Thoughts and Prayers

In his lazy learners and lax disciples talk at the April 2021 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church President Russell M Nelson emphasized the importance of developing faith in Jesus Christ through intentional effort and action. He refers to doubters as “lazy learners and lax disciples” and blames them for not being able to “choose to believe” and instructs them to “stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters”.

Faith Sufficient to Stop Rain and Faith to Persevere The Rain

Nelson then concludes his talk with a story about visiting a series of Polynesian Islands during the wet season for some outdoor meetings with church members. He notes that they all prayed for the rain to stop so they could have their meetings in peace. Nelson remarks that in Samoa, Fiji, and Tahiti the rain stopped just as the meetings began, but in Tonga, the rain didn’t stop.

Two years ago, Sister Nelson and I visited Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Tahiti. Each of those island nations had experienced heavy rains for days. Members had fasted and prayed that their outdoor meetings would be protected from the rain.

In Samoa, Fiji, and Tahiti, just as the meetings began, the rain stopped. But in Tonga, the rain did not stop. Yet 13,000 faithful Saints came hours early to get a seat, waited patiently through a steady downpour, and then sat through a very wet two-hour meeting.

We saw vibrant faith at work among each of those islanders—faith sufficient to stop the rain and faith to persevere when the rain did not stop.

Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains
By President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"We saw vibrant faith at work among each of those islanders—faith sufficient to stop the rain and faith to persevere when the rain did not stop." President Russell Nelson |
“We saw vibrant faith at work among each of those islanders—faith sufficient to stop the rain and faith to persevere when the rain did not stop.” President Russell

He praises the “vibrant faith” of the islanders, and points out that the faith was both “sufficient to stop the rain” in some places and sufficient to “persevere when the rain did not stop”. This is a common tactic used when leaders want their logic to work both ways. They attempt to “have their cake and eat it too”. They will claim the successful faith when the miraculous occurs (due of course to their faith) and simultaneously will claim that the faith was also successful when the miracle does not occur (due of course to the faith again), it’s a win-win since any outcome can be credited to the faith. There is a logical flaw in crediting faith both for a miracle and for no miracle. If faith is considered the sole reason for a miracle, then it would logically follow that lack of faith is the reason for no miracle.

Thoughts and Prayers

In reality, what do thoughts and prayers do? There is no evidence to suggest that thoughts and prayers have any tangible effect on the world, such as finding keys, winning a big game, stopping crime, cancer, acts of terrorism, or war. While thoughts and prayers may provide comfort and support to those in need, practical actions and solutions are necessary to address and solve the underlying issues causing these problems.

The “March for Our Lives” demonstrated at the US Capital and states “We’re tired of #ThoughtsAndPrayers and empty promises.” They spelled out thoughts and prayers in bodybags on the lawn in front of the capital.

Each body bag on this lawn represents 150+ lives lost since Parkland.

Four years ago, we organized the largest youth-led march since the Vietnam war. And what have we gotten? 170,000+ gun-related deaths, a lot of talk, and not a single federal law to address this crisis.

This is a poignant reminder that thoughts and prayers are not stopping violence or disaster. Theologians may point out that our ways are not the Lord’s ways and that He works in mysterious ways. We can only agree that if God is there and if he is listening to prayers, it is mysterious indeed that nothing much comes of them.

Benefits of Prayer

Even though the efficacy of prayer is debatable, there are likely other benefits. The benefits of prayer can be subjective and vary among individuals. Some people may experience a profound impact on their well-being through prayer, while others may find different spiritual or contemplative practices more meaningful.

Studies have suggested that prayer can reduce psychological stress, regardless of the god or gods a person prays to, a result that is consistent with a variety of hypotheses as to what may cause such an effect.

Though, the same could be said for meditations and mindfulness. These both increase grattitude and well-being too.

What are your thoughts on prayers? Are they effective or just meaningful? Is it a mental check-in with yourself as much as with any heavenly being? How do you reconcile the lack of answers to prayers? Tell your story at today!

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