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Why Pray?

Prayer is illogical, by Paul Quirk

Prayer plays a very important role in the life of a Christian. I've heard many accounts of how someone prayed for something, and it happened. For instance, someone prayed that they'd find something they had lost, and they found it.

My first question on prayer is this: Why is it that God would answer some prayers, and not others? For instance, suppose a child is dying of cancer. A lot of people pray for this child, praying to God to make the child better and to let the child live. God leaves this prayer unanswered, and the child dies. And yet, when a person prays for help in a relationship – something insignificant in the great scheme of things – it's sometimes answered. Does this mean that God plays favourites?

The typical answer to that is, it's part of God's plan. Sometimes he answers prayers, sometimes he doesn't. We don't know God's plan, but it's a good and holy plan, beyond our comprehension.

Okay, fair enough. So, if God has this wonderful plan that is beyond our comprehension, and God intends to carry out this plan even if it means letting some children die of cancer, who are we to question God's plan? Obviously, all of life is part of God's plan, so why not simply accept it, put faith in God's plan, and instead of praying, let God's plan carry out? Praying in this sense demonstrates that the people doing the praying don't have faith in God's plan; if they really had faith, then they wouldn't pray now, would they?

This is at the point where prayers take on a different meaning; it's to get us closer to God. Instead of praying for good things to happen, the purpose of prayer is now to forge a relationship with the Lord. So now the question becomes, how is it that prayer forges a good relationship with the Lord? I've tried praying (at one time, I even believed in it), and it's apparent to me that it's a one-way communication. A relationship of any kind requires at minimum a two-way flow of communication. Now, some people claim that they pray for something and then God answers with some kind of good deed, but that goes back to the first problem of praying for good things to happen in light of God's great plan. Obviously, what they had witnessed was part of God's plan and not the result of the prayer. There must be better ways to forge a relationship with a supreme being than through the act prayer.

Then we can pray to give thanks. But thanks for what? We sit down to eat, and we are supposed to give thanks to the Lord for the food we are about to eat. The first problem is, we're thanking God that we can carry out his plan. You see, eating is an important part of life, and if we didn't eat, we'd die. Eating is obviously part of this great plan, it's something God wants us to do, so why give thanks for doing God's will? Surely, if God had planned for us not to eat, we wouldn't be eating...so it's all part of this great plan, we should just eat and not patronize the Lord or his great plan by thanking him every time we sit down to eat; we might as well pray for thanks every time we draw a breath, or every time we take a drink of water. Now, if the Lord had done the work involved in preparing the meal, that's another thing...but the thanks should go to the person who cooked the food, the person who bought the food, the farmers who worked very hard growing the food and raising the livestock...and most of all, the scientists throughout history that have made our food safer and more abundant.

Christianity is a house of cards. Prayer is one of the foundation cards in this house, and it's pretty clear to me that to both pray and also believe in the Christian God and a great plan is a contradiction. To believe in the power of prayer is little better than believing in good luck charms. I have now removed this card. See how Christianity buckles under it's own weight.