The Web Log of Jon Henshaw

The Ineffectiveness of Prayer

Written by , published on and related to 🤔 Philosophy


Religion masks our primal need to be safe, comforted, and to live forever, with the promise of the supernatural. However, when you strip away human nature, and the mind’s capacity for imaginative thought and limitless denial, all that is left is the reality that what you’re worshiping only exists inside your mind. Such is the case for prayer.

Prayer, like the belief in a god or gods, is a cultural and mental phenomenon. Part of my self-deprogramming from my Christian upbringing was to see what would happen if I stopped praying. While it wasn’t scientific, because it was so subjective, it did show me that nothing changes significantly in your life when you do or don’t pray. In fact, the only thing I experienced was a feeling of peace and freedom from the tyranny of having to worship and talk to an imaginary friend.

There have been several studies about prayer, most of which have been all over the place. Unsurprisingly, most studies were flawed or unduly influenced in some way. Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute conducted a meta study on prayer, which concluded that there was no statistical difference between people who prayed, and those that didn’t. In some cases, prayer seemed to cause more harm than good.

A 1997 study at the University of New Mexico, involving 40 alcoholics in rehabilitation, found that the men and women who knew they were being prayed for actually fared worse.

The other interesting thing about prayer is how it affects your decisions. I was reminded of the insidious nature of prayer by a recent post, The Deceit of Prayer. Not only does prayer deliver nothing, it also promotes inaction.

it traps a person into non action, into a pattern of passive waiting, of believing they are not able to control their lives, of waiting on someone/thing else to solve problems. To the extent that some people are unable to make any decisions without first waiting on god. How many people are trapped in destructive marriages waiting for god to heal their partners, to change their personalities, to make things better. How many wait for years, praying for god to get them the right job, and not taking control and going and doing whatever it takes? How many times have we read about children dying for lack of medical intervention – while parents pray and believe god instead?

While prayer may seem like the healthiest and best thing for a person to do, it may actually be a deterrent towards living a full life – similar to the mental and emotional shackles that religion imposes on its followers.