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Fun With Church Signs

PrayerTonight I passed a church that frequently updates their sign with (sometimes) clever sayings. Today, they have the old saying, “After all is said and done, usually a lot more is said than done.”

There’s nothing innately religiousy about that phrase… except that it immediately struck me as a perfect analogy for prayer.

If you’re relying on prayer, then all that ever happens is the saying… and none of the doing… since prayer is basically mental masturbation under the guise of religious piety. As a popular bumper sticker says (Hooray for bumper sticker psychology!), “The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions.”

If prayer truly worked and religious-minded people actually believed that it worked, it would seem that prayer would solve every problem. It doesn’t, of course, and therein lies the basis for explanatory shenanigans… as follows.

If a prayer is made and the wish comes true, it was God answering the prayer and is a delightful, miraculous experience, be it large or small. If a prayer is made and the wish doesn’t come true, then it wasn’t God’s plan for it to happen or the non-answer is a test of some sort. It never means that God wasn’t listening.

If I pray for a flipped coin to land heads up, what will happen is that my prayer is answered roughly fifty percent of the time. It’s a miracle! The other fifty percent of the time, God chose not to make the coin land that way.

A funny thing, though… if I don’t say any prayers (because perhaps… I don’t know… there’s nobody listening?), then the coin will land heads up (are you ready for this?) roughly fifty percent of the time!

Amazingly enough, anyone that believes in prayer will dismiss that little example by calling it trivial or nonsensical. Of course God isn’t going to intervene in something so silly. That’s a useless request. However, those same people will, no doubt, claim divine intervention for small things like a cool breeze or for help with the tricky loading of a lawnmower onto a truck or for the serendipitous discovery of a ten dollar bill blowing down the sidewalk. It seems there’s a double standard in operation there.

I will concede one possible benefit of prayer. For some people, it no doubt makes them feel calmer and more at peace. However, the same can be said for meditation or a quick nap or deep breathing or even spending time with friends, all things that can be used to accomplish the same effect without the superstitious notion of a all-powerful voyeur.

It’s not that God isn’t listening. It’s that he doesn’t exist.


  1. stephen says:

    that’s my bumper sticker!

  2. Dan says:

    Indeed it is!

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