A Problem about the Morality of Some Common Forms of Prayer

(transl. Marcin Iwanicki)

  • Saul Smilansky University of Haifa, Department of Philosophy
Keywords: prayer; problem of evil; problem of petitionary prayer; philosophy of religion; Saul Smilansky


At a time of acute danger, people commonly petition God for help for themselves or their loved ones; such as praying that an avalanche heading in one’s direction be diverted, or that an organ donor be found for one’s dying child. Such prayer seems natural and, indeed, for believers, reasonable and acceptable. It seems perverse to condemn such typical prayer, as wrong. But once we closely examine what is actually happening in such situations, we shall see that frequently prayer of this sort is morally problematic. The author argues that such prayer ought to be seen as a form of action (rather than, say, mere hope), thereby needing to meet the higher moral standards ones which apply to actions; and that the assumption of the benevolence of the deity does not suffice to make such prayer legitimate.


Smilansky, Saul. „A Problem about the Morality of Some Common Forms of Prayer”. Ratio 25 (2012): 207–215. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2012.00532.x

Smilansky, Saul. „On Not Being Sorry about the Morally Bad”. W: Saul Smilansky, 10 Moral Paradoxes. Malden: Blackwell, 2007 [pol. „O braku współczucia dla osób moralnie złych”. W: 10 moralnych paradoksów, przeł. Wiktor Kostrzewski, 90–100. Kraków: WAM, 2009.

MURRAY, Michael J. „Does Prayer Change Things?”. W: Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion, red. Michael L. Peterson, 242–254. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.