Why do human beings pray?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by JBrentonK, Sep 29, 2015.

  1. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    My family come from a village called Painswick which is a shortening of Pagan’s Wick. My ancestors bore allegiance to the Green Man, whom some compare with Pan or Silvanus, and when a church was built they planted ninety-nine yew trees about it to contain its power. The Green Man symbolized Man’s symbiosis with Nature and with the forests which covered the England of the Ancients. When a cathedral was built in nearby Gloucester, the pagan craftsmen placed a stone icon of the Green Man high upon the porch above the main entrance and there it has remained to this day.

    And so, as my “lar”, I keep a stone icon of the Green Man. He is not a god, but an expression of my salutation to those who have gone before me and to whom I owe my being, and of the closeness to Nature -- to that particular local Nature of limestone hills and trees and ancient earthworks -- that I share with them.

    There are three elements of healthy prayer, by which I mean reflective thought in a time of quiet. First, there is developing a sense of thanksgiving within which to live ones life. Simply reflect upon all that you have to be grateful for -- never mind to whom or what the gratitude is due. Second, reflect upon those you love; upon those whose lives are dear to you; and upon your good wishes for their lives. Third, reflect upon your personal hopes and desires, upon your aims in life, organising your thoughts and ideas, and working out the pathway.

    And so my advice is to make a small shrine, perhaps with a suitable icon meaningful to your history and circumstances, perhaps simply of photographs of those nearest to your heart, and make time each day for that quiet reflection which some people call prayer. It may not bring you riches or all that your heart desires, but it will be very good for your psychological health.
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  3. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    I couldn't finish the article beyond the second sentence. That persons last name was Wanke.


    But here's a quote: "...Michaela Wanke suggests that even non-believers can get in on the action."

    I believe it's too difficult to pin down what is going on in a persons mind.


    hmm I'll pray that no gamma-ray bursts hit me so I can increase my cognitive will power.


    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
    sideshowbob likes this.
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  5. river

    Humans pray ; they are manipulated to do so.

    And for most of Humanity, that's all they have. A shame really.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
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  7. Orinda Fernandez Registered Member

    I pray because I want to maintain a healthy relationship with my God.
  8. IfIonlyhadabrain Registered Member

    This question can be answered in a few different ways.

    First, we may ask the question of the origin of prayer, in general.
    Second, we may ask the question of the origin of prayer for each person.
    Third, we may ask what motivates people to pray.
    Fourth, we should probably ask the question of what prayer is to begin with.

    I only point these things out because I've seen the OP answered with these being the underlying question. Some people here have answered that people were taught to do so. Okay, that might be the origin of prayer in a person's life. Some people have answered that they pray to "get something" or to avoid something (death). Okay, that might be individual motivation for prayer. Some people have answered that people have been basically hoodwinked into thinking prayer is effectual... by people who want to control them. Okay, that might be the origin of prayer in general. You see where I'm going with this.

    Let's consider personal motivation first.

    There seems to be an abundant variety of reason people pray. I would venture to say that most people pray for basically selfish reasons: they want something. That may be something material they want to enter into their lives: health, wealth, family, work, etc. It may be that they're seeking comfort or positive energy. People also pray for other reasons too, that go beyond simply "wanting" something. People may pray in thanksgiving, as a show of gratitude, either to God or to nature or to spirits, what have you. People may enter meditative or contemplative prayer, where they attempt to enter into, mentally, some mystery of life, spirituality, or religion, in order to deepen their understanding of it, or to see how it might affect and enrich their lives, or simply to appreciate it. People may also make prayers of a penitential kind, as some way to make amends for offenses committed. This may be made to God, to nature, to spirits, even to the dead. If you consider simple meditation to be prayer (though, I think I might dispute this), then some people pray to empty their minds.

    There are a whole host of personal motivations for prayer, as we can see.

    What about the origin of prayer in peoples' lives?

    There seems to be fewer reasons people pray, from this standpoint. Obviously, one reason is that this is what you were taught to do as a child, and so it is habitual. Some people fall into this naturally, as adults, after they've experienced some life-threatening, or life-altering event. Some people may convert to religion, and learn about prayer, and make a deliberate choice to have a prayer life. Some people who were taught to pray as children also make a deliberate choice to pray (i.e., it is not habitual, but still learned from a young age). Some people may not be religious, but have observed prayer, or read about it, what have you, and have decided to make it a part of their lives for the psychological gains, or "positive energy" that they get from it. Some people pray because it's cultural (this ties into what is learned in childhood, but with a different focus--family versus cultural group). Let's not forget confirmation bias, of course.

    And the origin of prayer in general?

    This of course will be the most contentious area, on these boards in particular. The religious perspective will be, of course, that God has communicated with man, and man has communicated with God from the beginning; that communication with the Divine is the essential nature of prayer, and this has existed from the beginning of man's existence. The atheistic perspective will be, of course, one of three, perhaps interrelated, positions: a) religious institutions have convinced the masses of the efficacy of prayer in order to manipulate and control them, or b) during the early evolution of man, man observed phenomena that he couldn't explain, and so came to believe in personal forces that caused these phenomena, and over time came to believe he could appease these forces by asking for it, and that this practice has persisted to this day in the form of prayer, or c) the belief in imaginary invisible beings is a mental disorder and a delusion that has gripped the minds of a large portion of humanity, and talking to these imaginary beings is part of that delusion. Beyond these reasons, outside of the atheistic perspective, and the monotheistic perspective, you may also have the possibility that the genesis of prayer come sometime during man's history (as opposed to being from the start) when spirits communicated with humanity, or perhaps it was an outgrowth of nature religions communing with nature (as opposed to spirits). Whatever the case, it's likely some combination of these.
  9. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    I know the poster is banned, but this astounds me still. Is it really that inconceivable that someone can not believe in the same things you believe? Really? With the utter variability of the humans experience? The different ways of processing the world around us?

    It rather depends on the system of beliefs and practices involved. Broadly, one could say that it's intended to create some direct communication between a person and a god or gods. That person might be acting as an individual, on behalf of a family, or on behalf of a whole community--up to a national scale, in some cases. The purpose of that communication varies widely, and the accompaniment to that communication also varies.

    My religion, for instance, frames prayer as the verbal component of a broader ritual action: making offerings and sacrifices to the gods. While the spoken word has much power on its own, it is generally seen as being amplified by a just offering. What the proper offering is depends on the context of the ritual.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
  10. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

    People pray because they think something supernatural is listening. The content depends entirely on human imagination, as does the characteristics and abilities of whatever they think might be listening. Note that no one to date has shown that such things are possible.

    All of the carefully conducted studies on remote healing by prayer, especially for those with cancer, show no benefit beyond random chance. Prayer for others appears entirely ineffective - seems likely that nothing is listening.

    Private prayer may be mildly beneficial as a meditative discipline that helps clarify thought, although there are far better and more effective techniques that do not include a fantasy element.
  11. timojin Valued Senior Member

    It seams like you know the ultima truth . "Note that no one to date has shown that such things are possible." If someone would show , would you believe "

    Can you provide some of the carefully study ? I know a lady, The oncologist have given her 3 months to live She is alive over 2 years . ( the church prayed for her )
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    One person doesn't constitute a statistically significant effect.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Furthermore, there is no proven causal link between the prayer and the apparent remission.

    Spontaneous remission in cancer patients is rare but not unheard of. It is thought (per wiki, at least) that it can happen for 1 in 100,000 patients, although this is a broad estimate it seems. That you know someone is thus coincidence, but nothing remarkable. That their church prayed for them is also merely coincidence and unremarkable, as churches will generally pray for anyone that someone asks them to.

    Plus what about all the people they pray for that don't get such remission? Is there a statistically higher incidence of remission among patients that were prayed for?
  14. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

    Ultimate truth? I am not making such a claim. Religions are faith based NOT evidence based. To show something is possible requires evidence, and none has been presented yet, and if that did occur then religion would move into the realm of science. But your last implication, that I would not believe despite evidence, is somewhat curious. For something so momentous the evidence would need to be overwhelmingly convincing and verifiable. Personal testimonies and anecdotes would be quite inadequate.

    They are out there on the web - do a google search. We have debated them on these forums in the past. Try this as a start -


    That showed prayer made things worse because some patients were told and had high expectations.

    And how many others died despite prayers? It's just basic math and probabilities. What cannot be shown is cause and effect.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
  15. timojin Valued Senior Member

    Statistics are garbage for the person who experience the effect .
  16. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Thus the delusion that prayer works. Thank you for explaining it.
  17. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

    Ok then how do we interpret the majority of cases where prayer fails. Was the deity not listening at those times, or were the sick people who died considered not worthy?

    Some years ago there was an airliner crash where most died except for just a few, and one of those said that God had saved her - thank God. My thoughts then was for the others who died - if God was involved why did he let them die? What is the opposite of thanks? In such cases the joy at someone being saved is never contrasted with God killing (letting die) the others - that is always conveniently overlooked.

    God's apparent inconsistency with answering or not answering prayers also fits perfectly with the mathematical rules of probability. Perhaps God has a statistics calculator and uses that to decide who will live or die, and that fits perfectly with observed effects.
  18. timojin Valued Senior Member

    The way I understand . God answers prayers to those who obey his commandments . People who obey his commandments surrender their will into God's hand. We who do not surrender to his will, we are at our own free will . Therefore we should not expect anything from Him . And there are some wise guys among us , those when in trouble seek God , after the trouble are gone , we say to Him you don't exist . the positive event are within statistical probability.
  19. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    So, essentially, you're saying that "god" can't be shown, or even claimed, (at least not if expecting to be taken seriously) to be responsible for these "positive events" since they're statistically indistinguishable from random occurrences.
    Which sort of makes your claim
    somewhat nonsensical.

    If "god" exists then "free will" cannot.

    So why do people pray?
  20. timojin Valued Senior Member

    For you is nonessential, but for a believer is essential

    I have and you have the free will to obey God or not . Your conclusion is wrong (If "god" exists then "free will" cannot. )

    So why do people pray? Simply they believe there is a power greater then us.
  21. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Um, you still haven't explained why it's "necessary".

    This is logically incorrect.

    Because you can show this? Or because you say so?

    Yet you have already stated that praying has no noticeable effect, and that it shouldn't be done.
  22. timojin Valued Senior Member

  23. timojin Valued Senior Member


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