… let’s look at the real power and affects of prayer:
- Feel good about yourself with a non-action approach to helping (same as saying “get well soon man, we’re rooting for you!”)
- It makes the person ‘praying’ feel good about themselves in some small way
- It lets somebody else know that you care just enough to wish them well… the exact same way that saying “I wish you the best” does.
Now, it’s about the time where the hatred inside most of you of whom this appears to directly point a digital finger at has built up, and the negative emotions towards me begin to overwhelm you to a state of either removing me from your lists, speaking out in the comments to “shun the non-believer”, or otherwise throwing an adult version of a tantrum. Allow me to state a few other points before you sharpen your sticks and figure out which stones you’d like to throw…
Many of you, I’ve met in person. Most of you have some knowledge of my family, but very little knowledge about me personally… at least, that’s the way it appears on my side. Most of you, I’ve at least heard something about, and I tell you now that I believe you to be great people. Kind and decent, caring and just. I consider you to be an enormous benefit to society as a whole, as well as your local groups and communities. Some of you are medical practitioners yourselves, constantly taking a backdoor to this foolishness, working long hours day after day just so somebody can say “Thank God” to your face. Some of you may even be church-goers, throwing yourselves into the intellectual thicket of thorns to embrace an alternate reality that makes you feel great about your life, and your fellow man… and for that, you are great people. There is nothing wrong with that… dare I say, there’s a positive to that. It has helped shape who you are, and for the younger ones, who you will become. Without your religion, you may have turned out a different person (no way to really know). Internally, for yourself and yourself only, it has likely lead to a more positive life experience for you…. good for you.
But it is entirely internal. Your “relationship” with this character is no different than any other character. It’s internal, and because of that, it has zero effect on the medical condition you’re praying to get rid of. My brother is going to get better because of doctors and science. My brother will “feel” better, emotionally, because of your comments. Because of your 20 seconds of effort typing a “get well” comment, my brother will feel like he’s important to people…. and he is, very much so. I love my brother very much. He’s been an awesome person his entire life, although he’s got a bit of a temper when he gets a lower score than you (kidding dude.) :). There’s nothing I wouldn’t do if it ever came to it… and that has NOTHING to do with a storybook character, and everything to do with being family. I’m sure that most of you would do something as well, I have no doubts about it.
Just as long as, when this whole thing is over, you give the credit to those who actually deserve it. To those who actually did something to make him better. The ONLY people who applied a treatment to his well-being: Doctors and Science. Because anything else is delusional. “Prayers” do not cure. Doctors do.
I honestly want some discourse about this subject, including any and all people who disagree. Please note however, that if you wish to comment below, you are entitled to a response by anyone, including myself. Please don’t comment unless you believe you can accept responses towards you, much the same way you’ve responded towards me. Keep it clean, keep it rational and mature. Thank you.