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Featured Does Prayer "Work"?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Heyo, Aug 27, 2020.

  1. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    (In an attempt to draw an off-topic discussion away from my OP ...)

    This may surprise some but I, an Agnostic, think that prayers do "work". I don't have direct evidence but there are hints in related fields that influenced my evaluation.
    There are some restrictions though:
    1. Prayers don't have an influence on the world outside yourself. You can't pray for others, only for yourself.
    2. It has to be "done right".

    There are multiple studies that show that meditation and similar practises have an effect on the human body, especially the immune system.
    Prayer, if "done right", induces a similar mental state as meditation.
    It is therefore reasonable to assume that prayers may work similar to meditation on the human system.

    Thoughts, refutations, links to studies?
     
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  2. Conscious thoughts

    Conscious thoughts Veteran Member

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    In my understanding, prayer and meditation are two different techniques thought in different spiritual teachings, but they aim toward the same thing. Calming of the mind, so that we can realize the truth from within our self. And as you say, yes both has an effect on our body.

    In prayer, asking for guidance is the way to go, not asking God to remove our illnesses or ask God to fix our problems :) Asking a God for guidance how we can do it our selvs, how can I fix my problem.

    The answer is not given directly in words, but in thoughts, or in answer from a person you meet who of some reason give you the hint you need to realize your own faults, so you can correct your self :)
     
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  3. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Veteran Member

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    Your own wording shows that it's not the "praying" that is helpfull, but rather the mental state it induces when "done right". Mental states, that by your own words, can be accomplished with the actual "praying" part.

    So in essence, the actual "praying" part is just unnecessary baggage to accomplish these results.

    So it's not about the praying, it's not about the gods, it's not about the words being spoken, it's not about the religion...
    It's about the underlying state of mind being achieved when "praying" in a specific way. So you can just leave the entire praying aspect behind and just do the state-of-mind thing instead.

    So praying does not work. Proper meditation works (for certain things).
    Including meditation in the praying, doesn't make the praying work. It's still just the meditation thingy that is the active ingredient here. The praying part is, at best, a means to an end or a "vessel" of some kind. And at worst, a distraction or even a blocking factor to achieve results.

    I do it too. My "vessel" just isn't religious prayer. My "vessel" is playing the drums. I can get completely lost in it and it has therapeutic effect. Which I imagine is very similar to mediation and alike. It calms me, it removes my stress and clears my mind from any and all worries. That in turn has a positive effect on my mental well-being.

    But I don't praise the drums for it. I realise that the drums are merely the medium that I use. It's not the drums or music that takes my stress away. It's the state of mind I achieve by playing the drums that does. And I fully realise that drums are not required to achieve that state of mind. It just happens to be the way I do it. For other people, even actual drummers, this might not work for them. So "playing the drums", doesn't work in the same way that religious prayer doesn't work.

    What actually works, is something else, which underpins it all. Which can be achieved without drums or religious prayer.




    Also note that the kinds of "positive effects" being talked about here, are not at all the kinds of effects that were being discussed in the other thread that went off topic.

    There, @KenS was referring to "miraculous healings" of cancer and alike. Not mental health or stress relief and/or effects thereof or whatever.
     
    #3 TagliatelliMonster, Aug 27, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2020
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  4. chinu

    chinu Passenger

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    Every prayer is answered, that's true.
    But, sometimes I am unable to hear that answer because of my limited hearing power.

    Every prayer works, that's NOT always true.
    Because its NOT only me living in this world. All want God's favor.

    People who are unable differentiate between:

    "Getting prayers worked"
    vs​
    "Getting prayers answered"
    Sometimes turns into non-believers when something wrong happen with them :)
     
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  5. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    I can go to the next town by train or bus or drive my own bike or car. So it isn't my car "working" that gets me there, it's just one mode of travel.

    I agree, that it's not the prayer that does the work, just like it's not my car that gets me to the next town.
    See the "prayer works" as an answer to the thesis that "prayer is useless".
    Just like a thesis that "cars are useless".

    If someone already has the tool "prayer" in their shop, just teach then to use it properly. You don't have to sell them a drum kit.
     
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  6. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Advaita Vedantin
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    This is nothing more than semantics. It is the act of praying that helps. Your aversion to the term doesn't change that.

    Maybe praying is "unnecessary baggage" for you. That doesn't mean it's unnecessary for everyone else.

    I don't need drums. Wouldn't you consider it rather arrogant of me to call them "unnecessary baggage?"

    You need what you need to affect change. Others need what they need. No need to dismiss the needs of others as "unnecessary baggage."

    If others pray to a deity, what productive comes out of your dismissal of it? It certain doesn't help others that pray to a deity. As I see it, it just makes you feel better about yourself.

    And before you make any assumptions, I don't pray. But I fully understand why those that do do.
     
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  7. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    I think you're pretty much on the money here. While I don't think it's possible to verify the existence of a supernatural agency, it's not actually necessary for prayer to have some effect.

    One thing I would disagree with you on though is your comment that "You can't pray for others, only for yourself." The reason I disagree is that the meditative benefit is only one factor in the effectiveness of prayer. If we discount the possibility of the supernatural, you still have the placebo effect to consider. While praying for somebody who's unaware of your prayers wouldn't do anything, if that person knows you're praying for them it can still be effective.

    Recently, there have been a few studies on the effect of magical thinking on athletes' performance. This includes talismans, prayers and simply wishing somebody good luck. These things tend to positively impact athletes' confidence and therefore improve their success rates:

    How lucky charms really work
     
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  8. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    As an atheist...

    6c75685432952d7f3a5d5ec31aa1ad67.jpg


    Of course, some people find comfort in prayer, if comfort helps them thats good for them

    I prefer to do something than think about it.
     
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  9. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    It may have a positive effect on athletes performance but it seems to have no or even a negative effect on healing. People who are prayed for seem to feel under stress to get better soon - with that stress negatively impacting the healing.
    "In The God Delusion, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote, "It seems more probable that those patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered additional stress in consequence: performance anxiety', as the experimenters put it. Dr Charles Bethea, one of the researchers, said, "It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?'"[43]" - Wikipedia
     
  10. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    I agree - and stated in the OP - that prayer can't help others. It only helps the one praying.
     
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  11. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Veteran Member

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    I think you may have misunderstood me. Or I wasn't clear enough.
    I'm not "against" prayer as a means to achieve such results, just like I am not "against" drums as a means to achieve the same results.

    What I am "against", is attributing the results to the praying (or the drums). It gives it a legitimacy that isn't warranted. And with prayer specifically, it also pulls in an entire load of religious baggage. Subsequently, the image is suddenly such that it gives credibility to the religion, because "praying works".

    That's where things get messy, as a direct result of giving credit to the wrong thing.

    In light of your transport analogy... this then escalates (for the religious) into "only cars can get you to places".


    So in summary, I'ld say that I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. Especially concerning this topic, since "prayer" comes with the additional baggage of the underlying religion and its dogma's and doctrines. The theist attributes "praying works" to their god that answers the prayer - not the underlying psychological mechanism which by itself has nothing to do with the "praying" part of the activity.
     
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  12. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Ahh, I'd assumed this thread was looking at the effects of prayer in general.

    As far as its effects on healing are concerned, my understanding is that the results found in studies have been mixed. Some people appear to have benefited from intercessory prayer while for others it may have harmed them. My feeling is that more research is needed on this topic.
     
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  13. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Veteran Member

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    Perhaps, but in this case it is an important distinction imo.

    As I explained in my previous post, to the religious "praying works" means that it gives credibility to their religion as for them this translates into "my god heared the prayer and took action to answer it".

    While the "semantic" details, kind of show that their god has nothing to do with it and that it would still have the exact same effect if their religion is 100% wrong in every single way.



    No, not to me. Rather, to the actual process that is induced by the act of praying (or in my case, by the act of playing drums). Praying works, playing the drums works, jogging works,... and the thing that makes it work is a common denominator underpinning all those activities, which by itself is independend to do with those activities.


    I just called it that myself in the previous paragraphe....
    It IS unnecessary baggage in light of the things that it induces in ME while I play.
    It is unnecessary in terms of the underlying processes.

    It is not unnecessary to ME, since it's the vessel I use to accomplish it - just like other people use prayer to accomplish the same.

    The difference is that I realise this, while the religious tend to rather see it as a confirmation that their religion is correct - while it has nothing to do with it. The religion could be completely false and it wouldn't change the effect of the praying.

    That is my point.


    Again, my point is about how this makes the religious feel like it adds credibility to the religion in context of which they are praying.

    They think the praying works because their god answers it. This is not the case.

    I don't have any issues with people who pray.
     
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  14. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Veteran Member

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    It's funny because I read about clinical studies once that studied the effect of prayer with patients suffering from heart conditions if I remember correctly (been a while).
    There was first the control group, then a group that was being prayed for without them knowing and another group that was being prayed for who knew that there were people praying for them.

    The group that knew actually did worse...
     
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  15. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Yep, I mentioned the mixed results in my other post and that my comment was on the efficacy of prayer in more general terms.

    There have been other studies that suggest a positive effect or no effect at all. I feel we need more information :)
     
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  16. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    It is.
    I don't want to stifle further discussion. My example is just a starting point and a position I think I can defend. If you want to expand, go ahead.
     
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  17. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    I'd expect prayer to work in some situations too.
    The placebo effect is real, so why not, eh.
    Ref...
    All The World's A Stage—Including The Doctor's Office : Hidden Brain
     
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  18. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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  19. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Advaita Vedantin
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    What is "it?" I don't see a pronoun antecedent. How do you know "it" would have had the same effect for them? Maybe it would for you, but you are not them, so you have no way of knowing if "it" would have the same effect.

    How do you know this? What do you know of their god? What if their god is a drum, and they pray to their drum by hitting it for a therapeutic change and they think the drum helps them achieve the state of mind to help affect the therapeutic change?

    Why is important for you to show someone that their god had nothing to do with it?
     
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  20. Conscious thoughts

    Conscious thoughts Veteran Member

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    Because He can't stand it when someone believe different then him........ Oh crap did I say that out aloud:confused::eek: sorryyyy
     
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