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Austin Cline

I'll Pray for You

By May 7, 2005

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Why do people say that they will pray for you? Praying doesn't actually accomplish anything - even if you believe in a god, that god will do what it intends regardless of whether one prays or not. Praying can't accomplish any changes one way or the other.

Victoria writes:

ive come to notice that the remark "i will pray for you" is simply a feeble substitute for actual help. it makes you satisfied, thinking that you have helped when really, you have not done a thing. ... imagine someone you love being sick. you have the option of sending the person to the doctor OR you can pray for him/her. so you pray day and night, waiting for a miracle to happen. its hardly the way to do things, my dears. the point i am making, is that praying, itself being so convenient, is often abused by people, knowingly or otherwise. its an easy way out! why PRAY when you can actually go out there and offer REAL help?

This reminds me of Robert Green Ingersoll's comment "The hands that help are better far Than lips that pray." Most people even today fail to see how important and true that is, but Victoria definitely gets it.

Prayer: a feeble substitute for real help and action.

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May 8, 2006 at 8:00 am
(1) Teresa Pangle says:

Well, I guess that’s the difference in believing there is a God or there isn’t. If you really want to understand why people who believe pray and feel it will actually accopmish something, read: “Visions of the Children”, by Janice T. Connell. It is a book conductd in interview format, so it is very easy and quick to read. It doesn’t convert, so do worry ;-)

May 8, 2006 at 8:32 am
(2) atheism says:

It’s not simply a question of why people feel the need to pray instead of doing something substantive to help, but also of why people feel a need to announce that they are praying for you.

As far as I know, there is no conception of what prayer “is” or “does” which is affected by whether the prayed-for person knows about the prayers or not. In the end, making a point to announce that one is praying for someone doesn’t serve the purposes of prayer, but instead serves personal and even selfish purposes – like to feel better than someone else, for example.

June 29, 2007 at 4:02 pm
(3) jim miller says:

God exists for his children. I will prove it to you–why–because God loves you. contact me. we will pray for the impossible in YOUR life (disease, relations, money, situations, FAITH. you have a father who is waiting for you. one condition though-when the impossible is realized in your life as a result of my prayer for you to God, you will acknowledge it. agreed? risk, risk, risk!!!!! let me know. i’ll get back to the foo fighter cd i’m listening to.

January 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm
(4) Pray says:

It sound like you know NOTHING about the power of prayer. You can not correctly comment on biblical practices without biblical knowledge. First read the WHOLE BIBLE for yourself. Then you can correctly comment.

January 23, 2008 at 10:57 pm
(5) Far More-Helping Lips says:

You quote “the hands help are far better than lips” Well if you are lying in a hospital bed on the brink of dying(God forbid). There is not much HELP that my HANDS can do except for FOLDING them in PRAYER for a miracle but i would have to use my LIPS to do all the talking. My God keep you and bless you.

PS i also agree with pray’s comment.

January 23, 2008 at 11:04 pm
(6) Please read says:

Please read :
Romans 10:9 and Jeremiah 29:11-13
you can use this link to search the above verses.

God bless you. God loves you.

February 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm
(7) David says:

Praying *does* accomplish something. In the first place, it means that I’ll ask God for something that I can’t do myself. Sure if I can do something, I do. But if I can’t, I pray. It demonstrates my helplessness. The hands that help ARE better than the lips that pray. The Bible tells Christians that if we see a fellow Christian needing food or clothing and say “Be warmed and filled” (sounds like “i’ll pray for you”) and do NOTHING for them… then our Christianity isn’t good for anything. If you’re in the hospital with a life-threatening disease, under the best of care, then prayer IS all that I can do. If I *can* do something, and say “i’ll pray for you” and do nothing to help… then that’s not right. That’s not Christianity. That’s useless religion.

August 31, 2009 at 7:50 pm
(8) Nickle says:

one of the reasons for prayer is for enlightenment of self. the same reason that jesus, when asked a question, would almost always ask a deeper question to return the questioner to the heart of the matter, which was the reason they asked the question. the answer (or in this case the effect of the prayer) is not as important as the realization one has when looking deeper into themselves.

September 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm
(9) John Hanks says:

When people pray for me (as a form of intimidation), I always ask them to do it alone in a closet. That is what. That is what the Babylonian skygod wanted.

September 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm
(10) Bob Wood says:

To the degree that prayer tunes your mind to a problem that needs a solution it may be very helpful. Otherwise, it’s a lot like going into a phone booth and not depositing a coin…you can talk all you want, but there’s no response on the other end.

September 4, 2009 at 9:32 pm
(11) Atheist_Pilgrim says:

How can people who pray to God, seriously think that anything can result from their prayers? Why would they expect God to listen and act upon one personís prayers and not anotherís?

Say a beloved relative has been diagnosed with cancer, or a child of their family has been born malformed, or a country-wide drought is crippling their family farm, or, worse, a family member has declared he has become an atheist – what do they expect the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God, to whom they are praying, to do about it?

Do they expect God to change its mind? Omniscient God knows all these things are happening, have already happened, or will happen in the future. Omnipotent God has caused them or will cause them to happen. Omnipresent God is there, on the spot, watching them all unfold, Omnibenevolent God does nothing because it either cannot or chooses not to.

September 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm
(12) Tom Edgar says:

I have a devout Scots friend. Said I. “Hughie from where I came you learned to run or learned to fight.”

Hughie answered.”Och Aye Tom. Same in Glasgae. I couldn’a run and I couldn’a fight so I learned to pray”
“Did it work?”.”I don’t know, I still got beat up.”

September 5, 2009 at 4:19 pm
(13) Zack says:

In the end, making a point to announce that one is praying for someone doesnít serve the purposes of prayer, but instead serves personal and even selfish purposes Ė like to feel better than someone else, for example. — Austin on May 8, 2006 at 8:32 am

I completely agree. I think few theists ever even consider why they make such an announcement.

I often respond to “I will pray for you” with “Does it not work if you keep it a secret?”

September 7, 2009 at 12:07 am
(14) Tom Edgar says:

“I’ll pray for you.” If I thought it would work I’d be doing it myself.

September 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm
(15) Muzza says:

Nothing succeeds like prayer!

September 10, 2009 at 4:41 am
(16) Tom Edgar says:

With failure so often experienced by the person praying.

September 10, 2009 at 4:45 am
(17) Tom Edgar says:

With Israelis praying in one direction. Palestinians and the “Brothers” praying in the other. Christians praying all over the place. No wonder the prayers aren’t answered Goddy/Allah/Jehovah/Vishnu and Siva et al. All the Gods must be tripping over each other trying to satisfy all, and succeeding with none.

October 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm
(18) David says:

Nothing,absolutely nothing fails like prayer!

June 29, 2012 at 10:52 am
(19) JoeKerr says:

I am an atheist. I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone who believes telling me they will pray for me. It;s not like when someone says they will pray for you that I think, “Well God will fix this. No need for me to do anything about this.”

It is their way of telling me they care about me and are thinking of me. I am not expecting people who are merely acquaintances to rebuild my house after a fire or drive me to the doctor when I am sick. I do appreciate them telling me that they are thinking of me. I am looking for something to say to people instead of “I will pray for you.”

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