Why Do People Pray?

In the area where I live (So. Oregon), there are multiple fires burning. Just in the last couple of days, another one  flared up and has pretty much wiped out a town in No. California (Weed). A couple of other fires are fairly close but it appears, thankfully, they won’t threaten the community where I live.

On Facebook, numerous individuals have been posting photos of the fires. Invariably, the ensuing comments include those who say they are “praying.”

It puzzles me that people believe praying after the fact is going to change anything. If “God” is in control, as many people believe, why did the fire, the earthquake, the tsunami, the hurricane, the tornado, or any other “act of nature” occur in the first place?

I know this is not a new question but when tragic events occur,  I find myself once again wondering why people believe an invisible supernatural entity is “looking down” on them and is going to change everything simply because they “pray.”

I used to pray. I won’t deny it. But if I’m honest, very rarely did I feel my prayers were answered. Of course, in those days, I had innumerable excuses for why the Big Guy in the Sky hadn’t responded as I had hoped.

Truth be known, it’s probably all psychological (Victoria?) in that the act of praying is the stimulus that brings comfort to the individual. And I suppose we all need a little help in that area once in awhile.


13 thoughts on “Why Do People Pray?

  1. Beats the hell out of me! If the Bible’s god is truly omniscient, he shouldn’t need telepathic communication to know what we want or need. further, he allowed the fire to happen in the first place, so he should know that it needs to be extinguished – unless of course he’s punishing someone by frying them, while destroying thousands of acres and the homes of countless animals.


  2. Hope and Cope.

    Yes, I agree that for many, prayer brings comfort. From some of the studies I’ve read, doctors and researchers say it’s about hope. Hope is a stress relief. A placebo effect. Prayer serves to reinforce their belief system, therefore their faith which may increase their hope. It attaches meaning to the events. “God’s will”. “Part of God’s plan”, and so on. That’s the cope part. People bond when they hold common opinions and beliefs. So there is a feeling of community when they say “I’m praying for you”, or “pray for me”.

    I wonder why installing sprinkler systems on roofs is not a part of the building code for high risk areas in the West? I’m sure the severe drought has increased the risk significantly.


    • Victoria, you pretty much said what I expected. IOW, for some people, it’s not so much whether “God” is hearing and/or answering prayers as it is the placebo effect that it has — and the sense of community it instills. I just find it sad that so many actually believe some far-off unknown and unseen entity is “listening” and will actually make things better. If people would only realize that helping each other through the tough times is a far better solution.

      Re: roof sprinkler systems — I’ve never done any research, but my guess is the cost is prohibitive, but I don’t know for sure. Also, I would suggest that many people trust (God?) that it will never happen to them.


      • “If people would only realize that helping each other through the tough times is a far better solution.”

        Exactly. What it all boils down to when you look at the research is community. People live longer when they have a connection with others, have social networks, etc.. When they are in the hospital and praying, or sick at home and praying, of are aware that others are praying for me, they are also (most likely) being tended to by caring people. Studies also show that this kind of community, nurturing and care giving releases oxytocin, and that promotes healing, endorphins, and a sense of well being.

        But who generally gets the credit among believers? I simply can’t see humanity evolving in the way it should if everything good that humans do is credited to some invisible sky daddy.


  3. About the roof sprinklers, they are not expensive. You can purchase a self-install for around $200. http://roofsaversprinklers.com/ But I wouldn’t think that a professionally installed system would be any more expensive than a sprinkler system in a yard.

    I’m just curious because, for example, when you live along the coast prone to hurricanes, building code requirements are different than those who don’t. Same with living in earthquake prone areas. It just seems logical to me that a sprinkler system on the roof (since most fires start from embers landing on the roof) would be a requirement if you live in fire prone areas. Research shows that In the face of an advancing wildfire, a structure with a exterior rooftop sprinkler system has a survival probability of above 90%.

    I was thinking about you today. How is the situation there right now?


    • Hi “crackingwalls,”

      Thanks for stopping by. I visited your link and especially liked this phrase towards the end of your posting:

      And it has the potential to cultivate a habit of gratitude. It could also just be an avenue to self-importance, but for most people, it seems more likely to encourage them to look for ways to be grateful for what they have, which seems an eminently healthy approach to life.

      I have found in my own personal life that the so-called “attitude of gratitude” has worked far better than any prayers I might have sent heavenward. I spend time both morning and evening just being thankful for what I have (home, health, family) and especially, for life. As I wrote in this post, I follow Marcus’ advice.


  4. Victoria, I don’t know of anyone in this area that has installed roof sprinkler systems. I’ve never seen any or heard anyone talking about them. That isn’t to say there aren’t people who have them. I’m quite sure they’re not part of the building code. In any case, you’re right. Considering how fire-prone not only this area is, but also So. California, one would think people would add them for their own protection. But, like I said, people in general tend to think it will never happen to them or they’re willing to take their chances.

    So far, we’re still out of the line of fire (literally), but the town of Weed has really been hit hard. It’s so sad when you think about it. Many of the firefighters even lost their homes. And the scariest part is that the weather folks are saying it will probably be at least mid to late October before we get any significant rainfall.

    I suppose if I were still a believer, I would be praying …


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