According to a study commissioned by the Church of England, six out of seven of us still believe prayers will be answered (Source 1). A very large figure and one that I was not expecting to hear. The study was commissioned by the Church of England though, and the line ‘only one in seven insisted they would never resort to prayer in the face of problems in their lives’- well, leaves me a little skeptical. People resort to many different methods as a last resort when facing problems such as loss of loved ones. Not out of logical thinking but out of pure desperation. I have been there myself, it didn’t work at the time.
Think of a time in our history when we haven’t considered prayer effective. And now, think of a time when everything was blissful. It can’t be done! It is clear that rituals and misfortune have walked hand in hand during the thousands of years of human progression. Not directly linked, but definitely present. Yet we still insist prayers can, and do, make a difference.
Little is needed to claim the simple ritual is effective. Winning £10 on a lottery ticket or just catching a flight last minute after a very pessimistic mad dash, could well be the work of kneeling on the floor and talking to thin air just before getting into bed the night before.
Or a week before.
Or at the time.
Or after a relative prayed for you.
Or not praying at all yet staying away from misfortune as a supposed message from God to keep praying.
Timing is not relevant at all. Or who is doing the praying. The criteria in which to pray is also wide open. Standing/ kneeling/ laying. Hands together or hands in the air. All successful.
Let me put silliness of my first assumption to the side though, an argument linking prayers to tragedy is one that should not be taken too seriously. Considering how both religion and humanity have stood side by side over time, it makes it very hard to pin point when praying originated. But events of a catastrophic nature have been around much longer that ourselves. We know this.
What is equally untrue is the idea that prayers can prevent what we want it to. Death, disasters, depravity and the like. This should be just as much a familiar fact to us. The fact that the belief in the power of prayer is just as unrealistic as the assumption in the title of this post.
Right now, as I’m typing and you are reading, prayers are taking place. On the bedside of a dying hospital patient, from the parents of the 200 missing girls of the Nigerian kidnapping, from the mouths of the homeless looking for food. Our species has always prayed for good health, prosperity and safety. But no one has made it past the age of 122 (Jeanne Calment), roughly 19,000 children under the age of five die each day due to poverty (Source 2) and we still need airbags in our cars (a road accident taking place right now is almost certain).
So why bother? If prayer worked, there would be only good news every time we opened the newspaper. Limited down to pretty much the sports pages due to a lack of headlines. Sadness would be eradicated at our request. Just like that.