Why do people pray?

December 7, 2006

There is  a graffitti in the town I live that reads:

“I pray God to never forget He exists”

Indeed, this seems to me a prayer quite concordant with the times. We have so many problems, unsolvable problems, that praying God for the solution is not the way. Perhaps I think God must be too busy to oblige in each and every case He is troubled by people.

Churches conduct collective prayers in the churches, they – all of them: Jewish, Muslim, Christians – try to unite their parishioners in prayer to God.

In this connection I remember the parable by Jesus that I was taught when I was a kid: The Publican and the Pharisee, both praying in the Temple.

The Pharisee prayed in a loud, boastful voice and compared his prayer to that of the Publican who very quietly prayed by his side, despising the Publican for his humble attitude towards God.

Jesus wanted, with this parable, to show the real value of prayer.

But along the years Christians who – like me – were taught to follow the teachings of Christ, have amazingly observed as those recommentations have changed considerably, at least inside the Catholic Church. Prayers are said in a loud voice, jointly by all present and led by the practicing priest.

In my opinion prayers are a very particular, inner way to try to get spiritual soothing to our problems. Prayers should be individual and, also in my opinion, collectively praying weakens the very essence of the plight we are going under. Prayers should not conform with established texts, the innermost self should compose in each case how every one should ask for help.

Not that we are going to get that help, but at least we might feel more comfortable, more satisfied that we have done everything possible to solve our problem, or any other one’s for that matter.


17 Responses to “Why do people pray?”

  1. lpaula said

    I believe in positive thinking and the power of thought. I write positive ‘stuff’ down daily and I believe we can create whatever we want with our thoughts and in praying to a higher power. Instead of praying and asking for things I talk to God as if I already have it.

    Sounds simplistic but I really believe it and ‘feel’ it to be true.

    I also remember the saying that goes something like, “Be careful what you ask for.. you may get it!”. We do not always know what is best for us. 😉

  2. Richard said

    There are times when I think that ‘praying’ is simply Man talking to himself ‘in the image of Man’ – rather than Man talking to God ‘in the image of God’.

    But there are other times when I believe, with conviction, that is not the case.

    My father – who has passed on to ‘The Great Perhaps’ – had a small ‘verse’ on his desk at home – “More Things Are Wrought By Prayer Than This World Thinks Of”. I think about that more as I grow older – as I do my father.

    I preferred the graffiti on a toilet wall : “God is Dead – Nietzche. Nietzche is Dead – God”.

  3. Thank you, Paula, for your interesting view on this topic. Yes I see how everybody has a particular way to behave before the entity considered as God, the relationship with Him is always very particular and private, simplicism is the real way. Publican-wise.

    Richard, I am not so sure as you are, but again this is inherent to every person.

    I admire those who have no doubts, because I have doubts about many things, although I must clarify I believe in God. Perhaps my learning so many years ago the basics of religion, and my observation of how it is conducted now has made me be so.

    Thank you for your contributions.


  4. Richard said

    Jose, I am “sure” of the thoughts that I have (‘I think therefore I am’ – Descartes), but I am never sure of the “truth” of those thoughts – nor should I ever be – that’s an endless quest.

    If someone is sure of the truth of their thoughts, I can be sure of one thing in my own own mind – I know they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  5. Sorry, I misunderstood your comments, Richard. Descartes gave thought the primacy over the physical existence, something many people think of as useless. The persons I have known here do really think and they exist essentially.


  6. Richard said

    Is thought a thing, or about a thing ?

  7. I have an English dictionary before me reading: thing is anything that you can think of as a single item, for example an idea, an action, a feeling, or a fact. Of course there are other definitions, but I think this is the one that should be included in my comment.

    I wanted to liken this English definition with that the Spanish Dictionary of the Royal Academy has to say:

    Cosa (thing in English): (I translate freely) Everything that has entity, either bodily or spiritual, natural or artificial, real or abstract.

    I think, Richard, this answers your question.

    Or perhaps you were after a different way to understand “thing”?

  8. Richard said

    It all depends what we mean by “thing” ?

    Are Values “things” or about “things” ?

  9. I think, Richard, values are both things and about things. The term is so generic that it can encompass everything.

  10. Richard said

    I think you are right, Jose – but I see Values (eg Beauty/Freedom/Happiness/Life/Love/Peace/Truth)
    more as “things” now….so much so that they are as real as “thoughts” are real, and as real as a nuclear warhead in a bunker.

  11. Real as a nuclear warhead in a bunker? On second thoughts we might look on this fact as irreal, what by not knowing actually what damage a nuclear head can cause. We’ve read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thank God we have not experienced the havoc those poor people had and are having.

    Reality in nukes is something we shouldn’t think of lest we become more and more depressed every day.

  12. Richard said

    The unthinkable has been thought – and now the thought has become real.

    I share Chomsky’s view that those who even talk about carrying out a nuclear attack (eg US pre-emptive nuclear strike policy), have dangerously lost their humanity. ‘Experts’ talk with such apparent equanimity and balance about such things – but really they are quite insane.

    Those that appear the most balanced are the most insane; those who appear the most unbalanced are the most sane (my adaptation of a comment by Anthony Storr).

    We are forced to think the unthinkable – it would be an act of dangerous psychological denial not to do so – but we don’t have to talk as if such horror is likely to take place.

    We have to attack such dangerous ideas with a moral force more powerful than nuclear warheads – and if that means calling George Bush, Richard Perle et al morally insane – so be it.

  13. anticant said

    Studies with control groups have shown that prayer petitioning for specific outcomes – such as a cure for cancer – is not effective. However, meditational prayer does not have to be objectively based in order to confer spiritual benefits. So does it matter if the deity or entity to which the prayer is offered up really exists outside ourselves? I don’t believe in the doctrines of Christian Science, but I have known people who did and who claim to have found comfort and uplift from the incomprehensible outpourings of Mrs. Eddy.

    It’s all very strange. I don’t believe in the external, all-powerful Creator God of the three Religions of the Book[s], but I do believe that each of us has a spiritual component which, whether we are aware of it or not, we can use for good or bad purposes.

    I’m not sure, with Ipaula, that we can create “whatever we want” with our thoughts and prayers – would that we could! – but I do agree with Richard that those who even think with apparent equanimity of a nuclear attack [or of such idiocies as “the Rapture”] make such horrors more likely.

    The best use of meditation or prayer is to think and act Peace. If eveyone did this regularly, the world would soon become a safer place. “By their fruits you shall know them”.

  14. Jose said

    Anticant, you say:

    “but I do believe that each of us has a spiritual component which, whether we are aware of it or not, we can use for good or bad purposes.”

    Couldn’t this be what the rest of us interpret as God? Although I must be definitive that “bad purposes” should not be related to the Devil.

    An intangible entity. A Creator, if we refer it to our logical principles, must have existed.

    No I do not believe in the strength of prayer, I believe in the strength we ourselves build in our innermost, that strength that gives us stamina to keep living against all imponderables. The building material we use must necessarily be ethical and moral enough to serve the whole of it.

    As a child I was brought up in the Catholic Religion, until I was mentally ripe to think for myself.

  15. Richard said

    “More things are wrought by prayer than this world ever dreamed” (Tennyson)

  16. christianzionismexposed said

    Richard, LOL on the Nietsze one.

    Faith is a very personal thing. Unfortunately, we sit and watch people who use the very things we believe in deeply as a way to gain power, make money or control others and, at that, I admit to getting involved and speaking out, especially when others’ lives are sacrificed on the altar of misstatement or claims to be part of ‘God’s work’, etc.

    Jose, I love the story you quoted about the two prayers. It says in that story that the man was praying ‘about himself’ who prayed the pompous ‘Thank God I’m me’ style prayer, if I recall, but I’d better double check..Tab has me quite nervous these days. LOL

  17. christianzionismexposed said

    Woops, forgive the bad misspelling of Nietzche.

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