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)
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    July 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
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  7. BESTY

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    June 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  10. marylyn

    dear jesus.. i ask for the lucky number to wenn lotto bcuz i need to help my selp and my family and i realy donate in church for the GOD.s bcuz with hem we arr not here in this world.. pls geve me a dream a lucky number today...or send it into my email.. thanks jesus.. we love u so much jesus Amen..

    June 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  11. sam

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    June 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
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    June 6, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  13. Celine

    I want to make a Testimony about a Real Spell caster i saw people talking about him and i contact him about my situation of my family issue between my father and mother who are in a fight for 4 years and they are not together and this make me cry everyday because i love them both and i want them together and even the cause of there fight is my Boyfriend who was Italian and am American , my father like my Boyfriend but mum want me to marry an American citizen as i am and this cause a very big fight between my mum and my dad,i contact this Spell caster (***dr.ifaogungbe@live.com***) and his mobile device number is +254702634491) when i see a lot and different help he has helped people online and testimony about him make me feel confortable because there is many fake ones from Nigeria,but this man is from Kenya and he is very powerful and he is Kind as well,i have contacted him for the past 9 days and as am writing this to the world,i want you all know that my father and my mother is now back together and they agree on me in doing what my mind choose and i am telling you people reading this that me and Toni is now together and my parent know about it,when this man tell me they will always listen to me,i thought it not gonna happen but he did some spells for me and the love they have for each other is more stronger than before..thank you so much Spell Caster and God will reward you for doing Good things with your spell//if anybody want to contact him here is his contact ***dr.ifaogungbe@live.com*** and his mobile device number is +254702634491
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    June 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  14. clara jones

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    May 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  15. Mabel

    My Name is Doreen, i am so happy because an India spell caster helped me
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    back then contact Doctor Zaza now via email: indiaspellcaster@gmail.com

    May 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  16. Sophia

    Hello Friend i have something to share with you !!!

    There is an great joy in my heart which i want to share with every one
    that is privilege to listen to me.My name is Monica, i am from USA.I have a
    misunderstanding with my Lover few years ago which led to us broken up and
    he never wanted to hear my voice again because he saw a beautiful love more
    prettier than my self but as time want on i Met Doctor Zaza a great spell
    caster (medicine man ) from India,i contact him through his email and
    explain every thing to him and then he said that i shouldn't worry that my
    lover will come back to me on his knees begging for forgiveness. i bought
    some item which he told me to buy for the preparation of the spell and
    after every thing was prepared he told me that my lover will come to me
    with 24 hours begging and my greatest joy now is that he actually came back
    to me and fell on his knees begging for forgiveness and today we are happy
    with each other. Do you have any problem with your loved one and you do not
    know what to do? Well worry no more because Doctor Zaza can provide you
    with a spell to get he or she back with the help of a spell just as he
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    May 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  17. Sophia

    i am very happy today for what God used doctor Zaza an India spell caster
    to do in my life. i had misunderstanding with my husband in the past and so
    it led to us breaking up for 3 years but one day i saw a post of Mrs Rebeca
    who posted on the internet that Doctor Zaza an India spell caster helped
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    Doctor Zaza said. Do you have a problem with you Husband, boy friend, girl
    friend, relations or in your office and you think you have lost them?worry
    no more because Doctor Zaza the India spell caster can help you just as he
    helped me bring my Husband back okay. contact Doctor Zaza today via email:

    May 22, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  18. Doreen

    I am the happiest person on earth today because today My five years run
    away lover came back to me on his knees with tears on his eye begging me to
    forgive him and accept him back, Doctor Zaza a great Spell caster made this
    possible with the help a spell. i saw his email on the internet where a
    girl post on how Doctor Zaza helped her so i decided to contact his and he
    told me that every thing will be fine and now i am happy because Doctor
    Zaza is a man of his world because every went well as he promised me. Are
    have misunderstanding with your love or his you love seeing someone ex ?
    what is your problem that you which to solve? contact Doctor Zaza today via
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    May 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  19. Franklin

    My Name is Franklin..I never believed in Love Spells or Magics until I met this special spell caster once when i went to Africa to Execute some business..He is really powerful.The woman i wanted to marry left me 3 weeks to our weeding ceremony and my life was upside down.she was with me for 3 years and i really love her so much..she left me for another man with no reason..when i called her she never picked up my calls and she don’t want to see me around her…so,when i told the man what happened.he helped me to do some readings,and after the readings he made me to realize that the other man has done some spells over my wife and that is the reason why she left me..he told me he will help me to cast a spell that bring her back.At first i was skeptical but i just gave it a try…In 2 days,she called me herself and came to me apologizing..I cant believe she can ever come back to me again EMAIL: dr.okosodo@yahoo.com .... CONTACT HIM TODAY VIA THIS EMAIL ADDRESS dr.okosodo@yahoo.com AS HIS POWERS ARE SO STRONG AND VERY EFFECTIVE AND HAS NO BAD EFFECT INSTEAD IT HAVE A VERY GOOD RESULT AFTER CASTING THE SPELL.

    May 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  20. Karen Jones

    My name is Karen Jones from UNITED States i was heart broken when my lover dumped me for another girl, i was really in love with him without him i was empty until i contacted priest dr.okosodo for a love binding spell, he cast a spell for me to get my lover back and my lover came back after 2days when he cast the spell i will advise any one in any kind of problem to contact priest dr.okosodo for any kind of spell on his email: dr.okosodo@yahoo.com

    May 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
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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.