• Teaisnice
    It can be hard to see how human prayers could affect what God does. For one, God, perhaps, would be unchanging and unaffected by anything other than himself. Secondly, God would be infinitely knowledgeable and, thus, already aware of our needs. And he would be infinitely benevolent and powerful, too; so he would already have the will and ability to make the world as good as it could be overall.

    One might suggest that in making petitionary prayers where you asked God for something, he might
    give it to you so as to reinforce your relationship with him. One of God’s aims would always be to make the world as good as possible overall. And part of what would make the world better are human relationships with God because such relationships would be a great good, such that their existence would add value to the world. So God would want to cultivate such relationships. One way for God to reinforce our relationship with him when we’d initiated it would be to give us what we asked for. Blessing us that way would incentivize us to continue to seek a relationship with God. If that’s why God would give us what we asked for, then whether he gave it to us would depend almost strictly on whether we had initiated a relationship with God.

    But a couple of things seem off about this. One, it does not seem to be that giving us anything we ask for is what God would do. Rather, it seems like God would give us only the things we ask for which are in accordance with the overall good of the world. But if that is so, why would God need a petitionary prayer from someone in order to initiate those things? Wouldn't God do what is in accordance with the overall good no matter what? It seems that that would necessarily be his will. So wouldn't the only adequate petitionary prayer be something like 'Your will be done'? Second, if God's will is to bring about the overall good, it just seems lucky if you happened to pray for the right thing. If this is correct, and the view above is correct, then one's relationship with God would seem to be based on luck. For one who just happened to pray for a specific thing that God already wills to do, he or she would see their petition "fulfilled" and be on track for a relationship with God based on chance. It does not seem like there are cases where God wouldn't have given you something you asked for if you hadn't initiated a relationship with him. It seems too strange to say that a human would affect God in this way. God knows what you want because he is omniscient. God can make that happen because he is omnipotent. And God would create an overall good world in which God would cultivate relationships with its inhabitants because he is omnibenevolent. Additionally, if God knows that giving you want you want (so long as it is in accordance with his will) will help cultivate a relationship with you, then he will give you want you want without you praying for it.

    1. God necessarily acts to bring about overall good in the world.
    2. Part of what brings about overall good in the world are human relationships with God.
    3. God will necessarily cultivate relationships with humans.
    4. God knows everything that everyone wants whether they pray for it or not.
    5. God giving one what they want helps them cultivate a relationship with him.
    6. IFF what one wants aligns with the overall good of the world, God will necessarily give one what they want.
    7. Therefore, IFF what one wants aligns with the overall good of the world, God will give one what they want whether or not they pray for it.
  • DingoJones

    8. Therefore prayer is useless. God only answers the prayers for things he was going to do anyway, and only to those who already have a relationship with god would pray, leaving the only remaining reason to answer the prayer (cultivating that relationship) not applicable.
  • prothero
    I too do not believe that god intercedes to alter the laws of nature of behalf of those who engage in petitionary prayer. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike". I do think that prayer is useful to those who engage in it, for it alters the petitioner not the universe.
  • 180 Proof
    It can be hard to see how human prayers could affect what God does.Teaisnice


    We plan, God laughs.

    When I was back there in seminary school
    There was a person there
    Who put forth the proposition
    That you can petition the Lord with prayer.
    Petition the lord with prayer.
    Petition the lord with prayer.
    You cannot petition the lord with prayer!
    — Jimbo the Lizard King

    The monk bought lunch, baby. :wink:

    Far away, across the field
    The tolling of the iron bell
    Calls the faithful to their knees
    To hear the softly spoken magic
    — By the way, which one's Pink?

    Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending ... but why? :confused:

    Turn on the radio, nah fuck it turn it off
    Fear is your only god on the radio
    Nah fuck it, turn it off
    Turn it off, turn on the radio, nah fuck it turn it off
    Fear is your only god on the radio
    Nah fuck it, your saviour's my guillotine, crosses and kerosene
    — Rollin' down Rodeo ...

    'Cause ya know why all the world's jails and churches, don't ya? :brow:

    When you believe in things
    that you don't understand,
    Then you suffer,
    superstition ain't The Way ...
    — Stevland Morris

    ... or like another (older, better) "good book" says:

    The Way that can be spoken is not the eternal Way

    :death: :flower:
  • username
    I would agree with the original argument however I would not add on the 8th line as @DingoJones did. I don't know if you are a Christian or not dingo but regardless, I think it's important to look at the way that Jesus prayed if we are to understand the value of prayer or the answer to this question. In the two most famous instances of recorded prayer from Jesus we have the Lord's Prayer and his prayers on the Mount of Olives before his crucifixion. In both cases we see one similarity. In the first he says, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," clearly saying that what we should truly want is only what God wills. In the second case, he ends his pleading to God for his life to be spared by saying, "but not as I will, but as you will," clearly pointing to the knowledge that what he wants is not important in changing God's plans, and that God’s plan is what is truly good. Prayer was not intended for God to give us what we want but as a way to converse with God. This is something that is often misconstrued by the church I believe. But this is also why I agree with how this argument is constructed. Premise 6 clearly states that the only time we are guaranteed to receive anything from God is when we ask for something that directly aligns with his will. In all other cases we should not expect to have our prayers answered with a yes. Stating the 8th premise is essentially asserting that the only reason to pray is if we are going to get the things we want out of it, otherwise it isn't worth our time. That is the most one sided and selfish version of prayer I've heard of. The point of prayer has nothing to do with human wants but is rather supposed to be a form of worship and a way to realign people with what God wants for them (through his perfect will). It's a way to ask God what he wants and try to carry that out instead of asking him to do a bunch of favors for us.
  • DingoJones

    When you pray, does god respond with confirmation or commands? In what way does he do that exactly? (A voice? A feeling he creates in you?)
  • username
    @DingoJones My conception of prayer does not necessitate that God "respond" in the way that you describe. I definitely feel that in my life personally prayer has been a way that I have been able to find clarity about certain decisions but as I don't know your religious background I can't assume that that kind of thinking would hold much value for you. I think the assumption that God responds to all prayers in some tangible way is another misconception about prayer and another way that prayer is misconstrued in a selfish way. As I stated before, prayer is not for the person but should be a way to worship God, in this sense that you are acknowledging his power and that he has control over the situations you are in. I think that is highlighted by the examples from the life of Jesus that I mentioned earlier.
  • DingoJones

    So prayer is just thinking about god, essentially?
  • username
    @DingoJones I mean I guess that is one way to think about it; I think it's a little more of an action though. I think the value in it is very similar to something you could get in counseling. Oftentimes we push down the things that are troubling us deep down and even when we think about them we don't really have to address them, but similar to how talking through those thoughts with a counselor can provide some clarity, I think that active prayer to God can provide an even greater and more powerful form of clarity in the form of spiritual wisdom.
  • DingoJones

    Interesting. How do you know god has anything to do with it? It sounds like its your own thoughts that are helping, an act of meditation.
  • username
    As someone that has a very analytical mind and who is usually able to clearly think through things on my own without prayer this is a question that I struggle with. Most of the time it comes down to the success rate of prayer in my own life for helping me work through my problems and the beliefs about God that I have come to hold through my own reasoning. I also don’t doubt the spiritual and psychological positives of meditation. I think that can be great too. I just have seen the best results in my own personal growth through contemplative prayer. It’s something that at times can be hard to describe to others who haven’t experienced it the same way.
  • DingoJones

    I understand, thanks.
  • Gregory
    All i know about are Catholics. THey are always saying the rosary, trying to force themselves to be good. Someday a "Minotaur of conscience" (to use Nietzsche's phrase) will get them and spoil the idea that they are holy/special. "Get rid of goodness and you will naturally be good" says a classic Daoist text.

    I hope that's not too harsh
  • ovdtogt
    It can be hard to see how human prayers could affect what God does.Teaisnice
    8. Therefore prayer is uselessDingoJones
    . Wrong...

    It is not meant to affect what God does. It is meant to effect what you do.
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