Who Benefits From Prayer?

Written by Claire Colvin

CNN ran an interview this morning that caught my attention. Anderson Cooper was interviewing Christopher Hitchens the author of God Is Not Great.  Hitchens is quite famous for his views against the existence of God.  He is also currently battling a very lethal form of cancer.  Cooper wondered if the disease had changed his beliefs at all.  Hitchens said that it had not and Cooper asked him, “How do you feel about the people who are praying for you?”

What an interesting question.  Would Hitchens be bothered by their prayers? Did he welcome them? I found his answer quite interesting.  Here is part of the interview:

COOPER: I know you know that there are people praying for you, there are prayer groups actually. . . What do you think about that, the fact that people are praying for you?

HITCHENS: There are people who are praying for me to suffer and die.  They have lavish websites. . . And then they are people, much more numerous I must say and nicer who are praying either that I get better or that I redeem myself.   That I make peace with the Almighty.

and later…

COOPER: So you don’t pray at all?

HITCHENS: No. All that is meaningless to me.

COOPER: So do you tell people not to do it for you?

HITCHENS: No I say if it makes you feel better you have my blessing.

Tolerance is not the same as caring

If the person receiving prayer does not believe in it, but the person praying does, who benefits from the prayer? Recently a friend and I were having a similar discussion.  A mutual friend of ours, I’ll call him Robert, was having a family crisis.  His father was very ill and the outlook was grim.  Robert is an atheist and my friend wondered, “is it wrong to pray for an atheist?”

Robert does not believe prayer has any value.  He has very strong negative feelings about all religion, so saying “I’ll pray for you” to him is not comforting. It’s more like a slap in the face.  So do I pray for Robert or not?

We live in an age where tolerance is king. There are some who would argue that Robert’s dislike of prayer should override my belief in it, that I should not push my religion on to him by praying for him.  But I don’t agree with that.  I don’t think that a crisis is the time to hit someone over the head with God, but at the same time, I cannot so casually walk away from prayer when a someone I care about is hurting.

I believe that prayer is real, has value and can help so for me to not pray for him in his hour of need would feel like holding back.  It would feel mean spirited as if I was saying, “I believe this could help you but I’m not going to let you have it.”  I did pray for Robert but I did not make a big production about saying “I prayed for you!”  I told him his family was in my thoughts, which is true.  They were also in my prayers.

I do believe that prayer can help.  Everyone benefits from prayer.  If you’d like to be prayed for, we’d be happy to do that.  Just let us know how we can pray for you.

How would you feel about someone praying for you? Would you be encouraged by it or bothered by it? Let us know in the comments.

8 Responses to “Who Benefits From Prayer?”

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Dear Kathryn…
    That is such an awesome question! I mean, who would want to get to know a jealous ruler, or a figment of one’s imagination? Not me!
    But I am a Christian… For me… it isn’t about believing intellectually, but actually getting to know God, having a relationship with Him that is as real as any other, no, more real, cos he comes to live in us when we invite him to do so… it is like having a constant companion and guide, who loves us perfectly and wisely… it is like walking and talking with Jesus. When Jesus came, he said : He who has seen me, has seen the Father… So, according to Jesus, if we want to know who God is, we should read up on Jesus’ life: he is the visible, tangible manifestation of the invisible God. Knowing Jesus, is experience love everyday… that’s what it is like for me to life with God…

  • Kathryn says:

    I’m athiest, too. And truthfully do NOT belive in God, so please do not try to persuade me other wise – it won’t work.

    And I saw this on youtube and it started me thinking… What’s it like to think that someone actually hears your prayers and responds to them??

    Now for me I percive God as a dictator as a jealous ruler and as a non-existant thing that WAY to many people belive in. I am pretty open to hearing others views – as long as they STAY others views. Do NOT force your views down my throat.

    So my main question was what is it like to belive in something like God??


    Hopefully I have offended no one.

  • Vanessa says:

    Prayer has changed my life and I have seen the life of others changed by it..in the very least it has tremendously encouraged them and given them the strength to keep fighting.

  • Prayer Avails Much! says:

    Blue-jay I am happy that you found out about the power in prayer. Prayer changes things. When two or more people pray about the same thing on one accord in gods will for that situation it comes true. blue jay I am praying for you. I pray that you find peace and that you no longer have night terrors and that the peace of god will give you rest. I also pray that you will no longer need medication and that you will be healed from this in the name of Jesus I pray!

  • blue-jay says:

    I used to be one of those who thought prayer was ..well crap! I thought it was only for the weak minded. Seems some of the strongest people pray. So i gave it a try..not sure it helped seeings i only prayed for other people. Things have gotten really bad for me and..so..i prayed..not for everyone else but for me this time. I have nightmares and night terrors and cant sleep much..even though i take some medication..it only allows me a couple of hours sleep and that is broken up. I prayed to keep eveil away from me..to keep the panic attacks from my sleep and all. When nothing else helped prayer did for me. So i would have to be on the side of the prayers here. Thanks for this article ..i hope it really helps someone else

  • good says:

    emotions and ability to feel are the ones which makes us human…..i would be happy when someone prays for me….happy at feeling that someone is there to care for me….as it gives satisfaction for both…the one who prays and the one for whom is prayed

  • Cat says:

    I’d be a little bit bothered by it, because there are aspects of it that feel like coercion, but I think my own faith is strong enough that I’m not in any danger. So mostly I just try to appreciate the gesture.

    Funnily enough, I have a Christian friend who feels the same way about witches praying for her or casting spells on her behalf. And yeah, I can see that.

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