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The Power Of (non)prayer


xrayman7040
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I have been an atheist since last March, and before that, despite the fact that I was never too deeply religious, I did pray a lot, espescially when times were rough or a tough situation arose. A couple of weeks ago I had my first real test of not praying. My wife got the call every woman dreads. She was called back for additional tests due to an abnormal finding in her first mammogram at 39. It was so wierd being in that spot without automatically praying real hard, but I resisted the urge. I guess when you think about it prayer is just another way to channel your worrying energy, and it is hard to come up with a substitute. She went in for an ultrasound and everything turned out fine, but we were both pretty scared. Can anyone else share a similar story after they freshly gave up God belief? What do you do instead of praying when encountering the foxholes of life?

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Xrayman, I'm glad the ultrasound came back okay.

 

I still find myself praying on occassion. Usually it's not asking for things. Mostly I find myself thanking a God that I no longer believe in. Perhaps if I find myself in some sort of pickle in the future though I may find myself praying for deliverance. Who knows?

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Xrayman,

 

In my view…

 

Prayer brings you to a certain state of mind that I find hard to describe and that I believe is different for each person. It is however a natural condition of a complex brain, not an otherworld one of spiritualism.

 

There are several people here who meditate. I’m not one of them.

 

For a while in my prayer life I used to pray so incessantly (i.e. “keep your mind stayed on Him and He will keep you in perfect peace”) that I transcended the world around me. People who describe meditation remind me of that period of my xtian life.

 

I no longer have a desire for the “activity” of prayer. If I did, I would pursue meditation.

 

I don’t know if that helps but if you give it a shot, I’d be curious to find out, either way, how it turns out.

 

Mongo

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When I'm in a situation that I used to pray about, I now try and take the time to think the situation through.

What will I do if the worst happens? What are my options? What are the odds of certain outcomes? What would be the decent reaction? Where should my loyalties lie? Can my my worrying about this situation now have any impact on its outcome? Is there anything I can do NOW that will have an impact?

 

Stuff like that.

 

Often, very often, at the end of that, some kind of solution or response becomes clear. Even if the solution is to do nothing and stop worrying until tomorrow, when I'm back in the situation that needs resolving (After all, why lose sleep over something that is out of your control for the next 12 hours)

 

The old me would say that Jesus had spoken to me.

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Since I've stopped praying, I've developed a sort of "6th sense" about the outcome of situations like this. (or so it seems, anyway)

 

I either get a good vibe, or a bad vibe about the final outcome. And usually (so far) I've been right. :shrug:

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This is a good question and glad someone posted it.

 

Just the other day I suffered bad due to my disability. I was very ill and well, scared because when you're *that* sick with nobody you want to wake up to help you (I hate waking people up in the middle of the night) then you find other means. Ok, so I "accidentally" prayed. Or I guess maybe that brain thing someone mentioned came into play. The wierdest thing was, the illness subsided right then enough for me to get some sleep. Maybe it would have anyway but I think not. Here's my take on it:

 

Worry makes you more sick. The more you worry the more ill you become. Prayer may eliviate some fo the worry by placing in one's mind that there is someone that can make you *better* when you ask for help, so you start getting a mindset that you'll soon be ok. That someone is there to help you when you need it and you don't have to do it all alone. That this person or being is *awake* 24/7 and you don't have to wake them up, etc. When one is sick, some will feel like their situation is out of control or out of their hands because they are ill, weak, don't know what to do. Or can't help it or make it better right away. So they have to place in their minds something that will cause the mind to just change gears.

 

I used to meditate and at the time had heart palpitations (not from meditation but from low weight), and meditations after I learned how and got enough practice, I was actually able to consciously stop the palpitations. I really think I need to re-learn my meditations again I guess.

 

And too, I think it may even be "OK" to have a fantasy or imagination and keep a personal comfort of some kind in mind, whatever it is, as long as it works. But AS LONG AS you keep it to yourself and don't go pushing others to believe it and think you'll burn or get punished if you don't!

 

Like a friend who recently lost her mother says she still talks to her. I can see that. I don't find that bad. Her way of grieving. But she doesn't go saying anyone who doesn't is goign to burn in hell. It's her thing. She can talk about it and others can understand (or not) what she is doing.

 

Maybe this God thing should be like that. Not going by a set of 'rules' for EVERYONE, but people picking up on what they feel is good for their OWN lives and (as they do anyway) tossing out the rest. But not telling everyone what they should and should not do, but just understand in their minds that others have this need too, and do this in their OWN way. Like "God is here comforting me" means that in that person's mind, they have something that calms them in distress, something that stops the worry from making them ill. Maybe prayer is like that for some.

 

But it shouldn't become a thing where people determine what God said should be public policy. I shouldn't be where people should hurt and hate.

 

I think someone should re-write a more peaceful Bible. I mean, if Constantine (was it)? could sanction books of the bible, and writings as "God inspired", whats to say someone else shouldn't? Many have written inspirational books. Some probably are much better than the Bible. So why couldn't any of THOSE become "A Bible" (as apposed to THE Bible)? And people going to church bring their OWN bibles, and not say "that's the wrong one" to the one sitting next to them?

 

Pasters should let others share their sermons and thoughts from their books they read or their own bibles, and if some agree, so be it but if some don't, no problem, just ignore it and try something else.

 

Kids should read and learn from these but not be told they will be hurt, scolded, etc. or burn in a hell if they don't believe any of it. But explain why some things MIGHT be a good idea but let them decide through experiences ultimately if they are not. Kids aren't as stupid as some like to believe. I know because I remember I was one myself and I was pretty damn smart at a young age. But I guess becuase I didn't "obey" but questioned everything until I either got an answer or concluded that there was nobody around that knew and I'll have to look for the answers elsewheres.

 

We don't need a CHRISTIAN or religious bible, we need our OWN. Or none at all.

 

But having something in the mind that can be called on, maybe as a special keyword or thing to stop the worry cycle from making an illness worse, can be beneficial.

 

But one should also not feel pressure if someone "prays" for you and you don't get well. The pressure to get well can be stressful and make one worse too. Praying FOR someone is fruitless in as a cure for the one being prayed for. Prayer is only for those doing the praying and nothing more. If you year "I'm praying for you." it's akin to saying "I'm worried about you and thinking about you in hopes I don't worry too much more about you." Type thing.

 

Or how do you answer the Christian saying "Can I pray for you?" Sure. But not in front of me. And only if you realize the prayer is more for YOU to calm YOUR worries about me and not for me to change and be what YOU want me to be!

 

Who knows when they wrote about prayer in the bible they saw a need for the brain to stop the worry-sick cycle and it seemed to work. Might not for some and might for others.

 

If it doesn't work for you, try something else that comforts and stops the worry/stress from making you ill. We all are different and need different ways.

 

Me, I think I'll try more meditations. But if I want to have a figure in my head... that's my business! I don't intend to put that in anyone else's. It might be a different thing too, other times I am sick it might be something else not even related to God that might help. Who knows.... Whatever works.

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God never helped me when I prayed to him before, now that I don't pray to him he still doesn't help me.

 

So I no longer waste energy praying and waiting for god's non-response. Instead, I devote such time to thinking about how to resolve or prepare myself for any situation, considering contingency plans if neccessary, or just getting on with doing the job myself.

 

It's much more effective than prayer ever was.

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What do you do instead of praying when encountering the foxholes of life?

 

I cross my fingers. It's been shown to be 17% more effective than prayer.

 

There. I just crossed the fingers on both hands for your wife. I'm confident that everything will turn out okay.

 

Okay. I did it one more time just for insurance.

 

Good luck, xrayman.

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The day my dog died I didn't pray. That's a situation where I would have prayed very hard for help to find some way to save his life, but I just didn't. It didn't occur to me to do so until later.

 

I do confess to having prayed in the last week though out of sheer frustration. I'm vastly under-employed right now (I'm employed, but getting next to no hours) and I've been job hunting for something more stable and working my freelance job every day to pay the bills. But it's all drying up right now so it's been really hard. There's nothing else I can do on my own that I'm not already doing. So I ended up praying just because it feels like a miracle is the only thing I have left that could possibly get me hired somewhere.

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I actually stopped praying before I abandoned christianity. I had learned from experience that if I really really wanted something....and prayed for it....NO WAY was I getting it. My prayers were NEVER answered positively. If a church friend was in the hospital, the best thing I could do for them was to NOT pray. I didn't want to feel guilt if things went bad.

 

Did I think god hated me? No. I just thought he really didn't want to be asked for anything. I thought god was telling me..."I will help you in all things....unless you ask for the help. Because if you are busy asking, you really aren't working for what you want. And I'm not just going to hand you whatever you desire."

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God never helped me when I prayed to him before, now that I don't pray to him he still doesn't help me.

 

So I no longer waste energy praying and waiting for god's non-response. Instead, I devote such time to thinking about how to resolve or prepare myself for any situation, considering contingency plans if neccessary, or just getting on with doing the job myself.

 

It's much more effective than prayer ever was.

 

And it works for you. So obviously this is exactly what you should be doing. Knowing what to do in all situations doesn't come easy for some. Sometimes when one's ill it's impossible (almost) to even think of how to solve a situation when one is just suffering. But with me, the suffering is so intense sometimes it blinds any other type of productive thought. But I do also find medicines, herbal remedies, ways to get comfortable though it and I admit that also helps. DOING something vs. just setting there wondering what to do or hoping something DOES do something does give one a feeling of being less out of control of the situation. I can see how that can work.

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It never occurred to me to pray in such a situation after my deconversion. Granted, it was 20 years after that I had my most dramatic crisis that people usually pray about, but still, before that I saw the same share of sickness and death that most people see.

 

But nothing was like when my wife was laying on the operating table, pregnant with my son, in a high risk surgery (for the baby) that was necessary to save her life (and by extension, the baby's). The the bad test results on the fetus, the apparent abnormalities in the ultrasound, the high probability given by the doctors that he'd die. Then the risks he faced after he was born, not only early, but small for his gestational age: that he'd still die then, or suffer mental retardation, cerebral palsy or other debilitating problems.

 

A crisis like this probably befalls most people sometime in their life, and if there's anything that would bring out prayer in someone so inclined, it's something like this. I never once felt inclined to pray through all this. Instead, I spent my time being involved with my wife, son, and the doctors, I studied up on everything there was to learn that could possibly help anything, I was supportive, I was there, I helped, I loved, I cared. I think that did a lot more than a prayer ever could have. (I'm also happy to report that we skirted all the awful things that could have happened, my son did fine, and my wife's surgery is now a distant memory.)

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At first, I noticed it does seem weird at times to not pray when you or someone is in desperate need. It can make you feel like there is SOMETHING you can do but you're not doing it. It can seem strange to feel like there is nobody in control outside of yourself to ask for help.

 

In my personal experience since leaving xianity, and during my atheist period, things get done whether or not I pray. I mean, things in my life still worked out whether I'd prayed over it or not.

 

Farmers and food processors still provided the food at the grocery store and a job with income still paid for the food. We still bought the food and cooked it. No god provided a magical spread of food because we asked or thanked "him". It was the peope I just mentioned who provided.

 

We still drove around in safety in vehicles, recovered from illness, etc. without prayer.

 

I am still not sure about any god existing, at least as a personal being, but I do have more of a "spiritual" life now, apart from religion. (I admit that I pretty much despise religion) I meditate, I try to think positive, speak positive, etc. There is more I tend to believe, but I won't go into it now. I find that one can have spirituality apart from religion. In fact, religion is usually a big hinderance to it.

 

But you know what? I still don't REALLY pray. Oh, I sometimes ask the "universe" for help for someone if they (still thinking I'm xian as I have to be a closet non-believer) ask me to pray for them. Sometimes I briefly ask this nebulous, undercurrent of life to help me in something. It's sort of a feel-like-I-did-something for those times when there is really not much a person can do. Whether there is a god or I'm just talking to the life force behind all things, or that's a bunch of baloney, at least it's a positive word that makes me feel better. It can give me the perception that maybe I added a positive "vibe" to a situation.

 

This seems just about my speed because in my fundy xian life, prayer at times was like an ocd thing. You had to be praying and it often had to be said or done just right, and you had to include certain things, and end prayers certain ways. Even had to pray so many times per day, for so long, and of course, before eating. Like everything else in xianity, each thing gets picked apart and written a multitude of books on to make sure you have the "correct" thought, belief, ritual, etc. so as to be doing things the "biblical, True Christian" way. Ugh.

 

Anyway, if actually making your intentions known out loud or to yourself (I hate the words pray or prayer, it just leaves me w/bad taste in my mouth the same as many things from my former xian days) isn't your thing, there are other things others here mentioned to make you feel like you are helping. Keeping a positive attitude about it. Loving, being there, physically helping, etc. are the practical things that will probably matter most to someone.

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I've had 25 years to think about this, since leaving the church and Christianity.

 

I was pretty hard-core fundamentalist/Pentecostal. Prayer was so all-pervasive it became a sickness. (If you want to understand a thing, I guess there's no better way than total immersion.) We prayed that God would show us the way, give us a job, make us well, make us happy, make us wealthy. We prayed that people who disagreed with us would "see the light - hell, we even secretly prayed our football team would make it to the Super Bowl - you name it, we prayed for it. We prayed that our pets wouldn't die (they always did, eventually), for guidance in business deals, home purchases, depression, physical aches and pains, for "understanding" when we stumbled across what seemed to be contradictions in the Bible.

 

We used prayer as a conversational weapon to whittle each other down: "We prayed for you last night." "I'm praying that the Lord will give you clarity" (Translated: "I'm praying that God will show you what a complete asshole you are.") We even prayed that God would cast out demons from people who saw hypocrisy and dishonesty in the church, since only a demon would convince them of such goings on in God's house.

 

Here's my take on prayer:

 

If you only pray that the sun will rise, each and every day, 100% of your prayers will be answered. Start straying off the "sure thing" path and you get onto rocky ground. Pray that someone's flu will go away, and you have pretty good odds; pray that they will grow a new leg, and you are in trouble.

 

Prayer is a substitute for actually taking action. I know sometimes it seems there's no action to take, but as soon as you decide you've run out of options and all that's left is to pray, then you are no longer moving forward. Live is like a minefield - you can't stay where you are, and moving forward might result in your leg getting blown off, but you have to keep moving. That's just the way life is. Pray for a job, and every minute you spend praying for it is a minute you aren't polishing your resume, or knocking on doors.

 

Prayer can be a mantra - something you recite to get yourself into a calm state. Sometimes that calm state can result in reducing stress, and that can lead to clear thinking. I get that. But praying for things to happen to you (or for you, or to others) is a type of Russian roulette - spin the cylinder and pull the trigger, and you might get by without getting hit, or you might just shoot yourself in the head.

 

My bottom line on prayer is that sometimes the job comes, sometimes the wound heals, sometimes the school bus full of children drives off the cliff in the rain; sometimes you win the door prize, sometimes you get cancer and die, sometimes you find true love and happiness. Prayer is a personal thing, but it doesn't affect how the wheels of the universe turn, and there's no God to thank for the good things, or rail against when prayers don't get answered. We're on our own in this world, and all we have is each other.

 

 

Rob

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I actually stopped praying before I abandoned christianity.

This sounds like me.

 

I was always so afraid of people going to hell that I would pray and pray and pray for god to bring my niece and newphew and friends to Jesus or for my mom or sister to go back to church, etc. or things like that. I almost never prayed for money or even for sick people to get well (I didn't want to "trouble" god with "trivial" things like that), I just wanted him to save people I knew from eternal damnation. Did anything change? Of course not. I finally had to stop praying because it was just one crushing blow after another to my faith.

 

Now when something comes up I just take a deep breath and "hope for the best but prepare for the worst". That's all anyone can do.

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