During the course of this post I will be showing what people thinks prayer does and a way to rationalize the, sometimes, big amounts of coincidences associated with “answered prayers”.
Point 1: What does payer do?
Prayer is used by people of many different religions to either bring about change in a personal setting or on the world’s stage. Prayer has been used by people like George Bush *GOD BLESS AMURICA* or more recently by governor Rick Perry. To the religious community prayer means a lot and the belief that it actually does something is wide spread and is a basic tenant of almost all religions. I for one used to think that if I prayed to Yahweh he would answer my prayers (of course I have since moved on). But to the secular community prayer seems to be, and is, a way to feel like you are doing something/are in control when you are actually doing nothing/are not in control. During the course of this article I will give a way to rationalize the somewhat off coincidences associated with answered prayers.
Point 2: An Example.
So a while back a post was written in a group I a member of and the post said this:
“I signed up online to get texts from the news for school day closings and whatever.But I always end up getting extra texts about random news. Yesterday I got a text it said they put out an amber alert for a missing 4 year old boy in Ohio at 12 at night. I prayed and prayed that he wouldnt be harmed, that his parents would be able to have as much peace as they could in the situation, and that he’d return home safely. I prayed for about and hour straight. I fell asleep. About two hours later, I woke up for no reason. I looked at my phone to check the time, it was a text from my news. It read ‘an amber alert for a missing pickaway county boy has been lifted. He was found safely in lanecaster, Ohio.’ God is sosososo good. ♥”
And I questioned this by asking if they ever thought that this could merely be coincidence. I got an answer. The answer was that in some cases it could be but if one looks at the events that happened on that night it is obviously divine intervention. The same person that wrote the previous quote wrote this:
“1. I could not go to sleep at the usual time.
2. I signed up to get texts to tell me when Westerville city schools have a snowday, or just school closing in general, yet I get other texts such as ‘a semi on 270 has a gas leak’ and ‘Obama says he will not release photos of Osama.’ even though I canceled and re applied specifically for school closing texts.
3. Once I got the amber alert text, I prayed for an hour, then I fell dead asleep.
4. I randomly woke up two hours later, looked at my phone to see what time it is, like always. There was a text, from about 10 or 15 minutes before I woke up, saying he had been found safe.
5. Like I said, I was only about the text saying he was found safe was received only 15 or 10 minutes Before I woke up for no reason..”
These are all fine and dandy but let’s rationalize them!
Point 3: Rationalization.
Of course small things that will already happen but are prayed for a quite easy to explain. One simply says “It would already happen.” and that is that. It’s the things with lots of oddities that make prayer seem to work. Before I go in depth into this we will analyze the 5 points laid out above. Point number 1 is just saying that the person could not sleep at the usual time which is not all that odd because their mind was either engaged, they had eaten something that kept them awake etc. This is really not special in the least.
Point number 2 says that even though the person applied only for school closing texts, they got others as well. Since the site was not given I cannot do research into it but I do not find it surprising at all that this would happen. Most likely the texts had an advertisement at the bottom (much like ChaCha) which is a way for them to make money so the more they send you the more they make which would explain lack huge numbers of texts that were received. Of course that could not be the reason and the person merely signed up incorrectly or did not successfully stop the first set of texts. There are countless ways to explain this that it is not special at all. I feel that I needn’t waste more of anyone’s time debunking 2.
Point number 3 is just saying what happened. Nothing needs to be said here.
Point number 4 says that the person randomly woke up and looked at her phone only to find a text that said the kid was safe! Amazing right? Not per se. Randomly waking up is not mysterious at all seeing as body functions could easily be beckoning or a dream woke her up. (Remember, if one wakes up within a REM cycle or within 5 minutes after one you will not remember your dream) This is not magical at all. As to the kid being found, according to FBI statistics 99% of all the kids that go missing each year are found thus is not surprising at all that the kid was recovered. Of course the child could have been part of the 1% that are not found but that is improbable.
Point 5 basically says the same thing as 4 and thus all my arguments can be applied here.
But let me put it another way, what would one say if the child had not been found? “Oh, well, god didn’t answer it.”? Or, more likely, she would have forgotten about the child. These things only seem extraordinary because they happen. If the kid was not found she would not have given it another thought. This is a form of anthropic principle to be used with prayer. The simplest way I can put it is: If the child were not found there would be nothing to attribute prayer to. Prayer necessitates something to happen thus if nothing does there is no use in thinking about prayer at all.
Point 4: Scientific data.
Is there any scientific data on the effectiveness of prayer? Well yes actually, there is!
Galton, who loved to quantify everything from intelligence to female beauty, collected mortality data on groups of people who were the objects of much prayer—kings, clergy, missionaries—and found that they lived no longer than others. Moreover the proportion of stillbirths suffered by praying and nonpraying expectant parents appeared similar.
There are many cases where prayer has been tested in double-blind studies and has shown to be ineffective in hospital stays/mortality rates etc.. Of course there are some examples where prayed for patients do better but that is nothing compared to the amount of sameness between two groups. But also let’s look at one of the most famous prayer experiments, the Harvard Prayer Experiment (HPE)! The HPE was set up in the following way: There were 3 groups of Cardiac Bypass Patients who were assigned to 3 conditions. Group 1 was told that they may or may not be prayed for when in actuality they were not. Group 2 was told the same thing but they were actually prayed for. Group 3 was told that they would be prayed for and they were. The results are as follows:
“Some patients were told they may or may not receive intercessory prayer: complications occurred in 52 percent of those who received prayer (Group 1) versus 51 percent of those who did not receive prayer (Group 2). Complications occurred in 59 percent of patients who were told they would receive prayer (Group 3) versus 52 percent, who also received prayer, but were uncertain of receiving it (Group 1). Major complications and thirty-day mortality were similar across the three groups. Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups. (13 in group 1, 16 in Group 2, and 14 in Group 3)Not only did prayer not help the patients, those that were told they were being prayed for experienced more complications.” 
Point 5: Conclusion.
Numerous scientific experiments as well as all the unanswered prayers in the world prove that prayer is NOT effective in the least and in some cases actually is counterproductive! So remember, not only is there no god but the myth of prayer is just that, a myth.
1: “Missing Children Myths | SparkAction.” SparkAction | For children. For youth. For change.. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. <http://sparkaction.org/node/223>
2: “Prayer.” DavidMyers.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. <http://www.davidmyers.org/Brix?pageID=53>
3: “FreethoughtPedia.com.”FreeThoughtPedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. <http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Harvard_prayer_experiment>