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I’ll pray for you

October 30, 2012

Picture yourself preparing for dinner.  You gather your family and whatever friends you have invited, and head for whatever dining area you have designated in your house.  The dining area is completely empty – bereft of food, furniture, and amenities.  You and your friends all gather, hold hands, close your eyes, and bow your heads.  As host, you begin the prayer.

“Oh Lord, we thank the for the many bountiful blessings that we have received from you.  We praise your name and ask your forgiveness for the times when we have fallen short of your plan for us.  We pray for all those who are in need, who are troubled, who are in pain, and who hunger.  And since we are on the subject, we could sure use a table, some chairs, eating utensils, and food here.  Otherwise all our friends gathered here, who were expecting dinner, will go hungry.  They are in need lord, and we ask that you give them aid, provide them with food, lift them up, and show them your glory.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

You and your guests raise your heads and open your eyes and see…  that nothing has changed.  Still no food, still no chairs or table, still no amenities.  If you are really lucky maybe your household pet has wandered into the room to see what’s going on, but that’s about it.

Now – the big question:  ARE YOU SURPRISED?

Looking around at the still empty, still dinnerless room, do you feel a sense of surprise, of confusion, because no dinner miraculously appeared?  Do you begin to doubt the sincerity of your faith, wrack your brain to think of what you might have done to offend or anger God so your prayer went unanswered?  Do you begin to wonder whether your beliefs might have been incorrect, that perhaps there is no God?

If you are a religious person, the answer to all these questions is most likely a resounding “NO!”  or “OF COURSE NOT!”.  Why is that?  Why is it that you can gather together, pray sincerely, beseech God for aid, and yet be utterly and completely unsurprised when the aid you ask for does not in fact appear in front of you ?


Everybody knows this.  Everybody.  If food or shelter or any other need people might have simply appeared when someone asked for it, our lives, our culture, our world would be very different than the world we live in.  There would be no commerce.  There would be no employment.  There would be no money or illness or depression.  Sadness would be transitory and would last only as long as it took to pray for relief.  Humans would all be lotus eaters.

But in case you haven’t noticed, being wrapped up in your spiritual existence and all, that doesn’t happen.

Hurricane Sandy has just devastated our righthand coast.  At the time of this writing there are 22 known dead, millions without power, buildings destroyed, neighborhoods burnt, in some cases there are entire towns that have been wrecked.  People are in trouble, they are in dire need of important things like food, clean water, medical care, and in some cases rescue.

And you have the damned audacity, the damned hubris, the damned naked HYPOCRISY to go around talking about how you will “pray” for those in need, and encouraging others to pray for them too.  I’m seeing you on the social media sites, on your blogs, in the media, talking about how you are going to pray, and exhorting all your religious friends to do the same.   Maybe you are getting up on your soap box, talking about gay marriage and abortion and Obama and the punishment of your deity visited upon those who you consider to be enemies of your religion.

Stop it.  Just stop it.

I understand that prayer is a part of your faith, and despite the fact that I may not agree with your faith, I am not writing this to tell you to stop praying.  You won’t listen and it doesn’t really matter whether you pray or not anyway.  I AM telling you to stop acting like praying about something is any sort of solution to anything at all.  Seriously.  You know this.  If you didn’t know this, you would be leading a very different sort of life than the life you are leading right now.  You don’t believe that divine intervention happens reliably.  If you did you wouldn’t have money and you wouldn’t go to work and you wouldn’t visit a grocery store a couple of times a week to get your food.  Prayer isn’t good enough to meet your needs – you don’t live like that, you don’t act like that, and you REALLY DON’T BELIEVE THAT.

So why do you blithely accept that such an activity – not good enough for you to rely on for your livelihood, not consistent enough for you to rely on for your food and shelter – is good enough for a whole bunch of people who just had the living shit kicked out of their lives by one of the largest storms ever to hit the east coast?  Why does your brain, your belief, your faith, allow you to rationalize that a solution that you would never in a million years rely on to put food on your table and a roof over your head as being acceptable for people who are in really dire situations?

Here’s what I think.  I think you do it because it is easy.  I think you do it because it tells others that you are a faithful member of the flock.  I think you do it because it sends a signal not to the folks who are hungry, who are without shelter, who are in need or in danger, but to the members of your community of faith.  “Hey,” it says, “Look at me – I am a believer too!  I love and trust God too.”

In other words, it has very little to do with your earnest desire to help people in need, and a whole hell of a lot to do with you wanting to show off your piety to the other members of the community.

And nothing else.

Maybe that statement outrages you.  Maybe that statement wounds you.  Maybe you feel that I have said something really, really terrible.

I don’t care.  I stand by it.

In these days of the internet and instant information, it takes no more than a few seconds at the moment to pull up entire lists of organizations that are working to aid the people displaced by Hurricane Sandy.  No more than a few seconds.  Yet in your messages, your Facebook posts, your Twitter tweets, your television sound bites, you never mention any of them.  No, it’s only prayer that you offer – never anything concrete about what people can do, where they can contribute, what sort of supplies and funds and labor are needed to help deal with this terrible situation.  Instead, the only solution that you offer is to have people bow their heads and think at God for a moment.

Big deal.  You put more effort than that into mixing up the pancake batter in the morning.

If you want to pray, then pray.  If it has meaning for you, then by all means do it.  But if you think, for one second, that it puts food in the shelters, blankets on the beds, restores power, reduces flooding, repairs infrastructure, or rescues people from danger, then you are deluding yourself.  PEOPLE do those things.  PEOPLE cook the food and make the beds and mend the power lines and drain the flooding and fix the buildings and pull others from danger.  PEOPLE do that.  Dedicated, brave, selfless people.

You can be one of those people if you choose.  Or you can help to support those people with resources or canned goods or money.  Here’s a big article on organizations that are supplying aid.

Or you can choose to pray about it – an activity that you don’t trust to cook YOUR food, make YOUR bed, bring power to YOUR home, get the water out of YOUR basement, or rescue YOU from danger.

Those in need require more of you than prayer.

Those who aid them require more of you than prayer.

The world requires more of you than prayer.

Your God requires more of you than prayer.


Today’s Two She-Bears brought to you by Matthew 6:6.


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One Comment
  1. SongCoyote permalink

    By the blessed noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that was a good rant! Thanks for posting it. I give regularly to relief charities and other organizations and individuals in need, and I hope more people do the same, with or without prayer.

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