Bill Cosby once did a whole routine about how silly it was that people pray to god for a big win in a casino. He said god was way too busy to help you get the card you need at the blackjack table. As an alternative, he suggested that you pray to his friend Rudy. Rudy was lazy, you see, and had plenty of time to handle all the frivolous prayers god wasn't going to bother with. And, as Bill put it: "You'll get the same result!"
Indeed. I've oft wondered why the "same result" factor has not played more prominently into the believer's mindset. The fact of the matter is that when someone prays for some specific outcome, whether it be that grandma gets healed or Suzy does well on a math test, god is off the hook no matter what the actual result. If grandma lives- it's a miracle! If she dies- it's god's will, and she's in a better place now. God has it even better with little Suzy. If she passes her test, well HALLELUJAH! God gets the credit. If she fails, she just didn't work hard enough. The lord helps those who help themselves.
| Praying or hiding a Twinkie? You decide.
As it turns out, being god is a pretty sweet gig. You get credit for anything good happening, and when everything turns to shit… well, that's somebody else's fault (hint: queer abortionists).
It gets even more absurd when folks start calling on the power of collective prayer. When people ask others to pray with them, presumably in the hope that god will be more likely to respond if more people ask for the same thing. I mean, it's easy for god to ignore one person's call for help, but if the whole congregation is praying together he's gotta hear… right?
I guess they never ask themselves why, if it is god's will that a prayer not be answered when one person is praying, adding more voices to the mix would have an effect. Is it possible that they believe that an omnipotent being can be persuaded? How do you talk somebody who knows everything into switching his position on a matter? By asking louder?
It's contradictions like this that drive me nutty about belief. It blows my mind when believers can't see these basic obvious truths. I suppose that once you've accepted cognitive dissonance into your heart in one form, all forms are welcome. Of course, the fact that prayer is bullshit is actually not a reason to stop believing in and of itself- but it sure as hell is a reason to stop trying to pray for solutions to your problems.
So I was poking around the internet with all this in mind, and found a truly remarkable phenomenon- online prayer. I have no desire to be disrespectful to the people who post prayer online (other than to point out how stupid regular prayer is, let alone the electronic kind), but I LOVE THIS SITE! The way it works is that people post requests for others to pray for something, and then other people write little prayers. Such a simple concept, but when read from an outside perspective it becomes a fascinating window into the sordid and sometimes sad personal lives of bible-belt America.
It may be the only place online where I've felt like almost everybody there is exposing very real stuff about themselves in total sincerity. After all, you don't lie or exaggerate or make up a fake persona when you think god is reading. Where else on the web can you find that kind of honesty? And what they're exposing… I'm such a voyeur!
Some of what you find there is truly touching- requests for prayers for a four year old boy who got "ran over" by a lawn-mower, for instance. Talk about a downer! Most, however, are tiny real-life soap operas. Little glimpses into some Midwest housewife's crumbling marriage, or the tragic and devil-inspired blossoming of a teenager's sexuality. Some are just crazy ramblings. Here are a few favs:
Joddy has had a bad toothache since Tuesday. It's given him no end of pain and it's getting unbearable for me as well because I am kept awake with his moaning and groaning. Plus, the stench and decay is nearly unbearable. We are making a dentist's appointment for Tuesday. Please pray that we get it. Thanks! And God's richest blessings. :-)
Please pray for my health&strength/protection from the seen&unseen enemies&evil forces that my be around me. Please pray that(GOD)may/will forgive me for any seen or unseen sins,sometime I fill that you can sin and dont even no it.Please pray for my health,if I have any seen or unseen health problems or disease's please pray that(GOD)may/will(BLESS)me with(MIRACLES&BLESSINGS,SPIRITUAL HEALINGS)in(ALL AREAS THRU-OUT)my body mind&soul.I am self employed please pray that(GOD)may/will(BLESS)me with jobs that I can complete with success and have any problems with pay.Please pray that(GOD)may/will(BLESS)me with nothing but(MIRACLES&BLESSINGS)in(ALL AREAS THRU-OUT)my(LIFE)SPIRITUAL,HEALTH,FINANCE,PROTECTION OF LIFE PROBLEMS,COMPANIONSHIP,ETC!!Thank you all for your prayer,as I always pray for all.
Please pray that me & my husband draw closer to God. Pray that our love and desire for each other grows. Pray that the ex-girlfriend moves on with her life and leaves my husband alone. Please pray that God molds me to be the mature woman, wife and mother he has called me to be. Please pray that God reveals to my husband how truly special I am and not to worry about me and for the both of us to rely on God about our marriage and lives. I am looking for God to move in a mighty way. I trust in God alone.
The ex-girlfriend??? I gotta say- 99% of the marriage related prayer requests I've read should probably be reworded to simply "Please pray that I will find a better divorce attorney than my good-for-nothing husband. Amen"
In fairness, I know that not all believers pray this way. I have an Orthodox Christian friend who thinks this kind of prayer is as silly as I do. His prayers, as I understand them, are basically ceremonial or thankful. He does all the prayers that are required of him by tradition, and he says thanks for life being generally good. I can respect that. It's a little weak-sauce, but at least it doesn't imply any expectation that god will ever do anything. That's as much as I can hope for, I suppose.