A couple nights ago, there was a story on the news about the little McCann girl who went missing in Portugal. This one took a different angle. It looked at it from the point of view of a Canadian clergyman who was assigned to the Anglican church in the Portugese town where it happened, a few days after the tragic event.
In the course of the story, the minister’s wife spoke of how she and the entire congregation prayed constantly for the little girl’s safe return. They’re still waiting and praying. She then asked, “How can so many people pray for the same thing and it not happen?” If ever a question answered itself… It was screaming out. I wanted to scream it out. “Because there’s no one on the receiving end of the prayers, of course!”
How she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see it is beyond me. Why millions of others can’t see that prayers aren’t answered is beyond me. Everyone in a competition can pray for victory, but only one will win. Millions have prayed for loved ones to come home from wars who didn’t. Other people will survive complicated surgeries or be found by the police, but these are the results of human actions, not prayers. I guess people really are that desperate.
At best, praying for someone is extending good wishes and hopes by proxy, albeit an imaginary one. But, why channel good wishes through a third party? Why not give them directly? It expresses the sentiment you feel and, ultimately, is more sincere.
Prayer could actually be seen as a selfish act. It makes the person praying feel better. It does nothing for the target of the prayers. There was even a study done in Europe recently that monitored results for people who prayed and those who didn’t. It made no difference.
I was going to say, “At worst, prayer is a selfish act”. Then I remembered another news story that demonstrates it can be worse. If any of you are thinking praying can’t do any harm, think again. Remember the story of the girl who died because her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor?
If you want to help someone or extend your good wishes, do it in the real world. Send them a card or letter. Phone them. Tell them face to face. Take them to the hospital or feed them. Contribute to a fund or charity (one that does practical things rather than convert people and pray for them). You might just give them a little comfort, rather than yourself. You might even save their life. Praying won’t.