The experiential problem for petitionary prayer

  • Shieva Kleinschmidt


Sometimes people petition God for things through prayer. This is puzzling, because if God always does what is best, it is not clear how these prayers can make a difference to what God does. Difference-Making accounts of petitionary prayer attempt to explain how these prayers can nonetheless influence what God does. I argue that, insofar as one is motivated to endorse a Difference-Making Account because they want to respect widespread intuitions about this feature of petitionary prayer, they should also be motivated to endorse an account of prayer that respects widespread intuitions about other central features of petitionary prayer. I describe three problematic cases and the intuitions we have about them, and show how these intuitions restrict any Difference-Making account of petitionary prayer.


Petitionary prayer God Philosophy of religion Divine attributes 


  1. Choi, I. (2014) Is petitionary prayer superfluous? In Kvanvig, J. (Ed.), Oxford studies in philosophy of religion: Volume 7, pp. 32–62.Google Scholar
  2. Flint, T. (1998). Divine providence: The molinist account. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Howard-Snyder, D., & Howard-Snyder, F. (2010). The Puzzle of Petitionary Prayer. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2, 43–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Murray, M., & Meyers, K. (1994). Ask and it will be given to you. Religious Studies, 30, 311–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Parker, R., & Bradley R. (Forthcoming). A possible worlds solution to the puzzle of petitionary prayer. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion.Google Scholar
  6. Rowe, W. (1979). The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism. American Philosophical Quarterly, 16(4), 335–341.Google Scholar
  7. Stump, E. (1979). Petitionary prayer. American Philosophical Quarterly, 16(2), 81–91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations