When faced with circumstances or events that are completely beyond our control, war, disaster, accident, or health challenges, involving either ourselves or others, then a quite common human instinct is to attempt to gain control of the completely uncontrollable by attempting to seek assistance from a supernatural entity – we call that “prayer”.
The concept itself is actually a bit more complex than that, for example it may also be a means of expressing a specific emotion to a deity and need not involve actually asking for anything specific, for example a prayer of thanks for something. Generally however, the most common usage is that it is an attempt to ask a deity to do something specific, and so it is that variation I’m interested in here.
What makes prayer rather interesting is that this is both testable and measurable. When challenged about the lack of any empirical evidence for any god, believers often reply by claiming that god, or at least their specific concept of such an entity, is beyond space and time and that is why it cannot be measured or detected. The fundamental flaw with this claim is that those that assert this are rarely deists suggesting that god simply turned a key to set the universe running on autopilot like a clock and then promptly vanished, but rather that their god will, when asked using the correct incantation, step in and personally intervene in our reality by overriding the laws of nature.
This opens up a rather interesting avenue of research, because if prayer does actually work, then we can devise double-blind tests to measure what actually happens and verify if something supernatural is indeed going on. I’ll dive into the specifics of such tests another day, for the moment I’ll focus on thinking about the concept itself.
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