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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Back when I attended Vacation Bible Camp (and won the Color War “homiletics” competition for my team three summers in a row) we used to think of “miracles” as things like “Sea Mysteriously Parts” and “Convicted Criminal Rises From Dead to Seek Revenge” and “Bread and Wine Magically Changes into Flesh and Blood Without Violating Cannibalism Taboos.”

But kids these days have debased the Queen’s English in a number of ways, like using nonsense words ending in “-izzle” and flambosting made-up terms like “hyphy” and abandoning all sorts of useful urination-related euphemisms, including “see a man about a horse,” “drain the lizard,” “squirt the dirt,” and “syphon the python.”

This same linguistic debauchery has happened to “miracle,” I fear. Nowadays it’s a “miracle” when the US Ice Hockey team beats the pants off of some commies. It’s a “miracle” when Mike (of + the Mechanics) gets his girlfriend back.

And, according to Randal Rauser, it’s a “miracle” when his friend dies of cancer:

The day that Paula died is, in the eyes of the world, a day for mourning and defeat. How different is the Christian story. Paula’s death was a miracle.

What an unorthodox sales pitch for Rauser’s god! While most people would regard Paula’s death as the natural (and sad) consequence of our current inability to cure cancer, Rauser shows us how to repurpose even the most horrific events into arguments for his theology. Although he was apparently too busy not mourning and not feeling “defeat” to give an example of an appropriate prayer for this situation, I have taken the liberty of helping him out:

Creator of the Universe, Puller of The Big Plug In the Sky, Great Eucharistic Euthanasiast, Exalted Cosmic Kevorkian, Divine Mercy Killer, You Who Put Us Out of the Misery That (In Your Infinite Wisdom) You Have Bestowed Upon Us, Murderous Imaginary Nut, Blessed be You! Way to kill!

And I’ll try to use this new, expansive definition of “miracle” next time something horrible happens to one of my loved ones. (“Remember that necrotizing fasciitis my cousin got? They amputated his arm! It’s a miracle!”)

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Today is the first Thursday in May, which means it’s the National Day of Prayer! NDP is, of course, the fourth-best holiday of the year, right after Mischief Night, System Administrator Appreciation Day, and National Corndog Day.

I know what you’re thinking: shouldn’t National Day of Prayer be one of my least favorite holidays?

Well, some of you may be too young to remember this, but it used to be the case that Jews prayed three times every day, Muslims prayed five times every day, and Christians prayed pretty much continuously. Then it became only once a day, then only once a week, then only once a month, and then only on major holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur and Eid ul-Fitr and Earth Day.

That we find ourselves in a country where prayer has been relegated to a once-a-year event is a huge victory for reason. How can you not celebrate?

Now, every year the NDP has a theme. Past themes have included “One Nation, Under God,” “Prayer! America’s Strength and Shield,” and “We Got To Pray Just to Make it Today.”

This year’s theme is “Prayer … America’s Hope.”

prayer_americas_hope

Although my research skills are typically impeccable, I have been unable to figure out what the full theme was before they abbreviated it. I suspect it was one of the following:

  • Prayer Is Not America’s Hope
  • Prayer Never Helped Hope Williams Brady, Who Was America’s Hope
  • Prayer Couldn’t Bring Forgiveness to Bill Clinton, Who Was Born in America’s Hope
  • Prayer is America’s Dope, which is incompatible with America’s Hope
  • Prayer is Not a Good Strategy in International Sailing Events, Which Are Typically Won by Well-trained Crews Sailing Ships with Names Like Stars & Stripes, Old Glory, 2 Legit 2 Quit, Captains Courageous, U Can’t Touch This, and America’s Hope

Apparently there is also some sort of controversy on account of President Obama not inviting a bunch of evangelical nuts to pray with him.

The following criticism is pretty typical:

I feel sorry for everyone who does not know the love and hope of Christ during these hard times, especially politicians who trust in their own reputations, political influence, strength, and riches. One day, all will give account to the Living God, one day every knee shall bow, and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, (Philippians 2:10-11). That includes but is not limited to: President Barak [sic] Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Arlen Specter, etc.

However, Obama has also received praise from those who argue that he has more important things to be working on, like nationalizing the auto industry, shutting down small toymakers, and proposing tiny budget cuts that he knows Congress will end up rejecting.

In any case, that won’t stop me from celebrating. Happy Prayer Day!

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Does prayer do anything? Like, if you came down with the swine flu mexican flu H1N1, and you didn’t feel like rooting it out at the causal level, would it be worth your while to force your friends to pray for your cure?

The evidence, naturally, says, “no, of course that doesn’t work, what kind of stone-age moron are you to even consider such a possibility?”

And if you’re a religious person, you’re probably scrambling to reconcile this predictable failure with your belief in an all-powerful, all-caring god. Luckily, Kingdom of Priests has the answer:

does anyone who’s a traditional theist of a Biblical variety seriously think that God would consent to be tested this way? I assume that prayer does work. However, doesn’t the Hebrew Bible warn pretty strenuously against testing God?

[…]

But testing God by praying for sick people, coolly tallying up the results to be reported in a science journal and then in the media? It’s just impossible to believe, given what we know about Him from the Bible, that God would go along with that.

In other words, praying works (because David Klinghoffer “assumes” so), except when you actually check to see if it works (because the Bible says god doesn’t like it when you check to see if he gets results).

“I assume it works, but it definitely won’t work if you test it” is an awesomely low bar to set for proof. (Although I should probably be more sympathetic, on account of it being the same reasoning I used in 7th grade to convince people that my hypercolor t-shirts gave me the power to fly.)

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I bet some of you are worried about the Swine Flu. Maybe you’re carrying around an industrial-sized bottle of Purell so you can spray down Amma before she hugs you. Maybe you’re wearing a surgical mask to keep the germs out of your nose and mouth. Or maybe you’re postponing that pork-tasting tour of Mexico that your kids bought you for your anniversary.

Well, according to Beliefnet, you’ve got it all wrong:

According to [famed epidemiological expert] Martin Luther King, Jr. there is a power in us more powerful than the power of bullets.

Is it The Power of Love? The Power of Greyskull? The Power of Orange Knickers? Not even close.

King knew that that power was the power of the Spirit. Call it a religious power, a spiritual power, the power of consciousness or whatever – it has to do with the power of the mind, joined with the power of a Divine Creator.

So don’t be fooled when it comes to this conversation about the swine flu. This flu wasn’t created on the level of the body, because no disease is. It was created on the level of the mind, and it is there that we will root it out at the causal level.

Forget about Tamiflu, believers. Forget about Relenza, about Symmetrel, about Flumadine, and about vaccination. Forget about washing your hands, about not sharing Kleenex, about trying to sneeze into your sleeve, and about curtailing your spitting. Those work on the level of the body. Those only address the “symptoms” and the “root causes” and the “viruses that transmit the flu from one person to the next”.

But what about the “internal planes”? The “Mexico is dangerous” thoughts with which we’ve been psychically burdening our neighbors to the south? The lack of gratitude we’ve been showing the Cosmos? The intuitive synchronicities we’ve been ignoring? OUR LACK OF ALIGNMENT WITH THE UNIVERSE? THE DISCONNECTS BETWEEN US AND WHAT WE MANIFEST? THE UNDERAPPRECIATED INTERACTIONS BETWEEN QUANTUM PARTICLES AND THE PRINCIPLES OF FENG SHUI? THE SPIRITUAL MESSAGES FROM OUR ANCESTORS THAT WE’VE BEEN NEGLECTING? OUR RANK AND UTTER NEGLECT AND IGNORANCE OF ANCIENT WISDOM? OUR FUTILE OBSESSION WITH THINGS LIKE SCIENCE and MEDICINE and EVIDENCE and COMMON SENSE and NOT BELIEVING IN NEW AGE CRAP?

We’re all going to die.

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