On Asking a Very Smart God to Change His Ways

March 31, 2006 | By | 3 Replies More

Why Pray? 

Perhaps my previous post sounded a bit harsh.  Why “mock” those who call upon their Creator for a bit of help in a time of need?

Skeptics have obvious reasons for doubting the power of prayer, but it seems to me that Believers should have even stronger reasons to avoid bothering God with their requests.

God either exists or not.  If He (I’ll use “He” rather than “She”) exists, then He either cares and listens to us, or not.  Either He has to power to intervene in our lives or not.  If one believes that God exists, cares, listens and has the power to intervene, why not ask Him for help? Here’s why.  

Almost everyone who believes in an empathetic God who has the power to intervene in our affairs also believes that God is omnipotent (He’s all powerful) and omniscient (He knows everything, past, present and future). 

Would you walk up to Leonardo and tell him how to draw the Mona Lisa?  Would you interrupt Lennon or McCartney while they were writing songs to tell them that you could do better?  Who knows better about both the overall design and the minute details of the universe, you or God? 

Those who pray never question God’s acts or motives, not even when He destroys entire cities for slight offenses by a few individuals.    They don’t question Him when He purportedly allows his own Son to be brutally murdered.  They don’t question His motives or soundness of mind when he stokes the fires of hell, an eternal horror chamber He designed for people who ask too many questions.  They don’t question Him when He allows 40,000 children die every day from malnutrition and other preventable causes.   But they do question Him when Uncle Fred, who has lived a reasonably long life, has a heart attack.  They question Him and ask him to revise His grand scheme for the universe.

People who pray (at least, those who pray out loud) constantly admit that they are hopeless little nothings compared to God.  God is smarter than a billion Einsteins and the rest of us are hopeless bumblers.  Here is a sample

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our
    own hearts,
we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to
    have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to
    have done.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

It would seem that people who have such strong beliefs in their own inadequacies would have the good sense to leave the Creator alone.  Nonetheless, despite their publicly professed ignorance, they regularly interrupt Him to instruct or beg Him to rearrange the universe for their own personal benefit. 

From God’s perspective, it would be like allowing a two-year old to take the steering wheel of a crowded bus as it speeds down the highway.

Sorry, I don’t get it.

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Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    After posting this, I received the following comment from a fellow I'll call "Om-Tay," who reminds me in a pig-latinish way of one of my friends:

    e:

    let me try to help you out here.

    we don't really KNOW that God is all knowing and all powerful. all we REALLY know is that God (assuming there is One) is either:

    All knowing and not all powerful, or

    all powerful but not all knowing, or

    neither all powerful nor all knowing, or

    all powerful and all knowing.

    thus there is really only a 25% shot at being right when "they" say God is all knowing and all powerful.

    so why does just about everybody say God IS all powerful and all knowing? the answer to this question will help you understand how come just about everybody prays.

    let's just assume for a moment that God is a regular guy, just like you and me. in fact, let's say God IS you, and let's say I am me. now, remember, i don't really KNOW if you are all powerful and all knowing, neither, or just one of the two (see above). the reason I don't know that is because I'm not God, because You are.

    ok? but let's say i have a problem. my stock portfolio is heading south and i REALLY want it to go up. Or I am going on a ski trip and I REALLY want it to snow. Or i noticed a little lesion on my nose and I sure as hell hope it isn't melanoma. You name it but I am talking something that happens to be very IMPORTANT to me.

    and all i know is that you are God. and lots of people are praying to you, even the Pope. so here's the deal:

    1. If you (or should I say "You?") are all powerful but not all knowing, prayer MIGHT help becasuse otherwise you won't have any way of knowing of my problem.

    2. if You are all powerful and all knowing, you already know my deal so prayer won't hurt, and might even help call your particular attnetion to my issue.

    3. if you are all knowing but not powerful at all, i am merely wasting my time praying, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

    4. if you are neither all powerful nor all knowing, same as 3 above.

    so you see that in three of the four possibilities, it is mostly a waste of time to pray. (most people have a lot of time on their hands anyway, or can multi-task and pray while they are shopping on line or whatever.) but what about that fourth possibility? what if you ARE all powerful but not all knowing? then the reason that in my prayers I will tell you i KNOW you are all powerful AND all knowing is because I know there are lots and lots of people out there praying to you, trying to get your attention. I want to flatter you and get in your good graces so you will ANSWER my prayers. And since I know everybody else is telling you nice things, such as that you are all knowing and all powerful, I pretty much HAVE to go along with the crowd in order not to piss you off because remember, you are just a regular guy like you and me and regular guys do get pissed off. and if I piss you off it may not snow and my ski trip will be ruined.

    so, now do you get it?

    [Here's the rest of this exchange, which occured via email]:

    "Om-Tay:

    This is clever and . . . possibly . . . true.

    You even anticipated my response: I was going to draft an honest and straightforward prayer ("Dear God, You who are so powerful and You who have such potential and you give such effort at trying to understand things, please take some Ritalin, try to focus, and hear my prayer . . ."). Or maybe: "Dear God. With your great powers and my brains we could really go far. Are you in?"

    Would you consider posting your email as a comment or allowing me to do so? I really enjoyed this concept of a God whose Reach is greater than his Grasp. Kinda like a Superman God. The opposite of Batman (who was brilliant but couldn't fly or knock down walls).

    You'd better hope that that all-powerful but D+ student God of yours never gets tipped off as to your Machiavellian method of praying.

    e

    "You'd better hope that that all-powerful but D+ student God of yours never gets tipped off as to your Machiavellian method of praying."

    that is EXACTLY why I didnt post it. you can do so, without my name, if you wish.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    There was a guy on one of the religious TV channels recently who was talking about how he was shoeing a horse one day and didn't want the horse to swish its tail in the guy's face. So the guy said he "prayed to God that that horse would not swish its tail in my face…." I thought, "Huh? Did I hear that right? This guy's praying to God about being swished in the face by a horsetail? What's next? Praying to God that your shoelaces don't come untied? I just picture God thinking to Himself, "Things sure were good at the beginning. My first week on the job, I got to create the Universe, create the planet Earth, and create a bunch of interesting new life forms. Now, I spend my day dealing with horses' asses."

    No WONDER God wants to fill heaven with humans: he needs lackeys to delegate His scut work to, so He can go back to thinking about the Big Picture.

  3. It is easy – very easy to grasp what everyone here is saying and easily accept it all and basic human truth. What is missing is the "faith" thing. We avoid snakes and spiders because we have been 'taught' to know some are dangerous. Therefore, all are dangerous since we don't follow up on the idea by learn which are and which are not the one's that are dangerous. It's the same way with faith. Those with "faith" in some higher power are taught that. It isn't like we are born with the thoughts of a supreme being out there somewhere watching over us. It is, however, a natural occurence to accept our nuturers (mother, father, etc.) to be there and to teach us. When we are told who commands them – their faith – then we follow suit. But if we are not given "insight, as they put it" into something beyond 'them,' then we are always finding supremacy in our nuturers. Catch my drift? If we are not Told about a higher power – we will not create the illusion of a 'god' or supreme being. Some one = probably a really crazy guy, hungry for something (greed, sex, all the typical humanistic emotional egotistic things we think about) created this illusion and it worked. It worked then and it surely works now. Faith, on the other hand, is a psychological situation when taken for what it really is. And it is something that can not be shaken or changed. But, as with all illusions of a higher power – faith without works is dead. Without a basic, fundemental showing of that 'supreme being' out in the open – then faith is but an illusion. A magic trick would surfice. A simple trick – like in the movies – like "The Day The Earth Stood Still" would work just fine to "create" faith in most everyone. But do those 'miracles' actually happen? Only if you can figure out how to take any happening and "TRANSLATE" it into "God's Will Be Done."

    Those who belittle a Supreme Being are only fooling themselves. Why belittle that which does not exist? It is like a SS Officer in the Nazi Army…He kills Jews because they are Jews? No – He kills them because his faith was instilled into his mind that he is superior and that Jews were evil. But who kills whom? Nazis killed the Jews. I can't remember any Jews trying to rise up against Germans. Faith in a superior being or superior 'race' of humans is insane.

    Period.

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