Today, a friend asked this question on Facebook:
I'd like to preface this question by stating up front that I'm in NO WAY disparaging anyone's religious beliefs. I'm genuinely curious about a trend I'm noticing. It has become de rigueur for people on Facebook to solicit prayers from their friends for increasingly trivial things. "My dog is getting his tail docked. Prayers, please." "I have a test in biology. Please pray for me!" "My friend is having her tonsils out and she could really use your prayers." My question is this: does anyone really believe the outcome of the event will be influenced by prayer? Also, do all the people who say they're praying really stop what they're doing and have a heartfelt one-way conversation with God, or is it more an eye roll to the sky with a cursory "Praying for everyone, dude"? Does God get sick of hearing about all this mundane crap? Finally, if 1000 people are praying for A and 1001 are praying for the opposite, B, does B automatically win based on numbers alone, assuming everyone praying is an approximately equally sinful believer? And how the hell do you theists keep all of this straight? Or do you default to "Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but it makes me feel better to wish it"?
Here was my response:
I believe deeply that prayer doesn't necessarily change the situation, prayer changes the person praying. Let me explain. I absolutely believe there is something bigger than me out there. Whether it be God, angels, the Universe...my thoughts on this have changed over the years, but one thing remains constant. That thing that keeps me humble, knowing there are things much bigger than me. I swear every time I see something cool in nature, I get goosebumps and stand in awe. (That could be the hippie part of me talking...) Further, I truly believe in energy. For example, I walk in a room for a meeting and I get a good indication of what kind of energy is infiltrating the room. Having said this, when I pray (and yes I pray when someone is getting their tonsils out, getting ready for a test or whatever might seem heavy or trivial), I pray for the greater good, no matter the situation. I understand that there are things that I do not know. In fact, the more I know, the more I realize I really don't know that much. When I put this kind of intention into action, I BEGIN TO ACT OUT OF THIS INTENTION. My actions that come next as a result of uttering that prayer, impact that situation. My whole attitude shifts. It is somewhat akin to theories regarding positive affirmations/thinking, and such. I do believe that we are actually co-creators with God/Universe/Spirit. Ultimately, I don't believe that God/Universe/Spirit plays favorites and whomever has the best prayer wins. I believe that when we set intentions in service and in love, "God works all things together for those who love..." and sometimes the answers to our prayers don't look like anything we expected. Namaste!