The Value of Prayer in the Twenty-First Century

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

It is a straightforward headline: “Politicians Can’t Pass Actual Laws to Stop Gun Violence, So They Tweet Prayerfully”. And HuffPo’s Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney deliver the goods.

All of which reminds the basic point: Prayer is something to do if you cannot or will not do anything more useful.

When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared his presidential candidacy, he made the point that he and his wife have “prayed about it”. The problem with praying about something is that it is a meaningless statement, and seemingly a meaningless gesture. My daughter wants to join Art Club at school? Her grandfather needs to pray about it. The child is growing from a young girl into a young woman, her grandfather needs to pray about it. The child is getting braces, the grandfather tells us he prayed about it. The orthodonty is done, and the braces are coming off, and Grandpa needs to pray about it.

Outside the Beltway, on Main Street, it seems people are praying about everything. Do I make a left turn here, or go up a block and turn right? Why bother looking up directions, when I can pray about it?

Prayer is certainly something to do if you cannot or will not do anything more useful.Was a time when prayer had some actual, functional significance; the literary record is rich with evidence of the power of prayer. But too many people have become so dependent on belief in God it seems they can’t go to the bathroom without praying about it first.

Perhaps it is time for some of these people to do more than praying about something. Hell, even giving five dollars via text message, one of the easiest and most easily exploitable schemes on the planet, has more effect than sitting on one’s sorry ass and praying about it.

How about this: Instead going out of your way to pray about it, do something spontaneous and wild, like going out of your way to be helpful in the best way you know how without stopping everything to pray about it.

In such cases, then, at least you can say you tried.

Tell me you prayed about it? Yeah. How fucking convenient, to do your part by sitting on your ass and talking to yourself.

It would be one thing if all this prayer actually accomplished anything, but it doesn’t because it’s not supposed to.

Praying about something is a religious person’s excuse for doing nothing useful.

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