Here’s an interesting exchange between Peter (aka Theomorph) and a commenter about the efficacy of intercessory prayer.
“I still think that so long as anyone believes in the same God who made an appearance in the book of Job, the idea of prayer getting a person what he or she wants is theologically unsound. If I may paraphrase in the vernacular, God basically told Job, ‘Don’t f*** with me; I do what I want and you can’t stop me.'”
For whatever reason, a lot of the people I know have been blogging about religion lately. I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of my third-grade teacher. I don’t remember much about the third grade. I don’t even remember my teacher’s name. But what I do remember is that we had "quiet moments."
My teacher explained this to us a couple of times. I think she gave us a speech at the beginning of both semesters. She said that while she couldn’t give students time that they could use to pray in the morning, nothing in any rule book or law book forbade her from setting aside "quiet moment time" that we did not have to use for prayer, but if we found the time convenient for prayer, that would be okay and she wouldn’t stop us. Not that she was suggesting we pray. Oh, no. Perish the thought. I remember she made a very big deal about explicity stating several times that she was not telling us to pray. But if we did, and if mandating a time when we had to keep quiet and bow our heads down made that convenient, well then that would be all right.
At the time, it made no sense to me or anybody else in the class. I’ll be honest; our teacher told us to do a lot of things that seemed odd. In general we just shrugged and did what we were told. It was less trouble that way all around. So if she said, "Memorize these names and dates! You’ll need to know this!" then we did it. And if she said, "Cut these shapes out of construction paper!" then we did it. And if she said, "Bow your heads down and keep quiet–and pray if you want to, not that I’m suggesting that you should!" then we did that, too.
I remember thinking that it was strange that our teacher would make such a big deal about not telling us to pray, but I didn’t care enough to say or do anything. I wonder if I should have. Maybe, or maybe not. It probably would have gotten her into big trouble. Maybe me, too!
The strangest part about it all is that though I’ve read numerous articles about school prayer and bringing Jesus into the classroom in the newspaper and online news sources over the years, I never once thought about my experience in the third grade. I’m not even sure what made me think of it today. But it’s a little weird to look back and say, "Hey, wait a minute…"
"In churches, mosques, ashrams, ‘healing rooms,’ prayer groups and homes nationwide, millions of Americans offer prayers daily to heal themselves, family, friends, co-workers and even people found through the Internet. Fueled by the upsurge in religious expression in the United States, prayer is the most common complement to mainstream medicine, far outpacing acupuncture, herbs, vitamins and other alternative remedies."
"’Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism — every religion believes in prayer for healing,’ said Paul Parker, a professor of theology and religion at Elmhurst College outside Chicago. ‘Some call it prayer, some call it cleansing the mind. The words or posture may vary. But in times of illness, all religions look towards their source of authority.’"
"The outpouring of spiritual healing has inspired a small group of researchers to attempt to use the tools of modern science to test the power of prayer to cure others. The results have been mixed and highly controversial. Skeptics say the work is a deeply flawed and misguided waste of money that irresponsibly attempts to validate the supernatural with science. And some believers say it is pointless to try to divine the workings of God with experiments devised by mortals."
"Proponents, however, maintain the research is valuable, given the large numbers of people who believe in the power of prayer to influence health. Surveys have found that perhaps half of Americans regularly pray for their own health, and at least a quarter have others pray for them."
"[The apostles] cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them." – Mark 6:13
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." – James 5:14-15
“Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
On the first day of Lent we heard these words (adapted from Genesis 3:19) spoken as a priest dipped his thumb in ash and made the sign of the cross on our foreheads. They served as an outward sign of an inner penance and a symbol of mortality. We wore those ashes for the remainder of the day, or at least until they rubbed off. Wherever we went and whatever we did, we were witnesses to the faith. Those who saw us know that we have been baptized into the death of Jesus Christ and hope to share in His resurrection.
More people attend Ash Wednesday mass than Christmas or even Easter, the holiest day of the year. That alone is impressive, but more impressive is the fact that it’s not even a Holy Day of Obligation. We are obliged to attend Sunday mass and a handful of special occasions, but that rarely guarantees universal or even majority attendance. A recent survey found that only a third of those who identify themselves as Catholic attends mass weekly. Yet a great many of the remaining two-thirds will take time out of their work day to attend a morning or midday Ash Wednesday mass to receive ashes.
Why do people make such special efforts? Would we still attend if we didn’t have something to show for it? Are we publicly displaying our piety, real or pretended, seeking the admiration of men?