They need our prayers

Er, what? God maybe didn't notice that a giant hurricane hit New Orleans? He needs people to yell at him so that he'll wake up and get off the couch and do something about it? Or perhaps he was hoping someone else would take care of it, and we all have to pray so that he realizes that he has to handle it himself?


If the US president and the other people who were saying this believed in a religion where prayers had personal magical power and the act of praying involved exerting one's own psychic and emotional energy towards making the problem less severe, I'd understand this comment. Given the tenets of the Christian religion, it's just moronic.

Posted: 2005-08-30 18:36 — Why no comments?

"Given the tenets of the Christian religion, it's just moronic."

In a religion that's fond of hymns about God seeing and caring about the littlest sparrow's fall, one could make the same argument about nearly anything else that "needs our prayers"; a giant hurricane is no more exceptional than a kid who pinched his finger. And yet American Protestantism believes that prayers are valuable.

I think this leads to a logical conclusion that there must be something more expected of prayer than "Yo, God! Over here! Fix this!" Otherwise, it would _always_ be moronic and pointless. So it would seem that there's more to it, and that it's worth looking to see what that is.

Prayer is often spoken of with language like "uplifting people's souls to God." Translating that out of church-speak, I think what that means is that God's help requires reaching out on the part of both God and of the people in need, and that praying is a manner of doing the reaching out for them. (Where this fits with issues of consent on the part of the prayed-for is perhaps tangled, but there's at least a sketch of something there.)

Beyond that, there is -- in practice in the Southern churches I have been acquainted with (and I don't know how culturally widespread this is) -- a very strong sense that praying for someone provides them directly with emotional and spiritual strength. Regardless of whether this is Biblically supported, it runs _deep_ in the culture. So, in practice: Yes, it very much _is_ a religion that believes that praying involves exerting the spiritual energy that one is personally connected to towards making the problem less severe, regardless of the theological theory.

There's also a traditional understanding that praying brings the person doing the praying closer to God, and that God talks to people through their prayers. For instance, personally I suspect that if I were to pray about this, I'd feel fairly strongly reminded to go ahead and make the donation to the Red Cross that I've been thinking I should make. And I seriously doubt I'm alone in that.

Posted by Brooks Moses at 2005-08-30 20:33

Yes, my comment does apply generally to the way that Christianity treats prayer for anything other than personal communication with God. I have serious problems with the entire concept.

I do agree with much of the theology that you describe, but it doesn't really impact the statement "they need our prayers." Prayer to help the person praying reach the right mindset makes perfect sense to me, but it's not *they* who are needing our prayers. (For example, there was a *great* statement by the governor of Louisiana asking people to pray, but for themselves and for calm and peace of mind and thankfulness for those who were rescued. I really liked that.)

The idea that God's help requires petitioning by some other party really upsets me. I really do feel that that is a moronic position, and I say that from the perspective of an earlier me who was a devout Christian.

However, what you say about a southern tradition of prayer helping another person directly emotionally is something I thought about after I posted the original and is a very valid point. I should have remembered that, and if that's what Bush meant, it makes more sense to me. (I think it's very hard to defend that belief on theological grounds within the context of the Christian religion, but I also think that this is one of the places where Christianity may be theologically wrong.)

Posted by eagle at 2005-08-30 21:03

A friend of mine made the snarky comment, "Declare a day of prayer? What do they think the people there have been /doing/?"

Posted by Darkhawk at 2005-08-30 21:48

Last spun 2022-02-06 from thread modified 2013-01-04