All my life I’ve been told to pray. I was educated in Catholic schools and there we prayed several times during the day. As students we were usually told what to pray for and I admit most, if not all of us, paid no attention to how or why we were praying. We were simply repeating words that we had memorized. Through this upbringing I learned that we had to pray to God, mainly for forgiveness for all the dastardly sins we evil children committed! I learned that there was a patron saint for just about everything and was told to pray to that saint for favors pertaining to his/her expertise. There was St. Anthony for lost items, St. Francis for animals, St. Jude for travelers and the list goes on and on. Even our sports teams prayed together before a game for God’s help in winning. I often was puzzled as how this works as the opposing teams also prayed! I don’t believe I ever got an answer.
As I grew older I fell away from the Catholic Church, as I became disenchanted with it’s teachings and the hypocrisy of not only Catholicism, but all religions. I still prayed though even though I wasn’t convinced it worked. Throughout my long life I have prayed for many things, although I believe very few of my prayers have been answered. Those few that have been answered I am not sure if they were really answered or if it was just coincidence that what I prayed for came to fruition. Yet still I pray.
We have overwhelming evidence that people pray and they pray often and for everything. Just about everybody prays,especially when they buy a lottery ticket. They pray that they will win the jackpot. People pray at casinos to win big. People pray for their favorite sports teams to win and also their favorite politicians.People tend to pray for their own self interests probably most often. On Facebook we can see people asking for prayers for sick relatives and quite often for children they don’t even know. Whenever someone asks for prayers for relatives we can see all of their friends sending prayers and prayer emojis. Personally I feel these are meaningless and don’t believe all of the friends and followers are actually praying. Times when we see many people praying are those all too often incidences where there have been mass school shootings. Instead of actually offering concrete actions to stop these mass murders, all we see is “offering thoughts and prayers” from politicians and citizens alike. Why aren’t all of these prayers being answered? Why do the shootings continue? I have never heard a sensible answer from clergymen and clergywomen as to why these prayers fall on deaf ears. Yet still I pray.
I believe that millions of people all over the world have been praying for world peace, as I have been doing my whole life, but we still don’t have world peace. I have been praying daily to end violence, killings and terrorism all over the world and I’m sure millions of others are joining me in my pleas. It still continues though. I pray every day to end the suffering of the sick, the poor, and the starving children of the world, yet it continues. I’ve actually asked members of the clergy about this and have been told “it’s part of God’s plan”. What kind of God has a plan that allows such disastrous hardships. Hitler had a “plan” and he’s considered one of the most evil and hated men who has ever lived! Yet still I pray.
I often think about why some prayers are supposedly answered and some are not, and think that maybe some of the petitions are just too complicated, even for God. After all God gave us all free will and if we chose to do evil, God will allow it, even thought it will hurt innocent people. I figured maybe God answered those prayers that were simple and would not change the course of human history. This idea was shattered recently when the beloved pet dog of my neighbor’s three young children (seven year old triplets)became seriously ill and was taken to the vet. The vet kept him overnight for a 24 hour observation to see if medication could improve his situation. If not he would have to be put to sleep. I knew the kids would be devastated if they lost their precious Griffin and he would be sorely missed by all of the neighbors. I prayed hard that night thinking that this would be a simple request for a benevolent God. After all keeping one dog alive would have no ill effect in the scheme of nature and it would save three children from losing their best friend and faithful companion. I was wrong. Griffin was put to sleep the next day! Yet still I pray!
One phenomenon of modern society that I find to be disgusting and unbelievable is what I call “mass demonstration of prayer”. I am referring to demonstrations of prayer emanating from the golden halls of today’s “megachurches” which are broadcasting to their gullible followers over our airways. These gigantic spiritual edifices are filled to capacity every Sunday preaching their own version of Christianity heavily laden with, not the love of Christ, but the love of money. I think it would be safe for me to say that the majority of the followers of the popular megachurches are lower middle class, the poor and the lonely and poor elderly. As we all have witnessed, the flamboyant and charismatic leaders of these megachurches, more often than not, live in multi million dollar bejeweled mansions with a fleet of expensive foreign luxury cars and even jet plans waiting at their beck and call. Who’s paying for these extravagances? Their followers! Inevitably the religious services conducted at these megachurches end up with the congregation being asked for prayers and money to assure that their prayers will be answered. Like lemmings, the members of the congregation loudly pray in unison for their souls, while opening their wallets and pocketbooks to ensure their salvation. In moving spiritual performances, which would be the envy of any Oscar nominee, preachers tearfully beg for money to be able to continue their ministry “the way Jesus would want” them to. And of course the congregation succumbs to their pleadings. Anybody want to bet that even if these preachers pray , it is to keep their followers gullible and generous? I firmly believe that prayer can be valuable for some people, but ministers and churches such as those mentioned above make a mockery of prayer and those who profess to pray.
I’m still debating with myself whether or not prayers are ever answered. Are some prayers answered, while some are not. Do the prayers of some get answered, while prayers of others are ignored. Of those prayers that some people say were answered, was it just coincidence that what was prayed for became reality? Would the events have happened anyway? I don’t know. I guess I’ll never find out. But, just in case, I’ll keep praying to be on the safe side!
This article was originally published in Publishous on Medium.com