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Is praying for a lottery win frowned upon? Depends on who you ask
November 28th, 2012
02:51 PM ET

Is praying for a lottery win frowned upon? Depends on who you ask

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – With odds of purchasing the winning Powerball ticket set at 1 in 175,223,510 – longer odds than dying from a bee sting or being struck by lighting – it shouldn’t be shocking that lotto hopefuls are turning to God for some divine intervention in advance of Wednesday night’s drawing for a $550 million jackpot.

One hastily set up website, “Prayer List for Powerball,” even charges people a dollar a piece to be included on a “list of those wishing to pray for each other to win the Powerball lottery.”

“Because WE Are STRONGER When WE Are CONNECTED,” the website says.

Around 20 people have bought in, their names scrawled across the bottom of the site.

But the idea of praying for something so selfish has raised some eyebrows. Many on Twitter are asking the simple question: Is it OK that I ask God to make my lottery ticket a winner?

So, are such prayers really OK?

“Sure, but it is complicated,” said Tanya Luhrmann, a Stanford University anthropology professor who wrote the book “When God Talks Back,” about the use of prayer.

“I think people have parallel registers for thinking about the consequences of prayer,” she said. “For some, there is an invitation to talk to God about everything. At the same time, there is a sense that when you are walking with Jesus, you are becoming a better person, a person who would not want your prayer to prevent someone else to win the lottery.”

In doing research for her book, Luhrmann spoke with hundreds of Christians about why and how they pray. Some conversations centered on what she called prayer for “trivial things” – a good haircut, a parking spot or the answers to an exam. Others, however, derided those prayers as beneath God.

Lurhmann says the latter group of people doesn’t want God to be someone you would “just get coffee with.” Instead, they see a more formal God and are concerned, according to Lurhmann, “about [people] misunderstanding who God is.”

Those who view God more informally would say, according to Lurhmann, “that it is important to pray to God, but it is also important for God to be God. God wants to hear from you about everything, but God is going to make decisions about what he will do.”

For Rabbi Felipe Goodman of Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas, whether it is acceptable to pray for a winning lottery ticket boils down to whether you believe people will do good things with that money.

“Who are we to say that that person won’t change the world with that money,” Goodman said. “Why do we always have to think that people are going to do the wrong thing? I want to think that people are good, and I want to think that if someone comes into that money, they are going to do something good with it.”

Being from Las Vegas, a city that thrives on gambling, people regularly come to Goodman’s synagogue to pray for a bit of gambling luck. Though the Talmud, a Jewish holy book, says that professional gamblers should not be trusted, he says these people come to services because “they clearly think God is going to help them win.”

“Who are we to qualify whether or not this is trivial,” Goodman said.

Like those who have come to the rabbi’s synagogue, many on Twitter have looked to God for a lottery win.

At the Christian Prayer Center, a website that allows people to post prayers publicly, some have mentioned the lottery in a section called “Prayers for Finance.”

“For almost a year now I feel like the LORD is leading me to play the lottery,” reads one anonymous prayer posted recently. “I played the Mega Money Lotto for tomorrow nights drawing and I ask that your prayer warrior will pray for me for the numbers I had played and would hit the jackpot and if GOD's will for me to win I will be a blessing to his kingdom to help the poor and the needy.”

This practice isn’t unheard of. In the past, lottery winners have credited prayer with their financial windfalls.

In 2007, after Gloria Aguda won $9 million from the Colorado Lottery, she told the Denver Post that when her house was about to be foreclosed upon, she prayed for help and bought a lottery ticket.

Earlier this year, when 48 members of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority won the lottery, some credited the win to prayer. Larry Green, a SEPTA employee for more than 30 years, said he prayed for his deceased wife, a woman who had always “talked about us hitting the lottery.”

“I prayed for a lottery win. I prayed to certain saints,” Green told NBC10 in Philadelphia. “And after we won, I kept praying to those saints, and I just wanted to say, never doubt the power of prayer, and that's it.”

Religion and the lottery have long been connected, primarily because religious leaders from many denominations have protested allowing lotteries in their states. For example, when South Carolina voters decided to repeal a constitutional amendment and allow the state to hold a lottery in the year 2000, religious voices from the largely evangelical state voiced disapproval.

“Anti-lottery signs proliferated on church property, clergy signed full-page newspaper advertisements opposing the plan and minister after minister wrote letters to the editor and guest commentaries for the South Carolina press,” recounts James L. Guth, professor at Furman University, in his paper “The Lotto and the Lord.

Earlier this year, Texas Baptists asked the state’s lottery commission to totally abolish the state lottery, arguing that it takes advantage of the poor and caters to impulse buyers.

“Having a deceptive product that is supported by the state is morally wrong,” Suzii Paynter, director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told the Houston Chronicle. “From a Christian perspective, that is wrong. We have a moral aversion to exploiting poor populations.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. Bootyfunk

    people foolish enough to believe prayer works in any way are guilty of not counting the misses.

    November 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  2. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Hanging tong is a sign of a hungry hobo goat, self centered, Not of a dog, in obedience of truth absolute 360lb. Allah, prayer to fulfill Oil ism Greed is not appreciated by truth absolute GAWD, nor it is appreciated by me, ignorant skunks.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Answer

      Failure.

      Try for coherence with just one sentence.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • hindu filthy gong ism

      Bang your gong is a sign of a hungry stoner, self absorbed, Not of a beerz but bud, in obedience of T. Rex absolute rock whoa. Electric warrior, rock to bogart water bong ism Greed is not appreciated pot heads absolute stoner ism, nor it is appreciated by holder, ignorant bogart ism.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  3. mdblanche

    Saul prays to God, "Dear God, let me win the lottery." But his prayer goes unanswered. The next week Saul prays, "Dear God, if you let me win the lottery I will be a better man." But his prayer still goes unanswered. The next week Saul prays, "Dear God, if you just let me win the lottery I promise to be a better man and give half my winnings to charity." Still his prayer was not answered. The next week Saul prays, "Dear God, please let me win the lottery. I'll do anything you ask, just give me a sign." And with that a booming voice from the Heavens answered, "Saul, meet me halfway. Buy a ticket!"

    November 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Answer

      It was true that Saul was unemployed.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  4. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Hanging tong like a dog is sign of a hindu hungry hobo, self centered, Not of a Hebrew, in obedience of truth absolute GOD, prayer to fulfill hinduism Greed is not appreciated by truth absolute GOD, nor it is appreciated by HIM.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Answer

      Even with just two sentences – you still can't be coherent.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      skunk, my Taliban father, secular s, denier of education GAWD, made me to skip English classes, ignorant

      November 28, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Answer

      Still can't express yourself with even one sentence? Maybe you should try with three or just four words and work on up.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      Sign of hindu's, ignorant s from hindered swamp of hinduism, ignorance called india. born in hinduism, mental dyslexia, hind, incapacitated to understand truth absolute.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    November 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      prayer-bot, we've missed you.

      Are you praying to win the lottery too?

      Does paying someone to pray for you to win the lottery make your prayers come true?

      Seems to me like Martin Luther protested this kind of thing by the Catholic Church.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayerbot.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Roger that

      So it's your contention that you can win the lottery by praying?

      November 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Answer

      Hey prayer bot.. play these numbers.

      104, 150, 164, 177, 199, 206 LOL

      See if your prayers can win with those. XD

      November 28, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  6. Bootyfunk

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12082681/ns/health-heart_health/t/power-prayer-flunks-unusual-test/#.ULa2-mea2Is

    simple math
    prayer = fail

    November 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • and as always

      footybunk is wrong

      November 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • no really

      Bootyfunk is right.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • and as generally happens

      ..some fvcking moron doesn't read the scientific study proving the fact linked on the first fvcking line of the post

      November 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. danoid1

    Quando dio vuole castigarci ci manda quello che desideriamo.

    November 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  8. SSRH

    There are two types of prayers – for worldly benefit and for spiritual growth. Accordingly, the prayers are answered by a different aspect of God. Spiritual research has shown that even negative energies can answer prayers, to our detriment!

    November 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Bring'em young

      No research ever done on this or any other planet has shown that prayer has any effect whatsoever. It is the same as wishing on a star...harmless and pointless.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Archival Frosties

      "spiritual research" uh huh. Don't think you'll be getting a lot of NSF doollars for that, sonny boy.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • SSRH

      One’s spiritual level is the single most important factor in ensuring that one’s prayers are answered. Praying for world peace, while a noble thought, is most likely not to be answered due to the lack of spiritual level of the people praying.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I'll just keep using my spirit level for hanging pictures.

      While a little spirits now and then doesn't hurt, being too full of spirits leads to hangovers – nasty ones if I recall.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • SSRH

      The people who can really effect change through a single prayer are Saints, but They see the futility of praying as They are totally in alignment with God’s will and do not see it as separate from Their own. The posture of prayer also contributes to the prayer being answered.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      Ah, I get it. So when you don't get your prayer answered, it's your own fault because your spiritual level is too low/you must not want it bad enough. That is convenient.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • SSRH

      When a person prays, they remember God intensely and have an intimate dialogue with Him about issues very close to their heart. By the law of reflex action, God also feels closer to them.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Sue

      SSRH, present your evidence for prayer ever having caused a divine being to do anything, or definitively having caused anything to happen. Proof please. If you succeed, you will be the first person to ever do so.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • SSRH

      Prayers have the ability to activate the deity principles in the Universe. The subtlest frequencies are generated when one pays gratitude along with the prayer. These frequencies have the ability to not only activate but also touch the deity; hence the deity principle is activated faster. This activation of the deity principle results in fulfilment of prayers.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Wow SSRH, you've really thought a lot on the specifics of your unfounded and made up stuff.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • SSRH

      Prayer increases the particles of the subtle basic Karma component in the vital body sheath. When we pay gratitude, the particles of the subtle basic Karma component in the mental body sheath increase. Thus, prayer, complemented with gratitude, results in spiritual purification of the vital body and mental body sheaths.

      November 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      http://bigthink.com/daylight-atheism/cargo-cult-science

      November 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      http://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/articles/id/aboutspiritualresearch/SpiritualPractice/prayer/howprayerworks

      November 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Roger that

      SSRH,

      Good stuff. Do you work at the Belief Blog Bistro?

      November 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      "Spiritual research" ... LOL
      What was the null hypothesis ?

      November 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      He doesn't work at the Bistro, He obviously drinks quite a good amount there.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."

      Yes, the midi-chlorians. They make our prayers stronger.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Blind Archer

      So your god does not deem world peace a worthy goal in and of itself? It effectively holds a popularity contest and if an unspecified number of people vote for it it might be considered? But we have no guarantees as it's a capricious so-and-so.
      Very believable.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • SSRH

      When we pray, we accept our inability to solve a problem ourselves and hence, in seeing ourselves as lesser, our ego is reduced. With a reduction in ego there is a temporary rise in spiritual level. This causes a temporary increase in subtle basic Karma component.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Answer

      So funny.. mixing karma and prayers.

      Funny as shiat.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • SSRH

      When we pay gratitude, it generates humility in us which has an even greater positive effect on our spiritual level. Hence, our communion with God increases. This rise in the subtle basic Karma component itself increases our capacity to overcome or bear the problem.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Akira

      Sam:
      I think you got it in one.

      I enjoyed SSRH's posts.
      Interesting theory.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Answer

      Throw in some scientology there and then do your spiel. XD

      November 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • SSRH

      In our life, 65% of events happen as per destiny. Destined events are those events that we have no control over.

      Destined events, both good and bad, are bound to happen in our lives. Bad destined events may be an illness or a bad marriage. The average person mainly prays to God when bad events happen in their life. They pray to God to relieve the bad event. However, our prayers are not always answered.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • SSRH

      If the prayer is stronger than the intensity of the destined event, then the prayer will be answered.

      If the intensity of the destiny is stronger than the prayer, then the prayer will be answered partially or not at all.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      i love this guy's constant assertions which could never actually be known such as "In our life, 65% of events happen as per destiny."

      November 29, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  9. == o ==

    Praying is frowned upon

    November 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • SHAKE

      DANCING IS FORBIDDEN

      November 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Meatwad

      This is a good beat. Why ain't you dancin'?

      November 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  10. PaulB

    If the "gate is so narrow" that few are allowed into the kingdom of heaven, then aren't each of the planets 2 billion or so Christians actually gambling that they're going to be one of the few winners in God's salvation game? Can they blame us, we people who choose not to play the game, for not bothering if the odds are so high against?

    November 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  11. Get Real

    Hi Jesus saves- here is a bed time story for you and your imaginary friend Jesus, who btw, does not save s@#t:

    Of course both are imaginary beings, but the true story is Satan is GOOD and God is EVIL. Satan tapped God on the shoulder and asked God please don't flood the earth and kill all those innocent children. God answered and said "Bra ha ha ha! I am allmighty god and can do what I want. It would please me to see those babies drown in agony! Bra ha ha ha!". Satan said "that's wack, dude! You are one cruel, sick, evil monster". So Satan left heaven and promised to help mankind against the evil imaginary God. Then one day all the people grew up and realized God and Satan are both imaginary so they went away hand in hand as boyfriends forever. That is after God asked Satan's forgiveness for all of the mean spiteful things he did. The End.

    November 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you just summarized the bible. imaginary friends sure are complicated...

      November 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  12. Mohammad A Dar

    you have to be lucky to win, not religious, goons.

    November 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  13. deadlyserious

    Go for it. It's about as meaningful as clicking your heels three times and wishing to win the lottery. But whatever floats your boat.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  14. Sly

    Obviously if you pray to win, you will win.

    Isn't that how God works?

    If not, what the hell use is He? Toss that big fat man onto the fire and find another God – I hear Allah is quite popular, and I'll bet He has a better winning percentage.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  15. leave a message

    CNN has an article about religion... Now that's funny.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  16. Get Real

    Since prayer to an imaginary god, while totally useless, it is also harmless. It's like wishing to to be a princess Tom a fairy godmother.

    The bible is nothing but a book of myths and lies. And when the imaginary Christ, Jesus, is quoted in the bible as saying "ask anything in my name and it shall be given unto you, clearly he is lying! He added no qualifiers so if you pray to Jesus to win the lottery and you don't win, then he lied to you. Only jerks lie, therefore Jesus, if he ever existed, was a jerk.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • jesus saves

      getreal- you have to read the whole book...then you will get what He means. of course, if it is His will for you to get it – which it most certainly is. give it a try.
      btw- i think God's will doesn't include the lottery for anyone...His will is for to go to Him with every concern and he will bless you.

      November 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Get Real, on one had you are calling Jesus Christ an "imaginary", but on the other hand your are saying " clearly he is lying!", that tells me you are not hundred percent sure yourself if he was an imaginary, how can an imaginary person lie?

      November 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  17. Mohammad A Dar

    2, 7, 14, 27, 29 and power ball 15, go get it guys

    November 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      and the wining number is 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 with PBALL 6,

      November 28, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  18. scott

    If you aren't laughing at this question, and are taking it seriously, you have real head issues.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  19. Peter

    So why doesn't the gov't play and put a dent in paying off what we owe. It's amazing so many unemployed, hungry people out there yet as a society we can play a game that raises so much money, guess we're not so broke after all, that means let the tax breaks stop and start paying off our debt!

    November 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Akira

      Like the lottery profits are supposed to go for education and such?
      That's what they sold the idea of a state lottery on in my state, until the politicos saw how much it was raking in...all of a sudden, education took a back seat to pork projects.
      Again.

      November 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • you're a moron

      The tax tax breaks being lifted will only pay for our governments

      November 28, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  20. 1word

    It's ok to pray for material things, but praying to hit the Lottery? In my book that's not right, because you are doing something that can cause another man to lose all he has. There are a lot of folks who follow the love of money right into the poor house. Imagine being a minister of a church finance and you have a gambling problem. That cannot happen because you will not be a good steward with Gods money.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Tim in NY

      I agree

      November 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Archival Frosties

      "God's money"???? Seriously? W-T-F does a god need money for?

      November 28, 2012 at 7:16 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.