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What's the Point of Intercessory Prayer?

Hands Clasped in PrayerThis is something I've written about before (and has been written about by others), but it really struck me last night, so I felt like commenting on it today.

Last night, my daughter had her girl scout award ceremony. As is pretty common for these things, her troop meets at a church. The room where we had the ceremony is also a meeting room for one of the Sunday school classes, and one of the walls had a section for "Prayer Requests," where students put up little notes with things they'd like the congregation to pray for*.

One of the girl scouts, I'm assuming one who hasn't been exposed to church too much, asked what the "Prayer Requests" wall was about. The troop leader explained it to her, but I had a thought that made me smirk a bit, and bite my tongue not to say out loud - because God wouldn't know those people were having problems unless he heard about it through prayer.

When you stop and think about it, if you believe that your god is all knowing and all powerful, then intercessory prayer really is a weird thing. Sure, it makes sense if you believe in imperfect or fickle gods, who may or may not follow the daily events of our personal lives, and who may or may not care what happens to us. But that's not the type of god most Christians believe in.

Most Christians I know believe that Yahweh is omnipotent, omniscient, and that he has a perfect plan for us. If that's the case, what could you expect to achieve through prayer? Yahweh already knows what's going on - he doesn't need earthly informants. It's not as if it's a popularity contest, and Yahweh's going to count votes to determine his divine intervention. And it really is less than humble to ask the almighty to change his divine plan simply because you don't like it. The plan is supposedly perfect, after all.

I can understand other types of prayer - praise, thanksgiving, asking for strength for yourself. But when it comes to intercessory prayer, it seems a bit, well, odd.

Anyway, these aren't terribly original thoughts. But, the more and more I've been outside of Christianity, the stranger and stranger some of those old habits seem.


*I don't mean to belittle the actual topics of most of the prayer requests. There were definitely some serious issues on that wall.

Comments

Perhaps intercessory prayer is more for our benefit -- perhaps it teaches us to care for one another.

Makamelaca,

Asking one being to help a second being seems a roundabout way to get us to care for the second being. Couldn't people just pray that God made them more caring?

I was a Christian for many years before I became an atheist, and long before I began questioning my faith I'd given up on intercessory prayers. It just seemed so conceited. There's a pretty famous line in the Lord's prayer about 'thy will be done.' There was also the story of Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives - "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." And that was Jesus, God himself, praying (I'll admit, the trinity makes no sense). If even God the Son wouldn't ask God the Father to change his plans, how vain is it for a mere mortal to ask it?

Another thing to think about - if you think that intercessory prayers have any chance of working, it means you're making the assumption that God wasn't going to do whatever it was you were praying for if you hadn't prayed. Think about that if you're ever praying for a sick relative. If you think your prayer makes a difference, it's based on the assumption that God would have let your relative suffer otherwise. I know I didn't believe that as a Christian, so it's why I gave up on intercessory prayers as futile.

Please,pray for the world church-to wash our shame;
and for an world christian movement ' let's empty the orphanages'
and for Bulgaria-my country-to repent and to glorify God with good deeds;
and for me-I want to know what love is!
Thanks,be blessed!

I believe God loves whomever I'm praying for much more than I do. Therefore, I have ceased to say "Heal Grandma, please." Instead, I say "Thanks for giving me such a great Grandma all these years. I'm worried about Grandma being sick. What can I do?" I think it's much like the Book of James. When someone says they are hungry, better to give them bread than to tell them you have faith they'll be filled, or they should have faith, or you'll pray for them. That's why I really admire Mother Teresa. She did not muck about intellectualizing God. She rolled up her sleeves and changed another leper's bed pan.

To this extent, I would say that I agree with your specific reasons for not praying, but your list is not exhaustive. I know for me that praying for other reasons has been a life changer. God's been there for me in a very real way. I'm frustrated that I can't share that experience sufficiently. Those who do not feel God think those who do are mentally ill or at least gullible.

The side note about the Trinity is another example of how one must not take an all or nothing approach. If you left your Christian faith because of that, I feel bad. I, too, don't believe Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one being either. My church doesn't teach that. The early church didn't have unity on that belief either. It's the main point of a fourth century vote. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed (That spiritual matters can be settled with a vote is not my idea of truth.)

I love you guys for being so honest about how you feel. I was wondering if you have ever had a personal experience in which you confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead? Romans 10:9-10. It just means have you ever asked Jesus to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior. Say this prayer with me only if you want to "God I believe Jesus died for my sins and those of the world and that you raised Him from the dead so that I may have life, eternal life with you. I now accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior Amen. Thank you guys for reading this. I love you just because God created you. I pray that for each of you God will do something to let you know He is real and loves you dearly and that He tells us to pray in Jesus name and he will answer our prayers. Mark 11:23-25 should help with this and intercessory prayer is found in scripture also Romans 8:26,27 1Corinthians14:2 Acts 2:4.

As a matter of fact, I have prayed in the manner you've described, and at the time, I did 'believe in my heart' that I was experiencing God's presence. But when I later asked myself how I could be so sure in my feelings when a Hindu was just as convinced that they were feeling Vishnu's presence, or a Buddhist was just as convinced that they were experiencing Nirvana, or to use another Abrahamic religion, when a Muslim was just as convinced that they were experiencing Allah's presence, then I realized that I couldn't actually trust those feelings, and that it could just as easily have been self deception. Going through much more thought on the process (much of which you can read here), I finally realized that I could no longer honestly accept Christianity, or any other religion.


At every point in a person's life, they experience a difficult time where only prayer can help them through.

To many people, prayer provides comfort, calm, and a special connection to God. Prayer is usually done

by oneself, or at a neighborhood church. Thanks to the internet, and thousands of loving Christians

around the world, prayer sites are now available online to help many more people get what they need.

I grew up Southern Baptist, turned away from it in college after reading books by Ayn Rand, but found life pretty meaningless and turned back to faith after I got married. So I now attend an Episcopal church. I find the words of Jesus pretty amazing. Life has meaning when you know you are loved.

John,

I guess I question the meaning of life as a Christian. If it's just being loved, then I have that with my wife, parents, daughter, and others, without having to resort to the supernatural. If it's worshiping God or following his wishes, then that's simply obedience. If it's God's purpose, then at worst we're just pawns. There's also the question of why God would decide on that purpose, or even where God came from in the first place. If you can't answer why God exists or why he has the traits he does, then there's no reason to think that following his wishes gives us a very profound or deep meaning - no more so than a child following their parents' wishes. Again, that's just obedience, not meaning.

To be honest, the longer I'm an atheist, the more comfortable I become with accepting that there's no deep meaning to life. We can make meaning for ourselves if we want to, but it's not something external. It doesn't change all the very real effects our actions have on those around us and our surroundings, so I don't see why meaning is even needed. Do you need your life to have a meaning to follow the Golden Rule? Would you quit helping people if the only reason for doing so was to ease their suffering? As the old aphorism goes, shouldn't a good deed be its own reward?

Prayers your way! Lots of love and light as well!

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I have been rejected by my husband after three(3) of marriage just because another man had a spell on him and he left me and the kid to suffer. one day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this man help on this address : princeomoebos@gmail.com have help a man to get back his wife. and i gave him a reply to his address and he told me that a man had a spell on my husband and he told me that he will help me and after 2days that i will have my husband back. i believed him and today i am glad to let you all know that this man have the power to bring lovers back. because i am now happy with my husband.he also help in promotion and success prayer
his email :princeomoebos@gmail.com

For what its worth, one of the main purposes of prayer is not to get God to do things for us or other people, but to acknowledge our faith in Him and dependence on Him. When you pray for someone who is sick to be healed, you are acknowledging that you believe God can heal them (which honors God), and you are acknowledging that you are depending ultimately on God to do any healing (which honors God). It really all comes down to faith and glorifying God.
Just food for thought!

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