Do People Really Believe in Prayer?

 

Like many people, I have been moved by the prayer and expressions of love and compassion regarding the tragic football incident involving Damar Hamlin:

After a routine tackle during Monday night’s Bills-Bengals game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on his back in cardiac arrest. Medical personnel administered CPR for roughly 10 minutes before an ambulance carted Hamlin off the field and to a Cincinnati hospital. While it drove off, onlookers reported seeing Bills head coach Sean McDermott gather his players on the field for communal prayer. As both teams and staff knelt around Hamlin during those 10 minutes of CPR, individual players certainly were praying too. One Bengals fan at the game scribbled ‘Pray for Buffalo #3 Hamlin’ on a paper sign. Minutes later, fans of both teams showed up at Hamlin’s hospital to pray. Players from around the league, fans, and others across social media offered prayers. We join them all in their prayers for his body and soul.

When tragedy occurs in this country, we often see communities rallying to pray for the victims. Prayer vigils are held, flowers are offered, and candles are lit as a way to demonstrate hope for positive outcomes. I’ve also been glad to hear from many in the media who have praised these displays for Damar Hamlin, who was not only a very good football player but also an honorable individual, who is close to his family and has formed a charitable foundation.

So why am I disconsolate?

*     *     *     *

At first, I was gratified to see so many demonstrations of support across the country, especially when I saw so many people engaged in them. I even went so far as speculating that maybe the response was so massive because there was more going on than I saw on the surface. Could people in this country, a country that has ridiculed and rejected anything resembling religion in general in the last several years, actually be realizing that prayers can make a difference? Was it possible that, aside from being reminded of their own mortality, they were beginning to believe that there was a role for prayer and maybe even religion in this country?

Probably not.

I began to realize that I am so desperate to live in a country that values religion and its tenets, its morality and blessings, that I will look for signs anywhere and everywhere to confirm my desires. That people coming together in community gatherings may be motivated by their own sense of isolation and that any opportunity to congregate provides relief from their loneliness. That many people would ironically claim that their prayers have little if anything to do with G-d or religion, but more to do with a “universal concern” for the healing of Damar Hamlin.

That rather than our experiencing a cultural transformation, we are witnessing a temporary, if satisfying, display of concern and wishes for good outcomes. Besides, the prayers can’t hurt.

*     *     *     *

And yet. And yet.

I can’t give up my hope that maybe, just maybe, a tiny seed has been planted. That people will realize that prayer is not only powerful, but prayer on behalf of others can be transformative. That each person who has joined with others, lit a candle, and brought flowers will realize that these acts of compassion are part of a bigger plan in the cosmos, often beyond understanding but soul-filling, nonetheless.

So I simply can’t give up hope for the spiritual future of our country.

My prayers go out for the recovery of Damar Hamlin, for his family, as well as the healing of our nation.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    I have three reactions to this post:

    1. I, too, hope for a nation made up of individuals who humbly see themselves as creations and not units to be moved and disposed of at the whim of government (secular or theological). John Adams said our national design assumed a moral people, and we must be that if we are to keep our nation.
    2. Prayer has many components in a variety of belief systems: petition, praise, gratitude. Shocks stimulate petition; escaping dire outcomes stimulate gratitude. But praise requires an understanding and a relationship if it expresses true inner feelings and is not merely obsequious. I get that there is an inordinate imbalance between a man and G-d, but I cannot believe in a G-d that treasure obsequy — that seems below the nobility of creation.
    3. National unity over anything is powerful. That people broadly wish something, particularly for the good, is moving. It is fleeting and hard to maintain beyond a baseline regard for anyone seen as belonging to our nation. That ephemeral nature is why it is so powerful while it does last.
    • #1
  2. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Susan Quinn: That rather than our experiencing a cultural transformation, we are witnessing a temporary, if satisfying, display of concern and wishes for good outcomes. Besides, the prayers can’t hurt.

    After 9/11 it looked like people were turning towards God, but it didn’t last. I think it is good to see people acknowledging the importance of prayer. Even if many don’t really believe, it could have an impact on some.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):
    I get that there is an inordinate imbalance between a man and G-d, but I cannot believe in a G-d that treasure obsequy — that seems below the nobility of creation.

    I agree. We see a number of times in the Torah where the Jews argue with G-d, or even make demands. I don’t believe that fawning over G-d would be His expectation–gratitude may be, but not fawning. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Rodin!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    After 9/11 it looked like people were turning towards God, but it didn’t last. I think it is good to see people acknowledging the importance of prayer. Even many don’t really believe, it could have an impact on some.

    9/11 is a great example where it “didn’t take,” Vance. But we can hope.

    • #4
  5. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Athletes openly praise and thank God for their achievements and turn to Him requesting help from others. We all would be unified in support for the young man. That so many chose to pray is encouraging. 

    • #5
  6. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    This country isn’t just one thing. It’s 300 million people, each of whom is unique. Because the left has taken over the media, the Internet, corporate workplaces, and most venues for popular discourse, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “the country” has rejected religion, because that’s the only view their side allows. But that view is no more unanimous than any other opinion you can think of.

    But the people who believe otherwise are still out there, even if they’re silent. They’re silent because it is not in their nature to shove their views in other people’s faces. Most of the time, they’re just living their lives quietly and invisibly (as far as the media elites are concerned). But when something like this happens, you can see them. They’re always there.

    • #6
  7. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Always remember St Augustine- “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you”.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    This country isn’t just one thing. It’s 300 million people, each of whom is unique. Because the left has taken over the media, the Internet, corporate workplaces, and most venues for popular discourse, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “the country” has rejected religion, because that’s the only view their side allows. But that view is no more unanimous than any other opinion you can think of.

    But the people who believe otherwise are still out there, even if they’re silent. They’re silent because it is not in their nature to shove their views in other people’s faces. Most of the time, they’re just living their lives quietly and invisibly (as far as the media elites are concerned). But when something like this happens, you can see them. They’re always there.

    Beautifully said, BXO. Because “non-believers” and skeptics are so darn noisy, we give them way too much credit. I’m fine with people living their lives quietly, religiously; but it’s hard to inspire others to at least consider religion if they don’t know who we are.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Always remember St Augustine- “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you”.

    He may have been a Christian but that fits Judaism beautifully! Thanks, MiMac.

    • #9
  10. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Always remember St Augustine- “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you”.

    He may have been a Christian but that fits Judaism beautifully! Thanks, MiMac.

    I also like his advice “Take car of your body as if you were going to live forever and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.”

    He is like Ecclesiastes-you can read it over & over and always benefit.

    • #10
  11. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Beside what BXO said, I think there is a cultural memory, if you will, of Judeo-Christian belief and habits. Thus one sees people praying for a football player they don’t know when something like Monday night’s events happens. Even if they don’t regularly pray.

    What troubles me to some extent, and I may be wrong here (and I hope I am), is that many of those people praying for Hamlin would never think to pray for their neighbor who just lost his job (for example). Certainly, they may help out said neighbor with some food, job referrals, etc., but praying for him? Doesn’t even occur to them.

    (Of course, I advocate both actions.)

    I freely admit I fall down on this sometimes, even though as an Orthodox Christian I’m charged with praying for them. So I do extend grace to these folks.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn:

    I can’t give up my hope that maybe, just maybe, a tiny seed has been planted. That people will realize that prayer is not only powerful, but prayer on behalf of others can be transformative. That each person who has joined with others, lit a candle, and brought flowers will realizing that these acts of compassion are part of a bigger plan in the cosmos, often beyond understanding but soul-filling, nonetheless.

    So I simply can’t give up hope for the spiritual future of our country.

    My prayers go out for the recovery of Damar Hamlin, for his family, as well as the healing of our nation.

    [He] moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform

    • #12
  13. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase
    @JimChase

    Prayer has always been, and still remains, an incredible mystery.  And I would suspect that most people, regardless of their faith tradition, would agree this is so.  Sacred texts have many things to say on prayer, that we have so readily tried to reduce to formula – but really, who can know the effects beyond what they can inwardly or outwardly perceive?

    In a simple sense, the fact that people across the nation and the world remain capable of love and compassion is a powerful testimony to the potential that good can still overcome evil. 

    Those who know me know that I believe in prayer and what it can do – and what it often doesn’t do.  To borrow from C.S. Lewis:

    I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God.  It changes me.

    I would extend that thought to the idea that while prayer may not always appear to change specific circumstances that are the subject of that prayer, it nevertheless has an effect on both the intercessor and the intercess-ee. 

    Yes, there can be (and is) power in a prayer … but a greater power still in a lifetime cultivating and nurturing that precious spiritual discipline.  “Results may vary”, but there are always results.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    What troubles me to some extent, and I may be wrong here (and I hope I am), is that many of those people praying for Hamlin would never think to pray for their neighbor who just lost his job (for example). Certainly, they may help out said neighbor with some food, job referrals, etc., but praying for him? Doesn’t even occur to them.

    I think you’re probably right, MWD; it doesn’t occur to them if they don’t regularly pray. I have a list I pray for from memory, but I don’t manage it very well! I have a friend who would say that helping out the neighbor is also a type of prayer. What do you think?

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: My prayers go out for the recovery of Damar Hamlin, for his family, as well as the healing of our nation.

    Ditto.  God hears all our prayers, but He doesn’t always grant what we pray for.  If He did, there be several million lottery winners every drawing . . .

    • #15
  16. MDHahn Coolidge
    MDHahn
    @MDHahn

    One thing I was struck by watching the broadcast was that every commentator on ESPN mentioned prayer and the importance of it with respect to Hamlin. 

    This didn’t seem like a mindless reaction either. You could hear the emotion in their voices and the fear and concern for Hamlin. You also saw fans of both teams pray together in the stands.

    When Scott Van Pelt took over the broadcast, he almost immediately mentioned lifting Hamlin up in prayer. That phrasing shows not just familiarity with religion, but belief. It wasn’t a reflexive “thoughts and prayers” formulation. It was instead a plea to lift a fellow man up to God so that he might be healed. You don’t fake that.

    There are a lot of things to worry about in society. But when we see this instinctual reaction to tragedy, there is nothing but cause for hope. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s life. Everything else was stripped away and people knew to turn to God. A country and people that does that is not too far gone.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: My prayers go out for the recovery of Damar Hamlin, for his family, as well as the healing of our nation.

    Ditto. God hears all our prayers, but He doesn’t always grant what we pray for. If He did, there be several million lottery winners every drawing . . .

    So true. I have to keep reminding myself that His goals and timeline may be much different from mine!

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MDHahn (View Comment):

    One thing I was struck by watching the broadcast was that every commentator on ESPN mentioned prayer and the importance of it with respect to Hamlin.

    This didn’t seem like a mindless reaction either. You could hear the emotion in their voices and the fear and concern for Hamlin. You also saw fans of both teams pray together in the stands.

    When Scott Van Pelt took over the broadcast, he almost immediately mentioned lifting Hamlin up in prayer. That phrasing shows not just familiarity with religion, but belief. It wasn’t a reflexive “thoughts and prayers” formulation. It was instead a plea to lift a fellow man up to God so that he might be healed. You don’t fake that.

    There are a lot of things to worry about in society. But when we see this instinctual reaction to tragedy, there is nothing but cause for hope. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s life. Everything else was stripped away and people knew to turn to God. A country and people that does that is not too far gone.

    Very powerful comment, MD. And I agree with you, too.

    • #18
  19. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):
    What troubles me to some extent, and I may be wrong here (and I hope I am), is that many of those people praying for Hamlin would never think to pray for their neighbor who just lost his job (for example). Certainly, they may help out said neighbor with some food, job referrals, etc., but praying for him? Doesn’t even occur to them.

    I think you’re probably right, MWD; it doesn’t occur to them if they don’t regularly pray. I have a list I pray for from memory, but I don’t manage it very well! I have a friend who would say that helping out the neighbor is also a type of prayer. What do you think?

    I don’t know if it’s a type of prayer. I do believe it could be an answer to the prayers of another, whether one knows it or not. Either way, we should try to do both.

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: My prayers go out for the recovery of Damar Hamlin, for his family, as well as the healing of our nation.

    Ditto. God hears all our prayers, but He doesn’t always grant what we pray for. If He did, there be several million lottery winners every drawing . . .

    So true. I have to keep reminding myself that His goals and timeline may be much different from mine!

    The biggest prayer God answered for me was finding us three Russian girls to adopt.  We were told it was nearly impossible to find a sibling group, much less all girls . . .

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):
    The biggest prayer God answered for me was finding us three Russian girls to adopt.  We were told it was nearly impossible to find a sibling group, much less all girls . . .

    Sounds like divine intervention to me! I didn’t realize that you had adopted kids from Russia. Awesome.

    • #21
  22. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    MDHahn (View Comment):

    One thing I was struck by watching the broadcast was that every commentator on ESPN mentioned prayer and the importance of it with respect to Hamlin.

    This didn’t seem like a mindless reaction either. You could hear the emotion in their voices and the fear and concern for Hamlin. You also saw fans of both teams pray together in the stands.

    When Scott Van Pelt took over the broadcast, he almost immediately mentioned lifting Hamlin up in prayer. That phrasing shows not just familiarity with religion, but belief. It wasn’t a reflexive “thoughts and prayers” formulation. It was instead a plea to lift a fellow man up to God so that he might be healed. You don’t fake that.

    There are a lot of things to worry about in society. But when we see this instinctual reaction to tragedy, there is nothing but cause for hope. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s life. Everything else was stripped away and people knew to turn to God. A country and people that does that is not too far gone.

    It was amazing watching the broadcast even though the event was shocking. On the field, the players endure and make violent tackles. As soon as one is injured, they join together in support. One of the announcers was a great big hunk of a tough, retired football player but he couldn’t hold back the emotion and tears. All we can do is wait, hope, and pray.., that is all his family can do – a helpless feeling.

    • #22
  23. MDHahn Coolidge
    MDHahn
    @MDHahn

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MDHahn (View Comment):

    One thing I was struck by watching the broadcast was that every commentator on ESPN mentioned prayer and the importance of it with respect to Hamlin.

    This didn’t seem like a mindless reaction either. You could hear the emotion in their voices and the fear and concern for Hamlin. You also saw fans of both teams pray together in the stands.

    When Scott Van Pelt took over the broadcast, he almost immediately mentioned lifting Hamlin up in prayer. That phrasing shows not just familiarity with religion, but belief. It wasn’t a reflexive “thoughts and prayers” formulation. It was instead a plea to lift a fellow man up to God so that he might be healed. You don’t fake that.

    There are a lot of things to worry about in society. But when we see this instinctual reaction to tragedy, there is nothing but cause for hope. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s life. Everything else was stripped away and people knew to turn to God. A country and people that does that is not too far gone.

    Very powerful comment, MD. And I agree with you, too.

    Thanks, Susan. We all want to see a return to God and so we’re prone to confirmation bias. I think this should be cause for hope.

    • #23
  24. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Rodin (View Comment):

    I have three reactions to this post:

    1. I, too, hope for a nation made up of individuals who humbly see themselves as creations and not units to be moved and disposed of at the whim of government (secular or theological). John Adams said our national design assumed a moral people, and we must be that if we are to keep our nation.
    2. Prayer has many components in a variety of belief systems: petition, praise, gratitude. Shocks stimulate petition; escaping dire outcomes stimulate gratitude. But praise requires an understanding and a relationship if it expresses true inner feelings and is not merely obsequious. I get that there is an inordinate imbalance between a man and G-d, but I cannot believe in a G-d that treasure obsequy — that seems below the nobility of creation.
    3. National unity over anything is powerful. That people broadly wish something, particularly for the good, is moving. It is fleeting and hard to maintain beyond a baseline regard for anyone seen as belonging to our nation. That ephemeral nature is why it is so powerful while it does last.

    I always begin my prayers with praise of God. I do that because we are told in the Scriptures to do that; but I also find that it puts me, mentally, in my proper relation with God. I am humble before Him.

    • #24
  25. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I think many people do believe in prayer in the genuine sense. So the answer to your question is yes.  Because you don’t see it or hear it more often doesn’t mean they don’t.  What happened on the field at the footfall game is a perfect example, to me, of a spontaneous response to a sudden crisis that doesn’t require thinking about or analyzing. So it’s genuine and without pretense.  Human beings are created, spiritual beings before we became flesh so that instinct to turn to God is within us.

    https://www.openbible.info/topics/god_knew_us_before_we_were_born

    The above link is an example of many quotes in the Bible by both the Jewish prophets, Apostles and Christians,   of this created part of us that is reserved for God. I believe that prayer works and changes lives.

    • #25
  26. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Maybe I’m far too jaded at this point, but I don’t see anything good about the current “sending prayers” culture. It’s shallow and vain. Prayer is not something that should be used to gain social credit. Religious people actually pray, they don’t just talk about it. The players on the field did get down and pray.

    Yet, the talking heads on TV sure mentioned prayers a lot, but none of them actually prayed. And I guess that would be too “problematic,” right? We cannot glorify religion in the public square, yet we can make vague references to some amalgamous, secular ritual. You can’t have it both ways.

    I belive that you cannot separate prayer from religion. Prayer has higher meaning. It isn’t the same as simply wishing something good to happen, like winning the lotto.

    Who are all these atheists praying to? Praying hands emojis on Twitter is just the latest virtue signal. A desperate attempt by these robots to appear human. As MWD said above, these people would not pray for their neighbors. But they “pray” for a total stranger. Sorry, but a healthy society doesn’t act like this.

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    James Salerno (View Comment):
    Yet, the talking heads on TV sure mentioned prayers a lot, but none of them actually prayed.

    Not completely true, James. See the video at this link:

    https://www.foxnews.com/sports/espn-analyst-prays-for-bills-damar-hamlin-during-live-broadcast

     

    • #27
  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Maybe I’m far too jaded at this point, but I don’t see anything good about the current “sending prayers” culture. It’s shallow and vain. Prayer is not something that should be used to gain social credit. Religious people actually pray, they don’t just talk about it. The players on the field did get down and pray.

    Yet, the talking heads on TV sure mentioned prayers a lot, but none of them actually prayed. And I guess that would be too “problematic,” right? We cannot glorify religion in the public square, yet we can make vague references to some amalgamous, secular ritual. You can’t have it both ways.

    I belive that you cannot separate prayer from religion. Prayer has higher meaning. It isn’t the same as simply wishing something good to happen, like winning the lotto.

    Who are all these atheists praying to? Praying hands emojis on Twitter is just the latest virtue signal. A desperate attempt by these robots to appear human. As MWD said above, these people would not pray for their neighbors. But they “pray” for a total stranger. Sorry, but a healthy society doesn’t act like this.

    I’d give the secularists some slack. If they make pretend that they are praying, maybe they’ll screw up and actually pray. Maybe Something happens.

    Miracles gotta start somewhere.

    • #28
  29. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):
    Yet, the talking heads on TV sure mentioned prayers a lot, but none of them actually prayed.

    Not completely true, James. See the video at this link:

    https://www.foxnews.com/sports/espn-analyst-prays-for-bills-damar-hamlin-during-live-broadcast

     

    Did he lose his job over it?

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):
    Yet, the talking heads on TV sure mentioned prayers a lot, but none of them actually prayed.

    Not completely true, James. See the video at this link:

    https://www.foxnews.com/sports/espn-analyst-prays-for-bills-damar-hamlin-during-live-broadcast

     

    Did he lose his job over it?

    Nope. As far as I know, his colleagues praised him for doing it.

    • #30
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