Of course, there are psychological aspects, you can unify a community or concentrate on your life goals. I feel like Christians try to do something like that when they say that prayer should be a dialog.

The thing is, those things can be obtained by many non-religion connected practics and you can objectively examine what is more effective in which aspect.

I'd like to focus on the belief (not really widespread, I think) that everything in the universe is scientifically explainable AND you should never rely onto a "miracle" - you shouldn't count with the fact that God can affect your life.

In other words, I'm trying to understand the quote:

“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.” ― Ignatius of Loyola

-especially the second part, which is sometimes formulated as "pray as if everything..."

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    I would suggest changing the term rationalist. Rationalist in philosophy has a very specific meaning from what you mea in your post (Rationalist as in Descartes or Spinoza), which makes your post misleading. You seem to mean the term atheist and/or materialist . Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 21:02
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    @AlexanderSKing No, I'm asking about theistic rationalism, as described in the 3rd paragraph. My question is just what is the point of "praying as if everything depended on God".
    – Probably
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 6:31
  • no @Probably, you are not asking about theistic rationalism or theistic anything. you are restricting the question to the context "that everything in the universe is scientifically explainable ...". i don't think God submits to scientific explanation. that's what we mean by "supernatural". perhaps Spinoza or Einstein might disagree, but i don't thing the concept of God, which is what theism is all about, is restricted to the natural, which might be called "creation" as opposed to "creator". Commented Jul 24, 2016 at 1:20
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    @robertbristow-johnson Sorry, I can't agree. There are tons of people believing everything is explainable and yet, God exists. And there are so many approaches to this! Some christians for ex. say God is an interpretation of the world and every miracle is a scientifically describable force that underwent the God's will. And I think (from the book "The final theory") that even the best ranked physicists today can't really agree upon that everything is explainable, even those who are materialists - so there's no clear border between "clear, explainable" and "supernatural".
    – Probably
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 10:09
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    @Probably Gödel's theorem is about axiomatic formal theories, it doesn't have anything to do with religion or miracles or god.
    – E...
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


If you believe that the universe exists, in some sense, inside of God --for instance, in God's mind --then it's not incompatible to simultaneously believe that God did something, that it proceeded from entirely naturalist causes, and that also it proceeded from human will. The metaphor I prefer for this is a writer writing a book. If the book is well-written, everything that happens in the book will happen for reasons that are consistent and explainable with the framework of the story. But ultimately, it is the author that makes things happen. Given that scenario, does it make sense for the character to try to commune with the author? If every character is equally a creation of the author, and if the author is committed to the internal realism of the narrative, then it what sense is it an advantage for a character to reach out to the author?

Possible answers (a) the character finds it psychologically beneficial to contemplate the author, (b) there's no guarantee that the author will always respect realism (c) it is possible (i.e. one cannot rule out the possibility that) that the author can find a way to intervene in the story on behalf of the character that either does respect realism or apparently does so.

The higher level question is then, why do both? Why both trust in God and in your own efficacy? Or, conversely, why does God act both directly, and through us? We may not be able to answer the second question, from God's perspective, but we can craft an answer to the first. First, in order to be personally aligned with God and God's will (see Esther 4:13 and Ezekiel 33: 1-9). In other words, God will do it with or without us, but it's better that God do it with us. Second, because human efficacy is limited, but God's is not. In other words, we try as hard as we can, and inevitably fall short, but God does not fall short. Therefore we pray AND act.

  • What if I believed that the probability of a random lucky thing happening is (rationally) the same as any other...?
    – Probably
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 7:18
  • @Probably It's not obvious to me in what way you think that changes things. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 13:24
  • Say you're a doctor in the middle of the opperation and by praying you risk the patient's life. Then it's crutial wheter a prayer actually has an impact or wheter all the impact it has only comes from coincidence.
    – Probably
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 14:28
  • @Probably OK, I understand you now. I've edited and added a new section to clarify. Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 22:50
  • You're supposing it's possible to pray and act at once but I was trying to give you a situation where it could be contraproductive.
    – Probably
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 5:24

This strikes me as odd (I was very close to the Jesuits in school and when I was living with my parents.)

You depend on the moment-by-moment sustaining of your being by God or you would fall back into nothingness. Miracles are just what is obvious, they are not God coming out of hiding to do something for you !!! To say that many of these things can be had by other means is Pelagianism. Yes, you can relax and you can center by other means but that makes contact with God something peripheral. This is very odd. Everything isn't scientifically explainable. God isn't, though reason can know some things about God. As to relying on miracles nobody does that. At least not for any sustained amount of time. You are speaking of what is called "tempting God" not doing what you as a responsible intelligent agent are able to do

the 4 standard aims of prayer are ACTS Adoration Contrition Supplication and Thanksgiving. None of which you mentioned

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