Does prayer work? Not a snowball’s chance in Heck – not that there really is a Heck of course. The proof of the pudding is of course, if prayer really worked, there would be a acim in that we’d all be lotto winners or at least pretty rich and famous! We’d be total successes at our jobs, in our relationships, have perfect partners and perfect children. And our cars wouldn’t break down! Further, the sun would shine down on us every day of our lives.
Even if we all just prayed for good things in general, not personal things in particular, and if our benevolent prayers really worked, then there would be no disease or suffering or crime or wars, etc. We’d all live in a utopian Camelot. But we don’t! I mean, come every Christmas and Easter, the Pope publicly prays for world peace. That’s noble of him. But, come next Christmas and Easter, he has to do it all over again! Now if the Pope can’t get results, what hope for the great unwashed?
Since a result, that is, world peace (as one of many possible examples), hasn’t happened; it’s obviously not the case, then either God doesn’t exist, or doesn’t answer prayers. If the latter, then God doesn’t give a tinkers damn about us, so why should we give a tinkers damn about Him (again, being traditional and assuming the masculine)? If we don’t give a damn, then Gods existence, or lack of existence, is basically irrelevant.
Think of all those trillions of man-hours (sorry, person-hours) wasted over the centuries by those in pursuit of an illusion – that praying brought results. Do you really think our world today is a better place for all that time, effort and energy? No? Then I say again – what a waste. Further, no scholarly studies ever done on the beneficial results of praying have ever shown that praying works.
If prayer does seem to work at times on a personal level, it’s probably more a case of mind-over-matter, the power of positive thinking, and akin to the placebo pill in medicine. Every now and again, the improbable happens. Just because you prayed for an improbable event doesn’t mean the prayer worked, and therefore that there’s a God who answered it.
Further, as in the case of supposed miracles, prayer validation is also a highly selective bookkeeping exercise in that a hit is documented and displayed for the entire world to see; a miss is never mentioned or discussed.
Quasi related are the buzz words ‘faith’ and ‘ritual’. As far as I can tell, all the faith in the world in a supernatural being isn’t going to heal up a broken leg any faster, or anything in a similar type of basket. You would be hard pressed to provide evidence that having faith yields extra positive results relative to those not having faith. In a similar vein, religions thrive on ritual. Do this at such-and-such a time; don’t do that on such-a-such day of the week; observe this; cross yourself thus, eat (or don’t eat) that at this time; adopt this posture in this situation, etc. Even the military isn’t quite as strict in its rules and regulations (rituals)! Anyway, observing all the rituals part and parcel of a particular religion, in terms of effectiveness, a pathway to the good life doesn’t really seem to get you any extra brownie points. It strikes me as another sociological example of ass-kissing because you are told to kiss ass by authority figures who, I gather, in this case derive said authority from a supernatural being for which there is no evidence. Sorry sheep; it’s all a case of the blind leading the blind.