Writer questions the power of prayer


In May, the President called for another National Day of Prayer. Why? Has prayer brought peace to the world, or to the bloodshed capital of all history, the Holy Land?

Has prayer emptied children’s hospitals; has death taken a holiday? Were the prayers of six million answered? Did prayer break the chains of the slaves? Has closed eyes, clasped hands and bended knee given wisdom to Congress?

As one skeptic once noted: “Life depends on certain facts. The flood destroys: church and brothel fall alike before the deluge, lightning strikes both the pious and pervert alike. Can we delay or hasten the tides by prayer? Can counting beads change the direction of the hurricane or silence the volcano? Is there any evidence for a yes to these questions.”

Mark Twain would express his experience with prayer this way: “After my bible teacher had explained the verse ‘ask and ye shall receive,’ I spent three days praying for gingerbread. When none materialized, I appropriated a convenient piece. I concluded that prayer is an inferior mode of acquisition.”

Our representatives were not elected to be our spiritual leaders, but to conduct the people’s business. That is to say, keep us safe, analyze budgets and fill potholes.

Is it improper to challenge the propriety of our government sponsoring and endorsing religious rituals and the efficacy of prayer? I don’t think so. In sanctioning a National Day of Prayer, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.

The principle of state-church separation has served this country well. Let’s keep it that way.

Borden Applegate