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Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 4: The Power of Prayer

06/16/10

Permalink 10:47:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 1128 words   English (US)
Categories: Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian

Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 4: The Power of Prayer

I was raised Catholic, and I believed most of what I was taught when I was young on through my childhood and into my young adult years. Over time, there slowly emerged certain points of contention that didn't seem to add up in my mind and which eventually led me to give up on Catholic Christianity in favor of a form of Christian Deism. One such point of contention was prayer.

I was taught when I was young that through prayer, we can communicate with God and with saints and angels and plead for God to intercede in our lives or in the lives of others for the purpose of alleviating suffering or to provide us with some specific thing we either need or want. There were regular times where we prayed as a family and in church we prayed as a group quite often. In the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, praying usually involved reciting some prayer from memory or from a text. It was less common for us to pray in an ad-lib kind of way where we just say whatever comes to mind at the time. I was also told that praying in the mind is just as important as praying out lout and that we should all pray in our own mind every day.

There were regular prayers that we said at home and in church. One of the most common was the “Our Father”, prayed to God, another common one was “Hail Mary”, prayed to the mother of Jesus. There were several others prayed to God the father or to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit or to perhaps all three of these. It was common when someone was in need or sick or suffering or just had something bad happen to them for us to pray for them pleading for God to help this person. I guess I thought that if we prayed with enough sincerity and truly believed that God could help that God would possibly grant a miracle and this person would be healed or cured or given better circumstances. It was also common for this type of prayer to be extended to those who we didn't know, such as the poor people in third world countries who don't have enough food or if some disaster happened that killed a lot of people and made many more suffer we would pray that their lives would improve. I believed at the time that enough prayer could make right the chronic injustice in the world and lead towards a world where prosperity is universal for everyone who realizes the truth in traditional forms of Christianity.

It was actually uncommon in my family for us to pray for material things, but we did pray for good health and for my dad to get work so he could provide for us. When I was quite young we were actually poor, my dad was going to college and working in a butcher shop part time. When I was in elementary school my dad's business started being really successful and by the time I was in high school we were upper middle class. It seemed to make sense at the time that this was partially the result of all our prayers.

There was also one prayer directed towards Saint Michael, who I was told was a high ranking angel (archangel) who fights off evil spirits. I was told that there were invisible evil spirits hovering around and that praying to Saint Michael would summon him to fight off the evil spirits. I was made to understand that these evil spirits were working for the devil and that they were trying to influence our actions and lead us to evil. It was common for prayers to be printed on prayer cards with a painting of some artist's rendition of either Jesus or the saint or angel that the prayer is directed towards. The one for the prayer to Saint Michael showed a winged guy with battle armor and a sword fighting a scary looking dragon. I was told that this was actually happening when I said the prayer and I believe this when I was young. I'll say when I was around 13 I began to see this as symbolic instead of taking this literally and by the time I was 16 I largely forgot about the idea of praying to an angel to protect me from evil.

Probably the first thing that didn't make sense to me about this whole prayer thing is that it often didn't work. You could pray and pray and pray, and it didn't seem to have any significant effect most of the time. There were very sick people who prayed every day of their lives and had many people praying for them every day and they continued to suffer constantly until they finally died. The sincerity and the passion of the prayers were never in doubt. Also we often prayed for the poor people in Africa and South America and other places but over the years nothing really changed there. Bad things continued to happen to good people and good things often seemed to happen to bad people, like when rich and powerful people would get even richer and have more money to have power over the powerless.

Over time I came to see the power of knowledge and the power of careful and sound reasoning in persuading people to change their ways. I came to see the power in reasoning to provide foresight to prevent bad things from happening and to help alleviate suffering after bad things had happened. I relied less on prayer, and far more on learning how the world worked in order to find ways of working towards a more just world and to strive for ways to alleviate suffering and to prevent as much as possible the unfortunate events that cause us so much pain. I came to realize that prayer was really nothing more than a way of focusing one's own energy towards what they feel is important so that they can be motivated to do work in the real world for this cause, and also so that they can motivate others to work towards this cause as well.

I now understand that the prayer that I engaged in during my younger years was not actually a communication to any supernatural spirits, but it is clear that this prayer did help me to focus my energy towards causes that are important and in many cases causes that remain dear to my heart to this day.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is faith virtuous, or is it harmful? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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