“Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry send prayers to #Oklahoma #PrayForOklahoma
I feel like an idiot now… I only sent money”-Ricky Gervais
Now, I don’t have an issue with the concept of organized religion. Far from it. The longer I live, the more terrifying and random I find the world to be, so if there’s any way a person can believe there’s sense and purpose in this madness, I envy them. If the price of finding solace in this brutal world is simply following the directions of the being who made it, then I encourage any person who can believe in the good book to take that path. I’m just not one of those people.
There are concepts that I can get behind, or at least understand, in religion. Good people are rewarded and the evil are punished? Dope. Treat others kindly, because you make mistakes too? Pretty equitable. There’s somebody who loves us no matter what? A comforting notion, though a little odd if he’d let some of them suffer in flames for eternity. After going through Catholic high school I’ve come to understand a lot of these things, but the one more informal thing I was never able to fully wrap my head around was the power of prayer.
That’s why, whenever somebody posts helpful “prayers” for people they don’t know on FB, regardless of what it’s for, I scratch my head. Not literally, though, I think the only time I’ve seen somebody do that in confusion was during an episode of Scooby Doo. I just wonder Where are these prayers going and what are they helping with? While it is nice that a hashtag can usually give me a general idea of what you’re praying for, I’ll never fully know. There are just so many things to ask for help with. People need to be more specific when they go out of their way to alert me of their prayer schedule.
Hold onto your hats because I’m about to say God a lot. Pretty sure this is the offensive part
After a natural disaster: #PrayForOklahoma
What exactly are you praying for here? Are you reminding the creator of heaven and earth that human beings don’t enjoy having natural disasters hurled at us like tic-tacs? Probably not, though, because I somehow doubt that the all-prescient being who already knows Russell Wilson’s entire career passing average is going to forget that people don’t enjoy wearing their ceiling like a fucking top hat. Unless we’re simply begging the great being not to go OT on our asses.
Is it to give the people of the afflicted area the strength to recover and rebuild? You know what else does that? Nutrients, tools, basic infrastructure, all things we can accomplish empirically by donating time or money. Also, if he gives us adversity so that we may overcome it and grow as humans, he’s probably damn well made up his mind on just how much strength/adversity he’s going to be clusterbombing that area with. I would imagine that asking for retroactive adjustment is like pissing into the F-4 wind.
Is all that strength to rebuild coming on a prayer by prayer basis, in little increments depending on how many people are praying? Or does it come in blocks in some sort of Kickstarter increment? Is the strength in an ethereal pinata that only bursts when it’s been pelted with enough prayers? Please advise.
The physically ailing: #PrayForLamar
I don’t want this one to hit too close to home, so I’m going to lighten the load with furry animals.
Let’s say my gerbil has earlobe cancer. The worst case the doctor’s ever seen. The prognosis looks grim. Let us pray; strength for the Sir Sniffles to fight, that Sir Sniffles lives, strength for the Sniffles family, etc.
Are these prayers meant to dissuade God from taking the life of this gerbil and calling an audible on his game plan? I never picture the mighty creator going down his “to kill” list with a pencil and saying “oh my, people seem to be greatly displeased with me taking this little guy. I shall rainchecketh that.” This would have to be the case for him to alter this outline, because historically humanity has not done a great job of strong arming God.
Is this a request for God to get all up in our gerbil’s woundholes and give his immune cells a kick in the ass? Why wouldn’t he just do that all the time? Likely because he bestowed us with more than enough when he gave us a complex immune system and large brains to invent medicine, then left us to figure this shit out on our own. Maybe he just needs a certain amount of prayer juice before he gives a person the ol’ holy stim pack.
Perhaps that stim pack is only bestowed upon the righteous. That would make sense. Only, your prayers won’t make the afflicted person any more righteous than they were before they became ill in the first place. What is the application process like for this divine IV?
But that brings me to my next question, do more prayers equal more strength to fight the cancer? Seems a pretty fucked up system if the more popular you are the more likely you are to live. You can argue that people who don’t get many prayers don’t have many friends because they’re mean spirited and evil people, but I’d like to point out that it’s entirely possible to be both socially inept and a great soul.
Granted, that would explain how Odom crawled back from the absolute brink.
After the death: #PrayForRobinWilliams
Let’s argue that things did not go well for our hero gerbil. And you’ve decided to pray some more. You could pray to give strength to the Sniffles family (even though a simple text or phone call would probably help more). But strength isn’t the only thing I’ve heard prayed for after a person has passed.
Are you praying for their dead’s safe passage to heaven? Because, to be brutally honest, that gerbil is dead. All actions of Sir Sniffles are in the past. That gerbil has already made his eternal bed either way and he’s going to have to lie in it. I personally would not like the being who decides a soul’s final destination to leave their fate up to the prayer counting contest I mentioned before. Or worse.
It could be said that the breadth and depth of prayers God receives play a part in determining whether or not Sir Sniffles was a good gerbil, but is that necessarily a good thing? What if Sir Sniffles was a pedophile gerbil and nobody else knew about it? What if he touched gerbil parts that don’t belong to him then disposed of the victims so no one would know? Then you’d be retroactively glad that you had no say in his ultimate fate. But if we’re running under the assumption that the judge knows all the deeds of Sniffle’s life, then he wouldn’t need a jury.
OJ got off once, Sir Sniffles will not.
Willful acts of violence: #PrayForParis
This one bears some of the same curiosities of the previous entries, but with the added zest of mind control and vengeance. If God’s going to right this shit (instead of you, the philanthropic human) he’s going to have his hands full with these requests. They’ll probably run the gamut of giving strength, healing the wounded, some heaven guidance, remembering the stuff humans don’t like, and to top it all off, he’s going to have to do some good old fashioned punishing.
The general consensus I seem to hear is for the good guys to heal and rebuild while the bad guys suffer. In essence that God will punish the wicked. I’m not a warfare expert, but to my knowledge, the only reason we have to call in airstrikes on these bastards is because God hasn’t called one down since the Old Testament. This is why we have anti-terrorism and police units. It is their literal job to do shit, because otherwise it won’t get done. “Natural causes” is not high on a terrorists list of possible threats. There is not a bank of people praying round the clock at NORAD, there are actual missiles.
Or are we asking for our all-powerful being to cause evildoers and their potential followers to somehow learn the error of their ways and stop doing the things they’re doing? Forcibly? To suit someone else’s purposes? There might be a phrase for that, and it might be mind control. And maybe, just maybe, that doesn’t play very well into the concept of free will. I thought the power of choice was one of the greatest gifts we children were given. Whatever, not really an issue if you believe in predestination. Besides, why worry about all this stuff here in the present? It’s all going to get cleared up in the end when everyone gets sorted into heaven or hell. Swish!
Silly me, though, I’ve ruled out the possibility that you’re not even asking for anything specific, just letting people know. After all, people of the modern age are always searching for devices that can do it all. Maybe you just need something that soothes both your need for accomplishment and your aversion to putting in real work. A device that can really show the world how forward thinking you are.
A device like “Pray for the world”.
That is the laziest phrase this side of “Everything happens for a reason”. The mere utterance of this phrase makes me blindingly angry because of reasons like the following:
-Fuck Luxembourg. Their GDP per capita is second in the world. They don’t even need an air force. That goddamn country is doing A-ok. Don’t spread your prayers evenly, distribute more of that shit to the countries with the smoking craters.
-What you think you’ve done is project yourself as a worldly and caring individual, but what you’ve actually said is nothing at all. You’ve essentially superimposed the words “Stop sucking, things in general!” over a picture of the globe and posted it on Instagram.
-There is no stance in that phrase, no backbone. It basically denotes that you have given up on causes because thinking is hard. It is the theological equivalent of fucking an Excel spreadsheet so badly that you just put your hands up, wait for your boss to come by, and say “Here, fix this”. Thanks, Miss America.
I say the above things mostly to point out that I fail to understand how precisely prayer is supposed to better a world in which we are supposed to be active. It’s just not a follow-through mindset. More than anything it seems to stick out as a device to explain that you’re a good person and little else. But really, if you’re going to announce publicly that you asked God to do the heavy lifting for us, the least you could do is get a little more specific with your hashtags. #CannedGoods #PrayerPile #LookAtMeGo #LetTheRedCrossDoMyWorkForMe #TakeCreditThruGod
I’m not saying that religion is a useless tool in times of crisis, I think it can be used much to the benefit of tragedy survivors. Church congregations help torn communities bind together and find strength in each other. People tout the will of the lord as their reason for canned food drives and charity missions. Wearing a symbol of faith can help a person to feel purposeful and blessed in the face of adversity. I’m just saying that these things don’t work from a distance where no one can experience them, and that a prayer is not a means to an end.