Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What are you Praying for?

On Lorena’s Blog a person gave an aggress-passive comment ending with, “I have no idea if you’re a Christian or not. Only Christ knows your heart. But I will pray for you and your family.”
I am aware my family and (at one time—who knows if they continue) friends prayed for me as well. What, specifically, are they praying will happen? I understand how, in asking God to heal someone, even though you may not understand the specifics, the person is asking God to reach in the body, remove the cancerous cells, and miraculously replace the damaged tissue. Or if asking for employment—that God would “nudge” the resume to the right person at the right moment.

I equally understand how prayer is self-soothing. It helps one cope with a dying relative, or divorce without necessarily granting the desired wish. I’ve heard plenty apologetic defenses to the failure of prayer being God wanting prayer to affect the praying person—not the prayee.

But what could one possibly pray for a deconvert with any specificity?

Are they praying the deconvert gains knowledge? That God would “nudge” a certain book or article their way? If so, the person hopelessly does not understand deconversion. It isn’t “one thing.” It isn’t some silver bullet, that if only someone could give an explanation how the two accounts of Judas’ death could line up, we would become card-carrying Christians again.

Further, the deconvert often has far more knowledge than the Christian praying for them! Clearly more knowledge, even in the Christian’s paradigm, is not necessary for salvation—it wasn’t necessary for that person to be saved! How many times have we heard, “Have you read Strobel? Or Craig? Or Boyd? Or _____” and we say, “Yep.” If you are praying the deconvert needs more knowledge, you are wasting your time.

I’ve had people tell me they think Satan is deceiving me. Are they praying God will make Satan stop? How many times does one need to say that? At 100 prayers, does God finally say, “O.K., I guess they are serious that they want Satan to stop.” [A side-note to those interested in time-theory surrounding God. If God is outside time, it is often claimed all times are the “same” to Him. In other words, he sees our chronological time at the same moment. Our yesterday is the same to Him as our today and the same as our tomorrow. He sees 1000 B.C.E. at the same exact instant he sees 2010 C.E. If this was true, wouldn’t it also be true any prayer would be heard both at the same time as the instance the event requested is occurring AND all prayers would be heard simultaneously to God? Therefore, praying to God for the same thing twice is unnecessary.]

And if prayer is designed to make the praying person fell better, how does that work when it comes to knowledge? Are they supposed to feel better they know less than I do? Are they supposed to feel better that Satan is deceiving me and not them?

Are they praying God will reveal himself to me? How? What--Specifically--are they asking God to do? Curiously, we are criticized for asking God to reveal himself, as that would be selfish. But it is fine for the Christian to do so?

Are they praying we would be influenced by our friends? After abandoning us? (The irony is too rich in that one. Best leave it with a chuckle.)

I suspect the prayer consists of something like, “Please help DagoodS become a Christian.” An innocuous, non-specific generalism about as useful as, “Please help the starving children of the world, by making them feel full.” The children will still starve…


  1. Or maybe they're simply praying "Please help DagoodS understand what 'I'll pray for you' means." :)

    **I’ve heard plenty apologetic defenses to the failure of prayer being God wanting prayer to affect the praying person—not the prayee.**

    This is a side-topic, but if this is a defense, then aren't they basically making the whole concept of prayer generalized and vague? God's response and focus had nothing to do with what the prayee was praying for. So they can say that God answers, but the term "answer" must be defined in such a way that allows for the response to have nothing to do with the prayer request.

  2. At least it wasn't the "your in my thoughts" line. What does that really do for anyone?

    Maybe if they would have said, "I will pray for you, so that you see a supernatural act of such a magnitude you can't help to believe God is real". At least you would know what to look for. =D Instead, you get struck with the smug little "I will pray for you" line. I hate that one. It always seems so insincere.

    OSS - maybe God doesn’t understand that line either. Something like:
    Smug Christian - "God, I pray for DagoodS"
    God - "What are you praying for?"
    Smug Christian - "I don't know, but I am praying."
    God - "Ok then. You prayed."

  3. Call me cynic, but in Joe's case, he's probably praying that God will send trouble my way, so I am forced to come to god crying uncle.

    I think that's the prayer of most Christians in regards to us, de-converts.

  4. OneSmallStep,

    Pray must be generalized, due to the lack of knowledge. We don’t know the specifics of how to re-grow a limb, therefore we must necessarily ask a God to do something we don’t know how it is done.

    Notice how people don’t ask God to do things they already know, because they do it themselves?


    I would love to see a supernatural event I could identify as such. Alas, none has been forthcoming….yet. *grin*


    “You are a cynic.” (You told me to call you a cynic!) Cynical or not, I agree with you. We are taught God makes himself known only though the troubling times (Footprints poem, anyone?), therefore if the person wants God to reveal himself—he has to beat us first.

    Odd…my kids tend to know me better through family vacations, laughter in the park, and the joys of spending time together…weird, eh?

  5. Our friend Joe has been further bullying me. Now he says I'm unhinged. How Christian of him, huh?

  6. Lorena,

    Maybe your looking at this all wrong. Unhinged could be a form of compliment from where he comes from. Not sure what the lingo is under the rock he came from, but it is possible. =D

  7. Xander,

    LOL! Yeah, it must mean something good in Neanderthal language.

  8. In relation to prayer, do you think that this is a sound argument?:

    1 the christian god exists and is opnipotent and omniscient.
    2 if it is omniscient, it knows all of its future actions.
    3 it knows of all its future actions.
    4 if it knows of all its future actions it cannot change any future actions.
    5 it cannot change any future actions
    6 if it cannot change any future actions, any requests to change its future actions are futile
    7 requests to change its future actions are futile
    8 petitionary prayer is futile

  9. Boz,

    In short I do not think it sound. The logic is correct—the sticking point is how to define “omniscient.” What does “all-knowing” mean? I realize Christians toss out this term, but they haven’t thought it through. For example, does an all-knowing creature know what it is to learn? It would seem this is self-contradicting, as “learning” entails going from not-knowing to knowing—something an all-knowing could never do!

    Humor requires an element of surprise—can an all-knowing creature have surprise? If not, can it have humor? I suspect the Christian would begin to complain about defining “omniscient” as being truly all-knowing, as this eventually degrades into an impossible-to-comprehend creature. Of course, if they were to define “all-knowing” as knowing all events that ACTUALLY occur in the future—then your argument is sound. I suspect they would waffle on that particular point to avoid determinism. (Indeed, many Christians advocate “Open Theism” to address this very problem—claiming God does NOT know the future.)

    There is another element here, though, that is interesting. Even assuming a God that does not know what actually will occur—is prayer still futile? I am certainly not “all-knowing;” I am not even remotely close to even knowing 1% of what all the humans in the world know right now. I have only lived 44 years—not even close to the millions of years a God would have supposedly interacted with hominidea. Yet even little ‘ol me can figure out:

    1. Sick people desire to be well.
    2. Unemployed people desire employment.
    3. Lonely people want friends and lovers.
    4. Parents want their children free from harm.
    5. We want sunny days for our vacation and rain when the plants need it.
    6. We want our team to win.
    7. We want to know the truth of reality

    You would think a God could figure this out as well. How many prayers would that eliminate the necessity—95%? More? Why would a God need me to pray that Aunt Nancy would get well?

  10. DagoodS,

    "impossible-to-comprehend creature"

    That is what they are claiming though. God is beyond comprehension. Anything that can be comprehended is limited is by understanding.

    "How many prayers would that eliminate the necessity"

    I always wonder how people view prayer. The way I see your analogy is similar to a fast food drive-up. You tell God what you want, get it and go on your merry way. Is that right?

  11. Xander,

    I currently view prayer as a sort of transcendental meditation or mantra; an effective way for the praying person to self-sooth.

    This blog entry focuses on petitioning prayer. (I seriously doubt the commenter was attempting to “self-sooth” over Lorena’s apostasy!) Not sure one can adequately propose an appropriate analogy when there are so many unknown variables. For example, for a determinist (if I may manipulate your analogy with your permission) one pulls up to a drive through where the fast-food place already knows what you are going to order, and is going to supply you with a certain meal, regardless of what you order. While there may be a fatalistic flavor to it, the restaurant owner demands you still go through the drive-through and make an order.

    For an open theist, you make your request, and while the employees have a strong idea what they are going to serve you anyway, it is possible the strength of your request could change their mind.

    For a God outside of time (if I recall, I think this is Craig’s God) the restaurant sees you pulling up, ordering, paying and receiving your food all at the same instance, so it is indeterminate whether your request made a difference, as to the restaurant it all happened at the same time.

    *shrug* A person can take their pick amongst the possibilities. Or mix and match at will.

  12. Xander: That is what they are claiming though. God is beyond comprehension. Anything that can be comprehended is limited is by understanding.
    I always find this a cop-out. A bit of Alice in Wonderland double-speak. If God was truly beyond comprehension, then we wouldn’t be able to say anything about him/her/it whatsoever. Not even that God was the creator the universe. The instant one makes any claim about God—even existence—one is making a statement intended to be comprehended by the listener. One is intending to make an understanding.

    Perhaps it is time for me to revise this analogy I have used before:

    Theist: God is a square.
    Non-Theist: So God has four equal sides joined by four 90 degree angles?
    Theist: No! God’s squareness is beyond comprehension, so you can’t understand it.
    Non-Theist: Then why claim “God is square” has any meaning?

  13. Jim was condescending because he feels like he had a moral superiority without knowing Lorena. There needs to be a new tagline for atheists. Atheists: We Don't Eat our Babies Either. It wouldn’t stop these people from making judgment calls about atheists, but toss a bit of humor into the mix as you point out their ignorance.

    I was taking it that your thought was that if God knows what people need, why not just give it to them without prayer. That 95% of prayer was asking for the obvious.

    I look at it like I would be asking what to order. I want a burger. No you don't. Why not? There is rat poo in the meat. Oh, what do you suggest then. Of course this analogy shows its flaws when you ask why would you go to a place with rat poo in the meat.

    "Theist: God is a square.
    Non-Theist: So God has four equal sides joined by four 90 degree angles?
    Theist: No! God’s squareness is beyond comprehension, so you can’t understand it.
    Non-Theist: Then why claim “God is square” has any meaning?"

    Theist: Because that is what He said.
    Too many Christians are too prideful to say I don’t know. They feel like they have to explain their beliefs to others to make them valid. Problem with that is they don’t have the answers and expose the shaky foundation of their beliefs.

  14. There needs to be a new tagline for atheists. Atheists: We Don't Eat our Babies Either.

    Except that we do. Kittens too, with BBQ sauce. Yum!

  15. Joe was just doing his Christian chores and he had to speak up on Lorena's blog so he could sleep that night AND so he'd have prayer material.

    He wasn't counting on Lorena standing up to him. Of course, in doing so he resorts to a common retort...'Oh oh, the Eve has become unhinged.' Joe is weilding his Jesus power upon the apostate Lorena because he can. He can patronize her, insult her and eventually cast her aside, all in the name of Jesus and have no qualms about it. He can move on until he finds another Lorena...because Joe has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

    Oh that he would visit the great cult of DagoodS. ;-)

  16. Thank you for your support, Zoe. And you raise an interesting topic.

    Christians go to my blog to chastise me, call me names, and stomp all over me...thinking that I am "just" a woman and they can easily bring me back to my senses.

    When they find out that I have a backbone, most of them run away.

    Not only that, they stay away from blogs of smart guys like DagoodS and Sabio. They don't go there, no. They think they can handle me OK. But they don't dare to come here.

    I must admit, though, that my stuff is controversial, and that some times I write stuff on purpose, just to rile them up (You should see how thick my skin is getting).

    Why not? DagoodS, my personal lawyer, will always come to my defence :)


  17. You're welcome Lorena.

  18. dagoods, thanks for the critique. It is good to know that you agree that "if the christian god exists, and is omniscieint, and omniscience includes knowing all events that actually occur in the future, then christian petitionary prayer is futile"

    I am slowly realising that omniscience is a tricky idea.

  19. another interesting point about 'beyond comprehension'. Many people say that God is beyond comprehension. and male.

    A strange contradiction.

  20. xander said: "Too many Christians are too prideful to say I don’t know."

    I agree! also many do not want to say: "I'm fairly sure, but not absolutely certain"

  21. Along with what exactly they are praying, I'm also curious as to how long they keep this up? How fervent is it? And does any of that matter to God?

    I'm sure people must be praying that some famous atheist would come to Christ. Why haven't they done so?

    Do their prayers for the deconverts ever seem to work?