A couple of weeks ago I’m sitting at my computer perusing over facebook, checking out the standard updates from my friends about their kids and their favourite tv shows, when a meme catches my attention. You may have seen it; it showed a small, young girl in a hospital bed who was about to undergo a very serious and potentially life saving surgical procedure. I was intrigued as I made the incorrect assumption that it had been shared by Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or even Ricky Gervais, and it was going to teach me about an amazing medical procedure that science had spearheaded which was going to save this girls life. How I do love science!
However, I was more than a little surprised to discover that it was a meme, shared by a friend, asking people to comment “pray” to send a prayer to God so he’ll save this girls life. You also had the option to “ignore” if you didn’t want to send God a personal message for this girl. How I do love emotional manipulation! But, I chose my own third option and made a comment about how it’ll be the doctors that save the girls life, no God. Naturally this did not go over well but that was to be expected.
I took time afterwards to ponder prayer some more. Like most religious things in life, I honestly don’t care if people want to pray, if it brings them some peace or solace then what difference does it make to me? I am comforted by the knowledge that praying does nothing, so if believing that prayer works comforts them, then so be it. But, what if I’m wrong? What if prayer does work?
A couple more hours of thinking and reading and I came to a realization: prayer does work, it really does. We’ve been looking at it incorrectly this whole time though. We’ve not been taking into consideration the fact that God is inundated with prayers every minute of every day. He’s God, so obviously he can handle that. And, he’s God so he wants to please, so he always gives people what they want. But, what about when two people pray for opposing things? Ruh roh.
A couple of things before we continue; I think we can all agree that God does not control the weather, not for any reason whatsoever, ever. I have lived my life on the East Coast so I know this to be the most annoying and bothersome fact ever. Next, we are all equal in God’s eye. Also, God does kill or harm anyone for any reason. Prayers for death, murder, injury, etc., are automatically sent to his spam folder. Beyond that, God gives all prayers the thumbs up. And lastly, we have free will (sorry Sam Harris) so God allows us to pray for anything we chose and fully be ourselves even if ourselves are hateful, ignorant bastards.
Now, try to fathom the number of prayers being sent to God right now. I always felt that the movie Bruce Almighty got it right with their visual of God’s inbox filling up at lightning speed. Still, God is God, so he processes each one and immediately gives them each the go ahead. Easy-peasy- lemon-squeezy, right? For God, sure; but, for the person praying? Not so much.
With the number of prayers coming in there is simply no way that God has time to give them any weight or to consider the pros and cons of each. Plus, remember, he gave us free will and he has no urge to take it from us (although I wonder sometimes if he shouldn’t reconsider that stance).
So, God haphazardly green lights the prayers as they come in because like any good father he wants his little ones to be happy. He didn’t create us to control and deny us, that would be awfully boring after all, plus, he’s a man of love. And this is where we run into some issues for those praying. Each praying person seems to think that their prayer is the most important, as if God will care more about their prayer than their neighbour’s prayer. Or, that God will weight the content of their prayer against the content of the prayer’s of others. Both of these beliefs are the main issues that have kept us from understanding how prayer really works.
How does prayer work, you ask? Well, let me use a sports example to make my theory clear.
A few months ago the Toronto Maple Leafs looked like a lock for this years playoffs. That’d be two years in a row! However, last night the final nail in the Maple Leafs’ playoff coffin was hammered into place by the Tampa Bay Lightning. How did this happen? Let me show you.
Leaf fans of various religious denominations got their prayers in to God. I’m sure the first one began with a young boy from Toronto before the season even began. He asked God to let Toronto get back to the playoffs again so he can cheer with his father and grandfather again and maybe get retribution for last years heart breaking collapse against the might, mighty Boston Bruins. God says, “Sure!”
But then a Habs fan, one who greatly enjoys the pleasures of schadenfreude, asks God to keep the Leafs from the playoffs this year because it’s too much fun to watch Leaf fans make that disappointed Leaf fan face we see on TSN so often. God says, “Sure!”
Our score after two prayers:
Leafs make the playoffs: 1
Leafs don’t make the playoffs: 1
God doesn’t even know this. He doesn’t care whatsoever. He’s just answering yes to his loyal followers and making them happy.
A couple months into the season the Leafs are flying high, scoring goals at a breakneck pace and despite their obvious defensive faults they’re riding high in the Eastern Conference standings and are seemingly playoff bound. Why?
Because the score (two months in) is now:
Leafs make the playoffs: 1,356,386
Leafs don’t make the playoffs: 923,765
So, with such a comfortable lead the Leaf fans sit back and get lazy. How could a team with such goal scorers falter so badly to somehow miss the playoffs, they ask? This is how: The Habs fans become militant and begin praying more and more for the Leafs to miss the playoffs. So, we suddenly see the Leafs defence becoming more of a liability and suddenly they lose a few more games. But, Leafs fans don’t stress, they’re still scoring plenty and are certainly a lock for a playoff spot, right?. But Leaf fan prayers pick up a bit, just incase.
Our score at the all-star break:
Leafs make the playoffs: 4,121,345
Leafs don’t make the playoffs: 4,123,007
Now though, Habs, Senators, and Bruins fans begin to get a huge kick out of seeing TSN continue to try and spin the Leafs’ in a positive way even as they lose more and more games and their positional standing continues to sink. This, naturally, makes them pray more and more, wanting nothing more than to make TSN cover the collapse of the Leafs as much as they covered the rise of the Leafs in October and November. Leaf fans are praying too, of course, but they simply can’t keep up.
Our score at the trade deadline:
Leafs make the playoffs: 8,266,116
Leafs don’t make the playoffs: 13,323,727
As the season nears an end the playoffs and playoff position become a huge issue for every team. Habs fans begin focusing on themselves, praying for them to catch the Bruins and stay ahead of Tampa. Bruins fans begin focusing their prayers on winning the East and perhaps even rising above St. Louis for the Presidents trophy. Senators fans however, continue to simply pray against Toronto because they want Leaf fans to feel as miserable as they do. So, the Leafs gain some ground because people are leaving their team alone. But, was it enough?
- Our score on April 8, 2014:
- Leafs make the playoffs: 13,956,389
- Leafs don’t make the playoffs: 14,223,901
So, as the “evidence” shows, the Leafs have missed the playoffs because prayer works.
Prove me wrong. You can’t!
I’d give further examples but I think you catch my drift.
What happens when the prayers in either direction are tied, like our 1-1 example from before? This is where chance comes in. Where real sport happens or perhaps real free will. But based on how often players thank God for their wins, awards, and accomplishments I assume this hasn’t happened too often in history. Such a shame. But, as long as the Leafs are out of the playoffs, it doesn’t matter to me! 🙂