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My Take: Dear God: How to pray on National Day of Prayer?
President Barack Obama praying at a White House Easter event in April.
May 3rd, 2012
09:51 AM ET

My Take: Dear God: How to pray on National Day of Prayer?

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Dear Deity,

In the Milky Way, on planet Earth, in the United States of America, Thursday is our National Day of Prayer, so I am writing to ask You how to pray.

Seventy eight percent or so of U.S. citizens are Christians, so should we pray today to the Christian God? This seems to be the conviction of the folks at the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which pops up first if you Google “National Day of Prayer.” (By the way, do You Google, God? And if so do you ever Google "God"?)

The NDP Task Force refers to itself as “Judeo-Christian,” but it sure looks evangelical to me. It has been chaired since 1991 by Shirley Dobson, the wife of Focus on the Family founder (and evangelical stalwart) James Dobson. Its site quotes liberally from the New Testament, and one of its goals is to “foster unity within the Christian Church.”

A NDP Task Force press release begins: “Americans to Unite and Pray on Thursday, May 3rd, for the 61st Annual Observance of the National Day of Prayer." But will their sort of prayer really unite our nation?

Twenty four percent of Americans are Catholics, and God knows they don’t pray the way evangelicals do. Nearly 2% are Mormons and another 2% are Jews. And neither of those groups talks to You with the easy familiarity of born-again Christians.

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And what about American Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists?  Muslims agree with their Jewish and Christian neighbors that there is one God. But how to pray as a nation when some believers affirm more than one God and some affirm fewer?

As You obviously know, the 1.6% of Americans who call themselves atheists and the 2.4% who call themselves agnostics refer to today as the National Day of Reason. On their web site, they argue that our National Day of Prayer represents an unwanted and unconstitutional intrusion of religion into the workings of the U.S. government.

In his various proclamations of the National Day of Prayer, including this year's, President Obama has referred to prayer as an important part of U.S. history. He speaks of the Continental Congress and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. being driven to their knees by the force of the tasks set before them.

But when our national icons have prayed on our behalf, they have done so in generic terms. Washington addressed “the Almighty”; Jefferson called on “that Infinite Power.” They did so because they wanted prayer to unite us, not to divide us, and they knew from the start that different Americans call You by different names.

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But addressing “Providence” in vague pieties will not satisfy everyone either. The evangelicals at the NPD Task Force reject efforts to “homogenize” America’s many different ways of praying into one common prayer.

I see their point. Like language, religion is a specific sort of thing. If you are going to speak, you need to choose a language. If you are going to pray, you need to choose a religion (and a god). So if they want to pray to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, more power to them.

But what happens when that particular prayer language is put forth as our collective national language? What happens when we pray, as Rick Warren did at President Obama’s inaugural, “in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus”? Then prayer turns into a wedge, dividing those who call you Christ from those who call You Krishna (or do not call on You at all).

So I return to my original question: How should we pray on this National Day of Prayer?

But while I have Your attention (do I?) I have one more.

This year the NDP Task Force has chosen for its theme “One Nation Under God” and its Bible quote is: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalms 33:12). Is our god You? Since 1954 we have bragged in our Pledge of Allegiance that we are "one nation under God." Are we?

All too often, it seems to me, we use You rather than following You. Democrats ask You to shill for them on tax policy and immigration. Republicans claim to speak in Your name on abortion and gay marriage. Does this annoy You — playing the pawn in our political chess games? Don't You sometimes just want to smite us?

Finally, before I let you go, I must ask You about the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. Perhaps You have more important things on your plate, but while I have Your attention (do I?) I must ask: What portion of their income should millionaires pay to the U.S. government? When President Kennedy came into office the highest income tax rate was 91%. Was that too high? Today it is 35%. Is that too low? (Just curious.)

This prayer is already too long, so I should stop. But if You are still there (are You?) maybe you could just tell me whether You follow the Roman Catholic Church. If so, could you comment on the recent fight the Vatican has been picking with American nuns? Do you think our nuns should be spending more time fighting contraception and less time caring for the poor and the sick?

And do get back to me on that how to pray thing. We’re all supposed to do it on Thursday, together.

Sincerely,

Steve

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christianity • Politics • Prayer • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (4,673 Responses)
  1. Randy

    Anyone that believes in a higher power can pray this prayer as it covers everything that you could possibly pray for. I'm Christian and Jesus told us to pray to God this way. It doesn't show favor to any one brand of faith but a simple prayer to God. Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Sunflower

      Actually the original Aramaic version, in Jesus' own tongue is "similar" yet very different from this churchified version.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Randy

      Thank you sunflower.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Bizarre

      Odd that Paul of Tarsus, who was supposedly visited by the very Jesus himself, never knew that prayer (The Lord's Prayer)...

      May 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Kevin Harris

      I pray today that followers of Christ would face the reality of the growing atheism in this country. It's our fault. For decades we failed to address atheistic philosophy. We wrote atheists off as crazed Madalyn-Murray-O'hair-types not worthy of anything but pity. All this despite the discoveries in cosmology the last 50 years point increasingly in favor of theism.

      Know what you believe, and WHY you believe it! And dialogue with others in love!

      May 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • James Quinn

      Kevin Harris,

      Please do share some of these 50 years of discoveries. I think three would do nicely and why you think they point to theism?

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Kevin Harris

      pagan jim.

      1). Big Bang Cosmology. The increasing evidence that the universe had an absolute beginning.

      2). The fine-tuning of the initial cosmological constants, found in the big bang itself, for the existence of intelligent life.

      3). Models show that even if the multi-verse existed it would have a beginning.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • James Quinn

      Kevin Harris,

      I always assumed tht the big bang meant some sort of beginning... Still that hardly points to a god as a conclusion. All it points to is a start. That seems to be tthe sum total of your three examples taht there was a start to the universe. OK I agree but that hardly points to a god unless you and I agree that in this case you are using god to describe an unknown and again if that is your habit to name everything we've yet to understand as god I'm OK with that. I don't fuss about not knowing everything I figure if I did that would make me a god:P I figure with time I will learn more and science will gain more knowledge but I never fall into the trap of trying to fill the blanks with a god myself. I just except the unknown as that unknown for now.

      Pagan jim

      May 6, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  2. Joe Coldhardreality

    Dear Jesus,

    Can you make Stephen Prothero write better? Can you stop morons like Rev. Sean Harris from encouraging child abuse because of his (and your) homophobia? Can you get your followers like David Barton to stop lying about things like American history and evolution?

    Hello, God? God? Anyone there?

    Hello?

    It's almost like there is no God. Exactly like it.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Nah, you're just not praying hard enough. Pray harder dammit! Harder!

      May 3, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Maude

      If you have never heard from Him, keep trying. He is there, whether you wish it so or not.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • bigmart

      send more money answering all these prayers from you poeple isnt cheap, The angels demand union wages you know

      May 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  3. It comes down to this...

    The questions Steve asks are already answered in the Holy Bible. You either believe it or you don't
    2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is God breathed... "
    John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me. "
    John 3:3 Jesus answered, "You must be born-again."
    How should you pray? The disciples asked the same question and Jesus told them.

    If Steve or anyone really wants answers from God they can begin by taking the first step. With a sincere prayer ask God to help you understand as you read the Gospel of John. Don't think you have the privilege of asking your creator anything until you acknowledge He IS God. After all, do you ask a complete stranger for anything and expect them to give you what you want?

    May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Patrick

      The answers, actually, are in many, many places – many of them holy books. The issue is that they are 1.) often very different and in conflict with each other and 2.) speak of something beyond our knowable world as if it were fact or even theory.

      Jesus, Allah, and all their lot are a hypothesis at best, and an untestable one at that.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Basically, you have to believe before you find a reason to.

      That pretty much sums up religion. Belief because you believe.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. drog

    Steve, I hope you feel better. It has been awhile since you ridiculed some aspect of traditional Christianity? Really? Do you really need to make light of the National Day of Prayer? Christians care for the poor as well. Shouldn't you write an article showing that for the scam and shame that it is.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  5. kwjw3

    Against all popular belief, the founding fathers were not "Christians". They were "Deists". They believed in a higher power without trying to define who or what that higher power was. Google Deism and see for yourself. We can be "One Nation Under God" if you stop trying to define who or what that God is and leave that up to the individual. This is one reason they left Brittan to come to America in the first place. To allow each person to chose who their God is without the Government forcing one upon them. I guess we are back to square one.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • It comes down to this...

      Google this: "the founding. Fathers on Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible"

      Just look at their quotes and then decide.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • kwjw3

      Thank you for proving my point.. The Google search you recommended turned this up..
      http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

      May 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Maude

      I hate to disagree with you on this one, but my family came to this country with the pilgrims. I still have copies of those early journals. The small communities they settled into had a very strong religious presence right down to the elders who ran the towns.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The pilgrims were not the founding fathers of our country. They were the founding fathers of the colonies.

      BIG difference.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Also, simply read what they actually wrote and you will see for yourself that they were not Christian by any definition that the right wing uses today.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • It comes down to this...

      @kwjw – Here, I did it for you and this is just for starters.

      John Adams

      SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; DIPLOMAT; ONE OF TWO SIGNERS OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
      The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.1

      The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation.2

      Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.3

      The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.4

      Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!5

      I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.6

      May 3, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • kwjw3

      Thank you "it comes down to this"... I did read the other pages, did you read mine?.. Let me help YOU out..

      It says...

      One of the many attacks on our country from the Religious Right is the claim that our country is a Christian Nation...not just that the majority of people are Christians, but that the country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. Those people who spread this lie are known as Christian Revisionists.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Joe Pesci is Better Than God

      John Adams was a blue blood who wanted an aristocracy and a king. He did not want the average person to have a vote. He shows that there was a lot of diversity in the Founding Fathers, but much of what he wanted woould sound pretty abhorent today.

      Post a few quotes on authentic quotes on religion by the writer of the Declaration (Jefferson) or the writer of the Constitution (Madison). They are very different than what you provided.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Now let me see similar for: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine.
      Of course there were some Christians, but look at the people that framed our Const.itution (not just signed it).
      Also, even the Christians of the time approved of a Consti.tution that did not mention a god.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • kwjw3

      Ok, you got me.. I should have said "MOST" of the founding fathers were Diests, None of the Founding Fathers were atheists, some of them were Christians, but what they all had in common was their belief in a higher power and the rights of the people to choose how they pray to that power.

      Maude, You have every right to be proud of your ancestors,There were many groups that came to the new land, not all of them believed the same things.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • kwjw3

      Another history lesson for "It comes down to this"...

      John Adams was raised a Congregationalist, but ultimately rejected many fundamental doctrines of conventional Christianity, such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, becoming a Unitarian. In his youth, Adams' father urged him to become a minister, but Adams refused, considering the practice of law to be a more noble calling. Although he once referred to himself as a "church going animal," Adams' view of religion overall was rather ambivalent: He recognized the abuses, large and small, that religious belief lends itself to, but he also believed that religion could be a force for good in individual lives and in society at large. His extensive reading (especially in the classics), led him to believe that this view applied not only to Christianity, but to all religions.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • rhismom

      Speaking of John Adams – how about his signature on the Treaty of Tripoli – that states that the US is in no way founded upon Christian principles or religion.....

      May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Emefkay

      " The Government of the United States of America is in no way founded on the Christian religion." –The Treaty of Tripoli, 1797, ratified by 100% of the senate including John Adams under his presidency.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Dana

      More importantly, the founding fathers came to this place because they were fleeing places where beliefs were forced down their throats. Everyone can pray on any day in this country – why do the prayerful feel the need to generate an atmosphere of "my way or GTFO", and create controversy and conflict by bringing religion into what was supposed to function as a secular government?

      May 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  6. Zeke2112

    Pray to Joe Pesci or the Moon instead. You will find that the success rate of your prayers remains roughly the same.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Joe Pesci is better than God

      A. Joe Pesci actually exists

      B. Joe Pesci might actually be able to get something done

      C. Joe Pesci does not cause tsunamis and inquisitions and birth defects and cancer and war and the mass condemnation of most of the human population to eternal torture.

      D. There are far more good Joe Pesci movies than there are God movies. Goodfellas and Mean Streets are much much better than Ben Hur and Quo Vadis.

      E. Joe Pesci is not so egotistical as to demand that you worship him or he will beat the crap out of you for the rest of time. But he would appreciate it if you saw his movies.

      F. Joe Pesci does not have millions of followers who oppress gays and others in his name.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Thank you George Carlin.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • It comes down to this...

      If you are not a true believer in God our Creator you may be absolutely right about your own prayers but the fact is miracles have happened by God through prayers of believers. Just because you don't believe does not mean prayer doesn't work; it simply means your prayers don't work.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Zeke2112

      "the fact is miracles have happened by God through prayers of believers"

      Facts are proven. No miracle has ever been proven, so they can be made up at will. The fact is that you exist today because I sprinkled fairy dust on you last week. See? Nonsense. Show me someone who has had a whole limb or brain regenerate, and we'll talk.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Not one study has shown prayer to have any more efficacy than any other positive thinking activity. And none of them have any objective impact on reality. At best it can improve someones outlook and give them whatever corresponding positive effects that might bring. Nod gods needed there.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • It comes down to this...

      "Facts are proven. No miracle has ever been proven, so they can be made up at will. The fact is that you exist today because I sprinkled fairy dust on you last week. See? Nonsense. Show me someone who has had a whole limb or brain regenerate, and we'll talk."

      Are you serious? First of all I can't show you because I don't even know where you are.
      Second, There have been thousands (perhaps millions) of miracles since time began but some people refuse to believe. That unbelief is recorded in the Bible, also. The Bible even says, there was a certain town where He could not do many miracle because of the people's lack of faith. So you see, it takes faith first and I'm not here to argue that with you; it's your choice. I'm on my way to the church to participate in the NDP. Cheerio!

      May 3, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Zeke2112

      "There have been thousands (perhaps millions) of miracles since time began"

      Then it should be easy to point me to ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where it was shown that something occured outside of human understanding and could only have been divine interaction. Go ahead. One single instance. I'll wait, but I won't be holding my breath.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bob Dole

      Now that is just silly. I agree, praying to god or to the moon will accomplish nothing. However, praying to Joe Pesci at least has the remotest chance of working.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  7. cgt

    Where does the 78% come from? That seems REALLY high. And anyway, this nation was formed by people escaping religious persecution, isn't ironic that people are being persecuted for their religious beliefs now?
    Nuke the national prayer day. It's archaic and silly

    May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • It comes down to this...

      No, you are silly.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Phantom Christianity

      Many people claim to be Christians because it is easier to appear to conform than to stand up and defy it, especially in places like the Deep South or Utah. How Mormons treat ex-Mormons is proof of that.

      Others are v>b>aguely religious, kind of thinking that there is a God who likes them, but not really doing anything religious. On questionaires they will identify themselves as either religious or Christian, but there is nothing in their behavior to support that. This would be the largest category of Phantom Christians, and they tend to see the more extreme behaviors of religious people as repulsive. Based on how they live their lives, they are apatheists, but if asked, they say Christian.

      Then there are the go-alongs, the ritual Christians. They go to church because they think they are supposed to, but it doesn't truly resonate with them. They are the going-through-the-motions Phantom Christians, God gets no thought during the rest of the week, and they too spend most of their lives being apatheists.

      There are a few other sub-groups, but those are the main three. The percentage of believers is less than 50%

      May 3, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  8. the_dude

    Christians are like gays. They keep trying to force their ways onto normal people and make them believe in something that is not true.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Atomico

      @ the_dude

      the_dude is like a Christian: he forces an opinion that not all people accept as true.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Christian

      No one is "MAKING" you do anything. You hear it, believe it or not, and then move on. Ultimately, the decision is yours. If we want to believe in God, then we Christians have the obligation to follow God's will and God's way and we are responsible for getting the WORD out. You are responsible for believing it or NOT. No reason to get so nasty about it or mock those who dare to believe in God and His teachings.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Atomico

      @Christian: Good point.

      the_dude, Christians, and gays all need lovin too...

      May 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • James Quinn

      Christian,

      Is "belief" really that easy. hear someone say something ad choose if it is actual? Based on what for instance? That is sounds reasonable or logical? Or that it feels good to believe such? It answers some emotional need you have? In which case it is unlikely to find a birth with me. Ive read the bible and had countless talks with people of faith and from my perspective belief is primarily based on emotion rather than reason. If you can give me a well thought out actual "reason" to believe I'll listen and consider but if it is in anyway emotional I'll not likely consider said.

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Christian

      @ James Quinn. Just as those who choose to not believe, there are many who do choose to believe. I guess I believe because without God, there is nothing else to look forward to in this crazy world. Believing helps me to get through a bad day. Believing, gives me hope in humanity. Believing is having faith in God, the one who created me, and gives me hope, the power to love the unlovable, and a reason to care enough about humanity. I can't explain every unknown about God, His creation, or His reason for loving each and everyone of us. I'm sorry that you, or others don't believe the same way that I do, but it's a choice that everyone of us makes. I would much rather go through this life having a hope and faith that there is a God, and then find out at the end of this life that all my effort was worth it all. If there is no life after death, as so many do believe, then what have I lost? Hopefully, I leave this world a better place. I don't feel as those I'm losing out on anything, or that I'm being imprisoned by my belief in God. If you chose to believe that there is no God or higher power then that is a choice you have made. It doesn't bother me that you believe or don't believe. It bothers me that those who don't believe are so angry at those who do believe. If you have been accosted by a "Christian", I'm sorry. This is not what God wants. God wants us to love one another, no matter what and regardless of who you are. God's Word teaches is to love our brother. Unfortunately, like so many other "religions" or beliefs there are misguided participants. As a Christian, a follower of Christ, though imperfect, we are to strive for perfection. And for me perfection is to be a GOOD example to my fellow man/woman.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • James Quinn

      Christsian,

      Yet you say it like it is a choice of mine and I don't think it is. It faith simply does not make sense too me. That is not a choice it's like my lust for an attractive woman or my reaction to a nice steak on the grill my mouth watering and all it's a part of who I am but it's not a choice I made it's just who I am. Faith does not add up in my head and I don't have the feelings you do or the range of said to be more accurate I think. As for the things you listed I think if humanity can't pull itself out of the mess it pretty much makes for itself then I would assume your god would feel great shame at his/her creation. For why creat a being that in the end can not do for itself isn't that a fail? As a parent of any creature isn't your job to raise your young so it can fend for itself? In the end Ican't choose to believe in a god anymore than I can choose to like men or liver for that matter. HATE the liver!!!! If that offends your god then hey he/she made me after all:) I use the term he/she cause I find it difficult to imagine a god with blank organs but hey again i find it difficult to imagine a god anyway.

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  9. rdeleys

    The author vastly underestimates the number of atheists and agnostics in this country.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • tony

      Plus 1

      May 3, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • cgt

      agree 100%

      May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I would be interested to know how many closet atheists there are.
      If being atheist wren't such a stigma, more people would probably come out as atheist.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Godless

      I "have faith" that there are many politicians who are athiest, but they could never admit it because despite there being no litmus test for office, there are enough people who would never vote for an athiest that they couldn't win office. Therefore, they put on the Christian act to keep the sheep happy.

      I'd bet the true athiest agnostic number is closer to 1/4 to 1/3 of the population and rising.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  10. Christian

    To all those that mock, it makes me want to pray even more for those who do not believe. As much as you would like for all of "us" to go away, it will never happen, at least until Jesus returns.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • ILoveJesus

      Amen!! Amen!!!

      May 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • tony

      Jesus did return. But he was bombed out of existence by the latest "Herod" while trying to grow up in Gaza a coupla years back.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • just sayin

      Prayer is evidence of:

      Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, usually including false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).

      May 3, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • William Demuth

      I guess you missed him.

      Jeebus was just in Bagram Airforce base.

      Perhaps you should join him?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • llene Bilenky

      Why is it so hard for some believers to see that their worldview is just that- their worldview- and not a fact on the ground? Please don't waste your time praying for me and mine (or talking to yourself, as I see it) and I'll live the decent, ethical life that I have chosen. Not worried about that lake o' fire or anything. And please, do remember, that there are many believers who don't believe in Jesus or the whole Christian story, or who have never heard of it, and are just fine that way.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Likewise, you will never destroy my belief in Santa Claus. I will pray even harder that you get to once again experience the joy of his yuletide wonder.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Charles

      And every time somebody says they're praying for me, it increases my urge to mock them (pray for yourself and leave me out of your fantasy world). Vicious cycle, I guess.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Christian

      Still praying . . .

      May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Maude

      I love Jesus, too. Nice to be able to say it in a public forum, isn't it?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • rhismom

      When people say "I'll pray for you" I respond with, "thank you, and if you don't mind, I'll think for you"

      May 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  11. Atomico

    Americans should speak the native language of prayer, in the traditional Christian-Protestant sense. Events are a reminder of historical roots.

    The author takes the premise that demographics determine how to pray. I think this is a grave error, because people are bound to change from generation to generation. Putting this change in the Pray Day defeats the purpose of a historical event, like the National Prayer Day, which reminds people how America stands today from its past.

    Historical event does not prevent you from living your own life going forward.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • tony

      All children are born as Atheists. Otherwise there would only be one religion in the World

      May 3, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Atomico

      Real life story: A woman born in a Muslim country converted into Christianity despite death threats from her own family. I'm sure you've heard similar stories.

      If you accept this for a moment, then how do you explain the desire to accept religion that differs from your upbringing or the desire to believe in God?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Jbbiz

      So we should speak the native language of prayer, huh? Then of course you will be consulting a true Native American, right? Because surely you do not believe our land is indigenously Protestant Christian, do you?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Atomico

      @Jbbiz: I Googled the definition of "native", this one's for you:

      "native": A person born in a specified place or associated with a place by birth, whether subsequently resident there or not.

      I used the "native" without a capital "N".

      May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  12. james

    If people dont believe in God then why do they get so bitter when they hear his name. I dont believe in Tooth fairy but im not bothered by it. The absence of faith is fear. When you are scared you get defensive.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Atomico

      Good point.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Christian

      Very good, James!

      May 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • tony

      Becuase you can't stop corrupting all the World's children.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • just sayin

      "The absence of faith is fear."
      .
      quite wrong wrong and flawed

      May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • MAL

      People have not been killed or oppressed in the name of the tooth fairy...

      May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @james

      Whoa there jimmy boy! You got this all backwards. Lack of faith is freedom, it's you types that are freaked-out and scared.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • just sayin

      So your absence of faith in the toothfairy is you are now afraid? lol

      May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • james

      Actually Tony my hard earned money is well spent helping feed children in Haiti and the Phillipines.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      The tooth fairy doesn't tell people how to live or condem people to burn for eternity. Nor does it have followers constantly trying to convert you.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • William Demuth

      Because the tooth fairy is not trying to stick his nose between my daighter or wifes legs.

      I could go on all day

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Because people are not claiming that the Tooth Fairy told them that gays can't marry or that abortion docs need to die. Duh?

      When Christians keep their bible out of politics and stop using it to make other miserable, then I will gladly accept your beliefs.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • rdeleys

      Correct!! I'm afraid of becoming a sanctimonious bore like you.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • james

      rdelays I hope you have the best day ever

      May 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • James Quinn

      Is god a name or a description> I've heard Thor is a god as is Odin and Aries so I thought it was a description or a state of being not a name. Does god not have a name? I'm not offended or bitter about your beliefs and the only reason I come to these talks on occasion is because the danger your faith represents too me and mine. I am diabetic was born so not adult onset so I had no change to avoid it. As a side effect of my disease I lost my kidneys and had to go on dialysis. Not something I would recommend as a fun thing to do. I did eventually get a transplant but had to wait for the right person to die to do so. During this time GW Bush cut funding for stem cell research because of his faith. Not reason or logic be a faith based belief. Thankfully Obama restarted that research and someday kidneys might be made rather than waited for and these kidneys my body won't try to reject forcing me to take expensive and dangerous anti rejection drugs to keep alive.

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Reality

    Steve, Steve, Steve,

    There is only one prayer for the Christian folk i.e.

    Only for the Newcomers:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    With respect to the budget and taxes, apparently you missed this:

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: And how many “souls” would be saved?

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    BOTTOM LINE: SAID SAVINGS WOULD PAY FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE !!!!

    May 3, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • cg10

      Christianity stands on its own. The solid rock of Christ Jesus is real. The evidence is all around you. People like me are here to tell you the Good News that God is still performing miracles everyday. The latest and news worthy was the U.S. Navy Jet that crashed into an appartment complex destroying 7 buildings and no one died!!! This happened on Good Friday where for most its a holiday, meaning people could have been home, people could have been killed. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday represents the Holiest weekend of the year. The power of Jesus is still alive because he lives in us, and he can live in you if you accept Him.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • cg10

      When was the last time a Jet crashed and buildings where destroyed and no one died, not even the pilots/flight crew, or anyone on the ground? Seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be open.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Reality

      Where were Jesus and his/your god during the following atrocities?

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      May 3, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Godless

      cg10, so explain how god made it so no one died? If god intervened, why not prevent the crash in the first place?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. andyst

    I think the question should be what is prayer and how can we use it to unite people. Prayer is a request for direction or intervention. It is not wishing for financial success but success for humanity on the whole. Prayer is grounding for people, it is an admission that they have faults and need direction. It is an admission that we have reached a limit on our strength or knowledge. Prayer is not about GOD but more about us. GOD doesnt need to feed the hungry or take care of the sick, that is the job of their fellow humans. We need to stop thinking individually and start thinking collectivly.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • tony

      Get al your friends to start a third powerful political party and actually do instead of pray.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  15. LostinSLC

    And tomorrow is Star Wars day, go figure

    May 3, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  16. James Quinn

    I don't pray. I was facing a serious operation a Kidney transplant. I did not want to worry my family so I never told them I even had kidney failure and when it came time for the operation I just did it. There I was lying in my hospital bed waiting to be operated on and a kindly looking elderly man stuck his head in my door and introduced himself as the chaplin and asked if I needed to talk I was alone so I guess he was concerned for me. I knew he was just tyng to be kind but what he did not know is I had no such need. I said to him I[m good. It will work or it won't. I might die but likely I won't. In either case and or cases I'm good. And so there you have it I've never faced a time and or need for a god in my life everything I've ever had to deal with and for many it would surprise you my life has been shall we say interesting I've never needed such. In the end I don't have a good well thought out "reason" to believe and that is it in a nut shell. I don't have an emotional need nor does faith answer anything I consider logical.

    Pagan jim

    May 3, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Pagan Jim, YOU THE MAN!

      May 3, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • cnnmembuh

      I'm glad that you feel self-sufficient. The only thing I would suggest is that there are obviously things beyond our ability to comprehend. The infinate nature of the universe, for example, speaks to me as evidence that we and those who follow us will never know certain things. Is it not possible, then, that there is a God who is hidden to you? The order and beauty of the world is offset by chaos and ugliness at times, but most of that is of our own making. I strongly sense forces of good and evil and can point to concrete examples on both sides. I respect your views, but just wanted to express mine on the topic.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @cnnmembuh

      With all due respect I think you're delusional.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • James Quinn

      cnnmembuh,

      I except there is much I do know know. I am not a rocket scientist after all and even those people are far from knowing it all. The things I can not know or grasp I except as being unknown. What i do not do is try in fill in the blank spots with faith or belief. I assume with time some of these things will become known like we now know the earth rotates around the sun where we once with a face based belief once thought differently

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  17. dave

    Pray for Mojo...

    May 3, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  18. w camp

    The Bible says to measure a tree by its fruit. The writer of this article babbles with half facts and rambles on about non existent conflict in an attempt to make his cynical anger issues ours. It is simple...live and let live. May the best code of conduct win. If the atheist has the truth then it cannot conflict with God's truth. May the best Man or God win. The Bible says love God and and love your neighbor. If you cannot love God, try your neighbor. It is better than nothing. What is sad is all the anger in so many comments. So fitting that those that demand tolerance are the least tolerant.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • tony

      Then leave our children alone to find their own way.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Sean

      The answer to his original questions is really quite simple– pray however and to whomever you want or don't if you don't want to. That is the beauty of this country.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Reality

      Versions of the Golden Rule can be found in pre-bible Greece, China, Egypt and Babylonia.

      With respect to the fruit trees:

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      Professor JD Crossan from his thorough analyses of all the NT passages and related scripture concluded that Matt 12: 33-35 et al were not uttered by the historic Jesus. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=041_Trees_and_Hearts. Professor Gerd Ludemann concluded that said passages are historic. (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 301 and http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb041.html.)

      May 3, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  19. tony

    Prayer saves the politicians having to deal with a justifiably angry complaining population shouting "do something about. . . . "

    May 3, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  20. Rachael

    I don't understand how people can preach that Christians are mindless sheep, blindly following their faith, when EVERYONE has faith in something. I have faith that God created the earth. You have faith that over millions of years, miraculously, everything fell together into what it is now. Either way, neither of us have seen proof of what we believe. Faith doesn't make you weak. It makes you stronger to be able to believe whole-heartedly in something. I guess it is easier to place that faith in a belief system that requires nothing of you, instead of one that asks that you adhere to a set of rules.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • tony

      You have zero evidence to support your faith. Centuries of discovering just the Laws of Physics we have found so far are a cornucopia of evidence supporting no god for at least the last 13 Billion years. Perhaps you missed the bit in Genesis 1-14 saying look at the stars?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Zeke2112

      A classic example of trying to turn atheism into a religion. Sad and false. My understanding of the world is based on what I can see, what I can hear, what I can touch, and what I know from countless of scientific experiments which are repeatable and well-defined.

      You can have rules and morality without a dusty book giving them to you. Christians and the relgiious laying sole claim to morality – while they allow millions to die from HIV and having some of the highest divorce rates in the country – is laughable.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Rachael

      Nonsense. Carbon degenerates at an unsteady rate. Carbon dating is only accurate up to a few thousand years ago. I am sure that you have never heard that, because it's unpopular to not shun the idea of an all-powerful Creator. But check it out. I assure you that your "facts" are not as factual as you have been misled to believe.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Jared

      Actually Tony, I have lots of proof for what I believe. I can't explain everything there is and I have questions, but I've seen some things happen that are just incredible.

      Short story, a friend of mine was healed after trying to blow his head of 20+ years ago. His hearing returned and his jaw actually regrew. That is just one of the many things I've seen and the closer I look at creation the more I agree with scripture that creation proclaims who He is.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • William Demuth

      Saying Atheisim is religion is like saying baldness is a hair color.

      Religion avoids the truth at any and all cost, and bye any and all means, including murder.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Rachael

      I wouldn't go there girlfriend. If you are going to start deliberating science you had better get your ducks in a row. It's apparent you have not a single clue of our existence.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Jared

      Talk about mind blowing! Why does it have to be god or faith?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Rachael, the limits on carbon dating are well understood. I guess you're just tossing planetary geology, astronomy, physics, and decay of other materials out the window? You really think the Earth is only 6000 years old? Hilarious. BTW – I'm an engineer with a masters degrees in engineering and physics. This should be fun for me.

      Jared: bone regrows. It's not a miracle and it's well-understood. When your friend regrows core CNS neurons which are known not to regrow, or regenerates a new heart (cardiac muscle is also notoriously resistant to regeneration) THEN we can talk. Even then, research would be the first path – not crediting it to a deity who a large chunk of the world doesn't acknowledge.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • just sayin

      "Short story, a friend of mine was healed after trying to blow his head of 20+ years ago. His hearing returned and his jaw actually regrew. "
      .
      I bet if your friend cut his head off God would grow it back. Tell him to try it. While God was growing your friends jaw back, a little children are ra p ed and slaughtered around the world. Your God sounds liek an @ hole.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • BRC

      @Rachael.
      1) Radiological decay is actually EXTREMELY repeatable for all but the most unstable materials (and even then unstable generally means a rapid rates of decay, not necesarily a fluctuating one). Our only real ability to measure "time" accurately comes from the observiation of decay (a second is actually defined through teh rate of decay of cesium).
      2) Carbon dating is accurate to well over 10,000 years, that's not a small number
      3) Carbon dating is only one of several radiologic decay dating methods modern science cna use. There are other materials with longer half-lifes that give an even greater window to view.

      Sorry, but your facts are wrong. Also, I've heard it claimed that scientists don't take into account the effect that a world flood would have on carbon dating. I'm hoping noone needs to explain why that's absolutely absurd, but if I need to I will.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • codnmeduchess

      Atheism and belief in evolution are not about faith. Acceptance of evolutionary theory (defiition: a system of rules or principles) is based on drawing logical conclusions from the available evidence. Evolutionary theory is also upsetable. It's not at all about "whole-hearted" belief or faith. If damning evidence to the contrary were found, the theory would have to be revised or new theory constructed. Ones faith on the other hand tends to be much less fluid or reasonable (literally, based in reason,)

      May 3, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Patrick

      The difference is I have concrete, empirical reasons for my faith, for my beliefs. I can believe in the scientific theories we have because I understand the observable actions they are based on and can draw conclusions from that that can be tested.

      I have found it most useful to avoid believing in anything I do not have reason to.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • just sayin

      "Faith doesn't make you weak."
      .
      Matter of persepctive. It could be argued it makes you delusional and foolish. It takes equal faith to believe in the toothfairy and a God.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • just sayin

      Praying and having faith in imaginary things is evidence of
      .
      Psychosis – is a loss of contact with reality, usually including false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).

      May 3, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Rachael

      @Zeke2112
      I know that you automatically assume that I am ignorant because I have professed a belief in God. I can understand how it is inconceivable to you, because your beliefs are so vastly different. I am a very scientifically minded person. I can accept the fact that I don't understand everything that God has said in the Bible. But, as I said in my original comment, I have faith. It is what I have chosen to believe. It doesn't make me stupid, or illogical, or ignorant of what others believe. And to the rest of you, I have been a Christian for most of my thirty one years. If you think I haven't heard all of these mindless insults before, you are the ones who are sorely mistaken.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • James Quinn

      Rachael,

      How did you come to your faith? Is it reason based or emotional? Oh and by the way the common scientific theory is the earth took billions of years to form not millions. Lets take evolution vs intelligent design. We are suppose to be gods children right so why make us with inferior parts? To this I bring up the eye... Inside our eyes is a reflective film or surface called the retnia and it is key to our sight. However it is just a film over the inside of our eyeball while in some animal species the retina surface is the entire back of the eyeball and not a film over said. In our case blindness can occur if that film is dislodged in a diabetics case when failing blood flow causes the body to make more blood vessels in the eye causing the film to dislodge in other cases a sharp blow to the head can cause such. And evolutionary process explains why we went one direction and certain other animals when another and by the way I consider a superior direction.

      Pagan jim

      Pagan jim

      May 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Ahh, Rachael. I was waiting for you to play the martyr card and you played it exactly as predicted. When you make pseudo-scientific claims and are questioned on them, you fall back on faith and claim that anyone who disagrees with you hates you and is attacking you. Of course, you also claim that questioning the scientific falsehoods you perpetuate equates to calling you ignoring. Martyr card played to perfection. Truly an inspired performance!

      For centuries, man's understanding has pushed god away. First he was on the mountain, until we explored them and didn't find him. Then he was in the clouds. Then space. Then outer space. And now a metaphysical plane. it is a matter of time before the entire facade falls away and we can truly move on as a species.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      *ignorant. Blame autocorrect.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.