One of the aspects of religion, specifically the abrahamic religions, that I find most puzzling is that of Prayer. People close their eyes and fold their hands, or kneel on mats or whatever their particular religious traditions dictate. This practice, combined with thoughts and/or words is meant to be a way of communicate with their chosen deity. But, really, what’s the point?
One of the core beliefs of many religions, let’s assume I’m talking about Christianity here, is that God knows what you’re doing, thinking or aspiring for at any given moment. He knows you, your heart and mind. For all intents and purposes, he’s omniscient – he knows absolutely everything at any given moment in time. He knows if you’ve been good, he know if you’ve been bad so be good for goodness sake…
It can not be denied that a lot of prayer involves a request of some sort. Little Johnny may be praying, somewhat selfishly but innocently in his own way, for his sister to stop being so annoying. His mother might be praying for her sister-in-law to get better in Hospital and so on. But why bother with the act? Why bother folding your hands and thinking “Dear God, kindly heal my sister-in-law in the Hospital…”? Guess what? He’s already well aware of her ill health but has not deigned to do a thing about it yet. Do you honestly believe he is suddenly going to cry out “Oh, crap! I forgot about that woman in the hospital! I better send a miracle her way!”? That is absurd, no question about it.
Therefore, prayer is a pointless exercise if it is done with the purpose of informing your deity about something or making a request. He is already well aware of any illness you wish cured or of any sisters you wish were not so troublesome.
Another central belief of most such religions is that God has some form of master-plan. Everything has a purpose and nothing happens for no reason – you get the general idea. Do the people performing their respective prayer ceremonies think that God will modify said plan because one or one hundred people decide to get down on their knees and ask for something? If God does exist (which is highly unlikely bordering on the impossible, but let’s just go with it) then it is absurd to think that his plan will change just because of prayer.
Is getting people to pray the point of it then? Is God merely setting things up for some form of celestial ego stroking? Much like a corrupt medieval Lord making peasants bow and scrape before him before he grants a kindness, is God a bastard in exactly the same way? Does he demand worship before fulfilling requests? If so, then that is morally dubious at best and you should have no business worshipping such an entity anyhow. He certainly is not an ‘all loving God’ if he fails to dispatch any kindness without someone bowing before him first.
Perhaps prayer is merely a source of comfort for those who otherwise feel powerless in troubled times. You average person on the street certainly does not possess advanced medical knowledge that may be necessary to cure a sick relative, so why that relative is receiving treatment in a hospital then the ones at home feel helpless. In a bid to attempt to help and comfort themselves that everything will be alright, they pray to a magical sky father figure.
Which, again, is rather absurd. You probably can gain more comfort from the release of chemicals in the brain that happens when you eat chocolate or ice cream. As shown above, prayer will not assist the person in the hospital – it certainly won’t help avoid medical complications or make them get better any sooner. So that must mean that prayer is something of a selfish endeavour, it is merely there for personal comfort and consolation. If it is a selfish endeavour then there are only two possible outcomes:
1) God exists but he sees that you are a selfish git and ignores you.
2) God does not exist in which case you are just wasting your time to begin with.
With all that said, it bring me back straight to the original question. What is the point of prayer?