I stumbled across a website that encourages Christians to submit their prayer requests. They promise that the faithful will take up their cause and help them petition god for redress. On a whim I Googled “prayer requests” and found thousands of similar sites.
Picking a few of these sites at random I scrolled through the appeals for prayer requests from hundreds of sad and desperate people. Each story, each testimony was more pathetic than the one before it. Here are a few extracts:
- “Lord, I am asking for a husband.”
- “Dear Jesus, please make a miracle happen for my whole finances and income really soon ...”
- “Please pray God will rid me of my doubt, fears, disobedience, and replace them with unwavering faith, courage, and willingness to obey God.”
- “Please pray that my anxiety and panic will leave me. I suffer greatly when I am alone or travelling and I pray that God will make his presence felt… I also pray for a job closer to home to reduce the panic. I pray it is something I love instead of dreading getting up each morning.”
- “I am falling back into a dpression [sic] again after losing my mom and husabnd [sic] i have met anew guy but i am unsure if he loves me Please pary [sic] to God he is the right one because my lomliness [sic] is unbearable.”
There are literally thousands of these cries for help on just this one site. http://www.urgentprayers.com/
As I read these prayer requests I was met by three conflicting emotions. First, the realist in me caused my initial response to be one of scorn; that people could possibly believe their financial, relationship, and emotional problems will be solved by typing in appeals to an imaginary god on the internet and enlisting the prayers of fellow believers. After all, unless god is senile one prayer request should be sufficient to get its attention and prompt the necessary response. If they have prayed and haven’t gotten relief, why not just accept “No!” for an answer? Why would a quorum, a veritable petition of prayers, be necessary to get this loving and caring and all knowing god to react? Why not conclude the obvious, that there is nothing there listening?
But then the humanist in me replaced that dismissive scorn with genuine sadness and empathy. These are folks who, presumably, were indoctrinated into supernaturalism through no fault of their own. Whether from childhood, or as a result of weak minded susceptibility in later life, they have come to believe that they are but helpless pawns in a chess game of life where the pieces are moved by a great unseen spirit’s hand. That they are merely microscopic cogs in god’s great plan. That their own effort, self-determination, and choices are insufficient to influence their life for the better. That only through divine intervention can their life be salvaged. I sincerely pity these people.
Ultimately, my anti-theism flooded me with anger. Among the prayer sites I perused not one of them encouraged the prayerful to seek professional attention. Not one of them suggested getting psychiatric attention for depression or anxiety which through medications could give them almost certain relief. Not one of them offered secular readings that could give them self help guidance. Not one of them directed them to a marriage counselor, financial consultant, career counselor or grief counselor who could aid them in getting a grasp on their lives and make it a happier existence. .
Instead, by their very existence, these sites promote dependency on supernatural intervention which will never come. They discourage affirmative action and self-determination. They prolong the pain of these desperate deluded folks, some of whom will very likely destroy themselves when secular resources could have been their salvation. They are guilty of benign neglect of the very people they call their brothers and sisters in Christ.
And for every believer who comes back to testify to Jesus’ deliverance from their problem, and thank the site for their type written prayers, there are likely thousands who will quietly slip under the waves of hopelessness and drown in despair dragged down by the weight of religious ignorance -- all while the life jacket of secular reality bobs untouched on the surface.