I know this is not a new question, but… why do we even pray?
This is my first post here, and I feel a little strange asking religious questions to a bunch of strangers online. However, I’m not sure who else to ask in order to get a variety of opinions. Please bare with me as I am not trying to be offensive. I am truely confused and just seeking answers.
I was trying to look up an answer to this question in a book I have called Catholicism the study edition by Richard P. McBrien, but all I got was a copout answer.
He (and I) asked “Can we change the course of events through prayer? Can we alter God’s will and so receive some blessing that otherwise might pass us by? Can we fend off some evil occurence by specifically imploring God to save us [or others] from it?”
I (try to) pray for the victims and families of people who have had horrible events happen in their lives. For some obvious examples, I have prayed for the thousands of people affected by Katrina, the parents of slayen children, and even the familes recently affected by the earthquake in California. But, does it help?
Many say that when things work out the way we want that God answered our prayers. However, when things don’t work out the way we want then it was God’s will.
That seems a lot like fate to me.
How do we know that God’s will was not what we prayed for in the first place?
Next, if fate exists then why do we pray? Fate, by definition, is pre-determined.
I personally do not believe in fate. I, like St. Thomas Aquinas, believe that God gave us freewill so that we were able to ***choose ***to believe in God or not.
This brings me back to my conundrum. Why do we pray? If you do not believe in fate then you probably believe that your prayers may influence God and affect the future. If you DO believe in fate then prayer (and religion in general) doesn’t really matter because your fate would have already been set. This includes your intentions, your actions, their outcomes, AND even whether you believe in God or not!
I know my question sounds cynical. Yet, I am not trying to make people angry. I am trying to find help. I am trying to find answers.
In the book Catholicism, the section on prayer continues. It states that “prayer is a conscious, deliberate coming to terms with our actual situation before God.” I agree. However, that definition is far too simplistic. When I pray that a family member or friend is not dead after a horrible storm, I am not saying to God, “I know this person may be dead.” That is just obvious. I am saying, “I believe that you are the One True God. The One who has the power to save this person, and that I am acknowleding that you are the only One that can save this person’s life.” Furthermore, I believe that God is all powerfull AND all knowing. This not only pre-supposes that God can change the course of someone’s life, but also that God already knew how much I did not want this person to die. By praying, I am telling God something God already knows. Do I (or you) honestly think that if I don’t pray to God to save a person’s life that God will not already know my thoughts? By definition, doesn’t that mean that God did NOT know my thoughts? Therefore, if you believe (as I do) that God is all knowing then prayer is unnecessary because God Already knew what we were going to pray for.
Some of you may be offended by my previous line that Richard McBrien’s answer was a copout. For that I appologize. But, I simply cannot understand that “prayer (simply) …does not effect a change in God but in ourselves.” When I am praying for safety of those who are less fortunate then myself, I am not just accepting that I care for people that are less fortuante. I am asking for God’s help in caring for those that are less fortuante! I already know I care about them. Prayer doesn’t make me care about them more. Instead, when they suffer unduly, it makes me question the purpose of prayer. In makes me confucedus.