Barack Obama, rather than respecting the Constitution, has gone ahead and issued a proclamation declaring today to be a religious holiday. Religions, apparently, cannot manage to survive on their own without the help of big government. Their supernatural deities seem to be too weak to get along without a little welfare.
But, if today is going to be a National Day of Prayer, then we ought not merely to engage in shallow cheerleading for prayer. Instead, let’s take note of some of the negative of the aspects of prayer, too.
Let’s note that the supposedly national day is only for a minority, even of religious Americans. In a recent survey, 68.4 of religious Americans said that prayer is not part of their form of religious observance.
Let’s take note of the way that, in his proclamation, President Obama has ignored the wisdom of Mark Twain’s story, The War Prayer, instructing Americans to “pray for the safety and success of those who have left home to serve in our Armed Forces”. Safety is one thing, but “success” includes an awful lot of bombs and bullets.
Let’s also take note of the profound, repeated failure of prayer.
- A prayer by John Adams didn’t bring the “virtuous liberty” he prayed for.
- Governor Sonny Perdue’s prayers didn’t bring needed rain for Georgia.
- Prayer didn’t help medical patients in a scientific study – the prayed for actually had worse outcomes than those who were left alone.
And for a recent failure of prayer reminder, we need only look to the first days of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when the big news channels were full of stories about how people were praying to help the missing 11 workers from the exploded oil rig. Prayer didn’t save those 11 workers, did it?
To those who will pray today because of the National Day of Prayer: Go ahead. It’s your right to pray. Do whatever religious rituals you want. However, when you use your religion’s political power to coerce the government into propping up your ritual of prayer, then you ought to expect an especially harsh form of scrutiny. Why don’t you pray on that some?