Prayer and Resource Management

February 8th, 2008

Prayer is probably a waste of time in the same way that playing the lottery is a waste of money. It’s a resource management question. I’m not saying it’s a waste of time because God doesn’t exist. I really don’t know. I’m saying that even if he does exist, the chance that he’ll answer your prayer seems virtually nil. Your time would be better spent trying to solve your problems yourself.

However, to keep in the spirit of philosophical speculation, I will admit the possibility that devote faith might allow you access to the favors of a supreme being or maybe even access to some power of your own mind (that might be misinterpreted as divine intervention). It may be that your thoughts are able to influence activity on a quantum level (see my post on Free Will) and, through delicate direction of infinitesimal forces, coax seemingly impossible events into reality. Or it may be that you are just the astronomically lucky recipient of a spontaneous and total remission of your cancer or runny nose. I just don’t know, but when people say God answered their prayers I think of this ancient anecdote:

A Roman general once lost a city to one of Rome’s many enemies. It was later retaken by a different Roman general, but the general who had lost it insisted that his previous administration of the city had played a key role in its successful recapture. The newly victorious general replied, “Yes, of course. If you hadn’t lost it, I would never have been able to retake it.”

Yeah, maybe God cured your cancer, but he probably gave it to you too.