Eleonore Stump, Petitionary Prayer Essay

1284 words - 6 pages

Eleonore Stump writes an article concerning her standing on petitionary prayer. Stump
starts her argument by defining petitionary prayer as simply asking God for something through
the act of prayer. Stump points out since this is the definition of petitionary prayer, prayers of
praise and worship cannot be considered petitionary since they are not making requests but
instead displaying a sense of loyalty. Stump responds to an argument by Kant stating petitionary
prayer was pointless on the account of God will do what is right regardless of you asking. Kant
also states petitionary prayer is, at its worse, an insult to God because it implies the human
knows better than God what is right or because the human is asking God to perform an act other
than what is considered justice. Stump intends to defend petitionary prayer against the
accusations of pointless or insulting. Throughout her article, Stump argues against previous
problems associated with petitionary prayer. The problem of petitionary prayer is,
1. If God is all-good, he would this world to be the best of any possible world.
2. If God is omniscient, he would know how to make this world the best possible world.
3. If God is omnipotent, he can make it the best of any possible world.
4. Therefore, it is [assumedly] already the best of any possible world.
5. Petitionary prayer asks for the world to be in another form than it is.
6. But that would make the world less than perfect, which God would never do.
7. Therefore, either petitionary prayer is pointless since it asks for what God is going to carry out anyway, or it is pointless because it asks for God to carry out something he would never do.
8. Therefore, petitionary prayer is rendered pointless.
While Stump disagrees with this argument, she also disagrees with Aquinas’s argument
that petitionary prayer has a point. In a nutshell, Aquinas argues that God knew we were going to
pray before we ever did, so our prayer is just part of his ultimate plan. Stump disagrees with this
because it is not a strong enough argument to support petitionary prayer not being pointless.
Aquinas’s argument unintentionally suggests since God was going to do said action anyway then
there is no point in even asking. Aquinas’s argument also has a flaw in that it seems to take away
our free will. If our prayers are of Gods ultimate plan, then do we truly have free will?
Stump’s solution suggests a certain kind of anthropomorphism where we view God as a human
friend. However, there are two problems with this method. The first problem is the danger of
possibly becoming a slave. The human can become so overcome by the superiority of their
“friend” (i.e. God) that they become a slave-like follower that loses their will. The second
problem is the danger of becoming spoiled children because all their wishes are met by God
through prayer. Accordingly, if either or both of these problems occurred, the “friendship”
between human and God would die...

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