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Fun with church signs

The sign at a local church has been updated to read…

Prayer should be our first resource… not our last resort.

I’ve written about prayer before (as have plenty of others), so this may seem like an easy target. However, I think the usual arguments of "prayer does nothing" or "prayer is the way to feel good about doing something while actually doing nothing at all" don’t quite cover this one.

In saying that prayer should be our first resource, not our last resort, this church is indicating that the first thing you should do is pray. Not act. Not evaluate. Not consider.

What’s wrong with that? In my opinion, it advocates laziness. It advocates an abdication of responsibility. Rather than deal with something directly in a real way, the church says, you should first pray for the intervention (or assistance) of a divine being. The implication is that, if I pray and my prayer is "answered," I can get away with not actually doing anything.

There’s a distinction that needs to be made, I think, between this type of taking the "easy way out" and the type of ingenuity that inspires the invention of time-saving techniques or appliances. Techniques and gadgets are the result of real effort. They’re measurable, tangible, useful, and provide a real, repeatable, consistent benefit to those who use them.

Prayer is simply wishing. Prayer is saying, "I hope I don’t have to do anything." Prayer is using ancient mythology and superstition for the express purpose of removing personal responsibility. That calm feeling that people report having when they pray would seem to come from the belief that they no longer have any responsibility… that everything will be fine… and that they didn’t have to lift a finger.

Actions get things done. Prayer is a hindrance.

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