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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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?

[tweet https://twitter.com/MOBster_/status/273787081321484290%5D

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.

[tweet https://twitter.com/dlightfoot3/status/273694846747832321%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/ThatBoiLamb/status/273605766936682496%5D

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. Just call me Lucifer

    I talked to god, and he said an illegal mexican atheist is gonna win the lottery. Made my day.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Cheech and Chong

      Welcome to Mexico senior! Where are you going?

      November 29, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  2. Earthling

    Pray all you want, for whatever you want. It will have exactly the same effect as not praying.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  3. innersixx

    Praying to win is coveting, which is a sin.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I know and it's not one of the good sins.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • HeavenCent

      I don't have a problem with it.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  4. Dave

    LOL it is 2012 and there are people that think praying does anything. We are so doomed.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • innersixx

      something* not anything. It's 2012 and we still have people who don't know proper grammar.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  5. ericgoestoholland

    It's about as okay as praying over a football game, which is to say, NO it's not! Of course, I could be wrong. I'm really not a reliable judge as to what is right and wrong to pray for. So that's my two cents, but it isn't worth much more than, well, two cents.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  6. Money changes things

    Pray for me.

    November 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Akira

      Lol...spot on.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Apple Bush


      November 28, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Akira

    Hey, AB.
    Having fun? 🙂

    November 28, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      As always Akira... you know.....got bored.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Akira

      Your boredom greatly reduces mine!

      November 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Brampt

    The apostle John explains: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Our requests must be in harmony with God’s will. Some pray for things that are clearly not God’s will—to win the lottery, for example, or to win a bet. Others pray with improper motives. The disciple James warns against such abuse of prayer, saying: “You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.”—James 4:3.

    Imagine, for example, that both sides in a soccer game pray to win. God can hardly be expected to respond to such conflicting prayers. The same can be said about modern-day warfare when opposing sides pray for victory.

    November 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      if prayers must be in accordance with god's will, why bother?

      November 29, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  9. Fisher of Men

    I once told God that if He wanted me to win the lottery anonymously, and donate all the money anonymously to charity, I would do it to show the world a great thing for Him. He knew I was serious – because of course He knows everything. To my surprise, He responded in a dream that night...He chuckled and put his hand around my neck – like a father to his son and said "You still don't get it, I do not use money to do great things." I could not have come up with that response with my puny brain!

    November 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Akira

      What did he look like?

      November 28, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  10. nosurprise

    We are sheep and the Lord is The Shepherd. You ask Him if He wants you to play the lottery first. He may lead you to do that for some reason apart from winning. For example, there may be a woman in the store where the tickets are sold who needs a meal and He wants you to get her a meal...

    Wait on the Lord the Bible says, and follow His instructions with Peace in your heart – Romans 14:17. As long as The Lord is honored above all in your life in that you seek His Will above all in what you do, say and think; winning a lottery ticket is not against G-d!

    November 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • End Religion

      your god is so loving you're afraid to type the word "God" out of fear?

      November 29, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  11. Chad

    Just caught Antonin Scalia on Charlie Rose,
    what a mind, if only we had 8 more like him.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Daniel 5

      25 This is the inscription that was written:
      mene, mene, tekel, parsin

      26 Here is what these words mean:
      Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

      27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

      28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the people.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      Yeah, and if you think he's not going to strike down Prop 8, and ever vote against Roe v Wade you are nuts. He's basically told people in his speeches he does NOT listen to his religion when he makes decisions.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • chthys

      8 more like him?

      Scalia once said, regarding the death penalty: "It's OK to execute an innocent man, as long as he got a fair trial."

      He may be brilliant, but he might also be evil. Not a good combination.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      He told Piers Morgan we all have the right to what is reasonable, in the Morgan interview.
      That is a constantly changing target. He is far less conservative than you think.
      When asked once what was the difference between him and Thomas, he said "I not a nut". He thinks Thomas is insane, (which he is). Thomas is THE most incompetent justice ever to embarrass the court.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  12. Infidelium

    The very notion that there exists a god that will answer your prayer to win the lottery while ignoring millions of people around the world suffering from war, disease and poverty is a bit ludicrous.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • right4life

      God doesn't exist? This world we live on just happened?

      November 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Infidelium

      Right4Life, this world didn't "just happen" but was the result of a natural process that took billions of years. The fact that you either don't know or accept this doesn't prove God exists. That's an argument from ignorance. If you don't know how the world got here, the correct answer is "I don't know" not "God did it."

      November 29, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • chthys

      The very notion that there exists a god that will answer your prayer to win the lottery while ignoring millions of other people also praying to win the lottery, is ludicrous.

      Lotto is a tax on stupid people. I am all for it.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  13. rafael

    What fruitcakery.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  14. larryb

    waste a dollar on this prayer site or 50 with some equally useless televangelist...what's the dif?

    November 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  15. Jesus HATES fig trees!

    “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

    Jesus said it, so it must be true. So pray for that lottery win, and it will be yours. He said it in Mark and Matthew. If you believe in Jesus, then your prayer WILL give you what you want. Which I always thought was odd because it makes God the servant of Christians, but hey, Jesus said it, and a God can't possibly be wrong!

    Unless he wasn't a god . . .

    November 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • nosurprise

      If you honor G-d, read your Bible and repent for the lies you have written...there is nothing in the Bible that says if you believe in Jesus you can ask for anything and get ii....

      We are to seek the Lord in what we do. The Bible says – that the Sons of G-d are led by the Spirit of G-d. If you are not led by Him you are led by the devil or satan. There are only two choices...

      If you are led by the devil in your life and decide to ask for anything being led of him, you may get your request but it will lead to destruction. Read John 10:10.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • wj

      Jesus said, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask what you will and it shall be done unto you." He also says 'If you ask anything in my name, it shall be done unto you." So ask believing. God could give it to you in heaven as well. How much would a solid gold, jewel-studded 10,000 square foot mansion be worth in today's dollars? That is what Jesus went to prepare for those who repent of their sins and believe in Him to save them. If gold is $1500.00 a mere ounce, calculate what your mansion is worth.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Jesus HATES Fig Trees

      Uh, those were direct Jesus quotes from Matthew and Mark. That's what Jesus himself says. That is supposedly the point of Jesus getting pissed off at a fig tree.

      Christians love to go into denial on this one, but that is EXACTLY what he said. They also love to ignore that Jesus said God would come on the clouds for everyone in the world to see and lift away the good in the lifetime of some of Jesus' audience, but that is obviously untrue also.

      And they try to say that the "sell your goods and give the proceeds to the poor" thing only referred to one rich kid, even though Jesus said it directly to his followers before the kid shows up. Because they don't want to obey that, so they go all lawyer-weird and spin-doctor it into "it was ony for that guy, not us."

      November 29, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • End Religion

      OK, who's responsible for letting the crazies out of their cells again? OP just showed you god's own words that any prayer will be answered. Why are arguing against god's word by saying our prayers won't be answered? And how much is your heavenly gold mansion worth...? REALLY? In heaven, nothing! And anyway, heaven is your magical place where one could just order up 2 or 3 gold mansions at the real estate drive-thru window.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  16. SSRH

    The following factors add to the effectiveness of your prayer:

    • Spiritual level of the person praying – the higher the spiritual level, the more effective is their prayer.
    • Quality of prayer – whether the prayer is mechanical, heartfelt, or with spiritual emotion from the seeker.
    • For whom is one praying? When we pray for others, the spiritual strength required is much more. The greater the number of people in society intended to be affected by the event, the greater is the spiritual strength required to effect the desired result. Only Saints of a higher order can effect change in society.
    • Ego – Lower ego contributes to the effectiveness of prayer.
    • What prayer posture is a person using? This becomes a major factor for the majority of people, as the above factors are lesser in most people.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Runners-up like SSRH will receive the home game of The Belief Blog!

      There is no biblical support for anything you are saying. You are inventing your own standards. Which is what God is: your own invention.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      And you know all this exactly how ?

      November 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • SSRH

      The spiritual level of a person praying is one of the main criteria in deciding the effectiveness of the prayer.

      • For seekers above the 60% spiritual level, prayer is not required. They act from the spiritual emotion/feeling that ‘Let everything happen as per God’s will.’ They actually experience that everything in their lives is happening and is provided for by God’s grace. Their mind is constantly in a state of gratitude to God. Once this state is achieved, prayer is not needed.
      • Prayers of people who are below the 30% spiritual level lack potency and at best they provide them with only psychological benefit. This is because the covering of ego is too great for their prayers to reach the deity principle.
      • Thus, we can see that prayer works most effectively for people between the spiritual level of 30-60%.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Say Wha?

      The 60% level? Percentages? Could you quote your source for that amazing brane stuff you are telling us?

      November 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • SSRH

      From time to time, we hear a call by some people to gather and pray for world peace, or for a noble cause such as reduction in global warming. From the perspective of actual results, this is at best a psychological effort. This is so because major world events have a strong spiritual basis and can only be overcome by spiritual efforts of highly evolved beings such as Saints of a higher order. Even if millions of people (of average spiritual level) get together and make the same prayer for a major world happening, it is akin to many ants trying to lift a boulder.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • The Ole Bullsh!t Detector Is Going Off Again

      You are making that up.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • SSRH

      The proper posture for prayer:

      Body should be bowed and not erect.

      Fingers should be parallel to the forehead. Fingers should not be stiff but relaxed.

      Fingers should be touching each other – not spread apart.

      Thumb should be lightly touching the area of space between your eyebrows.

      Hands need to be gently pressed together with a slight space between the palms. In the case of seekers above the 50% spiritual level, no space is required between the palms.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Akira

      SSRH...I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying reading these posts.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Akira

      I particularly liked the tutorial of the proper position to be in for better reception.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • SSRH

      If one is at a higher spiritual level (above 50%), divine subtle (intangible) frequencies begin to be received directly. The subtle opening is closed in people of a lower spiritual level. The primary factor that helps the opening of the Karma is a lower level of ego. When in this phase of your spiritual growth, the need for prayer becomes less and less.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • SSRH

      Akira, 😉

      November 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • SSRH

      If a person between the spiritual levels of 50% and 80% complements his prayer with the recommended subtley, then he gets the benefit of additional Divine Consciousness. This additional benefit is 30% more in the case of a person at the 50% spiritual level and it proportionately becomes less and less as the spiritual level increases.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      Priests are often erect when they pray. Myself, I am in the 61.267543267 % and I do not need to pray.
      I get erect without prayer.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Honestly SSRH, with all the percentages, markdowns and recalculations you're kind of making prayer sound like an exercise in double couponing on Thirsty Thursday. Please don't tell us that we'll get a bonus set of Ginsu knives if we pray before midnight tonight.

      P.S. About posture...God "hears" prayers regardless of your posture. A quadriplegic prays in a much different posture than an able bodied person, but his/her prayers are heard just the same.

      November 29, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  17. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Blessed are the one, who do not seek for them self, but seek blessing of truth absolute God for every one.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Akira

      Blessed Are The Cheesemakers.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  18. Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

    Dear gods,
    If I win the lottery I will clean Vatican filthy bathrooms for a week.
    (Well as long as I get Wednesday off, and the weekend of course).

    November 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Squidward, The Dark Tentacley Lord of Comic Foils


      November 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      Hey squidely. What are you going to do with your lotto winnings ?
      Personally, I won the lotto by being born into a family with great genes.
      A personal fortune takes some work, but is quite possible to amass, for anyone. I would never leave it up to 1/whatever hundred million for that to happen. I wish certainty. I invested in sponges. I am the sponge magnate. The sponge baron, if you will. Also if you won't.

      November 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm |

      Howdy ya'll!

      November 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

      Squirrels caint spell neither!

      November 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Sheldon J. Plankton, evil supergenious and owner of the Chum Bucket

      I will have that secret formula, they I WILL RULE THE WORLD!!!!

      November 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Sheldon J. Plankton, evil supergenius and owner of the Chum Bucket

      Plankton don't spell so hot either

      November 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      So does that mean I WILL get Wednesday off ?

      November 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Pope St. Sponge Bob with baggy pants and filthy mitre of the god Dagon where the arc came from.

      The squirrels just tolerate Texas as it's warmer than living in the tree house.
      There are no shortage of nuts to be found in Texas.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Larry the squirrel who seceded from Texas

      Texas is a lousy place for squirrels. They view us as dinner there.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:31 am |

      Don't you never say nuthin' bad 'bout Texas or I will tan your hide!

      November 29, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • End Religion

      I'll have you know stubbed my toe last week, while watering my spice garden, and I only cried for 20 minutes!

      November 29, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Sponge Bob and Patrick on one of the Best Days Ever!

      First go like this, spin around – stop! Double-take three times... one, two, three. Then... pelvic thrust! Woo! Woo! Stop on your right foot – Don't forget it! Now it's time to bring it around town. Bring it around town! Then you do this, and that, this and that, and this and that, and then...

      November 29, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  19. Rabbi

    In Judaism prayer is not about asking for things, but about seeking the strength to do the right thing. http://blog.beliefnet.com/truthsyoucanuse/2012/11/28/can-you-pray-to-win-the-lottery/

    November 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • nosurprise

      Agree...and winning the lottery is a side issue...

      Let G-d give you the Wisdom to walk in His Peace and His Joy; winning the lottery will be a Blessing if He is One with you in your desire...

      November 28, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • nosurprise

      G-d adds wealth and He adds no sorrow with it...Proverbs 10:22

      Winning something is not the issue, let the Peace of G-d reign in all you do...Romans 14:17.

      November 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Clyde

    It would probably be better to pray to be hit by lightning. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, etc.

    November 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Roger that

      I agree. Prayer is pointless.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      meditation is better for you.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
About this blog

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.