Of all the problems with modern Christianity, our thoughts on prayer are fundamentally broken. Of all Christian teachings, prayer lends itself to projection of our philosophies and our desires. This has been true throughout history, and it is most especially true today.
In the Middle Ages, each local King as well as the Roman Catholic Church called on God in prayer to vanquish their enemies. In modern history in the United States, each side in the Civil War called on the same God to destroy the other side and to keep their own safe. This has continued through both World Wars and in every conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In the modern U.S. version of Christianity, the projection of modern thought on prayer has risen to a new extreme. Athletes routinely pray for victory and give God the credit. Middle class and upper-middle class members of our society routinely praise God for a higher paying job. Sales people praise God for meeting their sales quotes. Family members praise God for healing from a cancer treatment.
The problem comes when prayers don’t seem to be answered, and we are looking for explanation. If one athlete wins, another loses. For every person who gets a higher paying job, another person may lose a job or have to accept a lower paying job. For every sales person who meets a quota, another may miss a quota and get fired. For every successful cancer treatment, another may fail.
The same things happens to those who don’t actively pray. An athlete who doesn’t pray also wins. A worker who doesn’t pray also gets a higher paying job or meets a sales quota. A person who doesn’t pray gets successful cancer treatment. Life happens good or bad just as much to the Atheist as to the Christian.
The problem grows, for every seemingly answered prayer in Middle Class America, many poor children suffer every day from lack of food, medical care, and abuse. For every middle class worker who gets a better job, dozens more work minimum wage jobs which don’t provide the most basic of sustenance.
Globally the problem is worse, as Christians die from poverty and violence in the Middle East, South America, Africa, and throughout the world. In the current news, thousands are dying regularly in Aleppo, Syria as the world powers continue to wage war.
I still believe in the practice of prayer in the Christian walk. But, I am convinced that our modern philosophies on prayer on broken. Prayer itself is not broken, but how we think about and practice prayer is.