Saving the Planet: Praying Won’t Do It

“Humans are expected to respect the environment;they are not to kill for food but are to treat all life with respect.” Plants will suffice for food for humans and animals; there will be no bloodshed.” NJBC

The planet won’t be saved by a creator God but by the creator God’s collaboration with humans. The creator God has already given the directives according to the 4 billion believers of the Abrahamic religions who believe in the Sacred writings of their religion. This Sacred collaboration happens through human consciousness which leads to an awareness of the creator God’s presence by continually experiencing the Spirit as God breathing upon the human soul. This is explained later in this post.

Let’s review God’s directives to humanity.

Keep in mind that the scriptures we call the Bible, like any sacred writings, are the fruit of the author’s awareness of the Divine revelation, positive or negative, which inspired that person to write down its content in the format of a story, metaphor, allegory, or semi-historical record. There is a definite message woven within each of the narratives mentioned above. The following is a segment of the narrative about the creation of world found in the book of Genesis.

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….. And God saw that it was good. Then God, formed a person from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being.” Gen 2:7

“The divine intent expressed by“let us”, is an echo of the language of the divine assembly. In ancient Near Eastern literature, the gods decided the fate of humankind…but Yahweh (God) alone makes the decision…the human is a statue of the deity not a static being but by action who will rule. In the ancient Near East, the king was often called the image of the deity and was vested with God’s authority.” 1.

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

“The nuance of the verb “subdue the earth” is to master, “to bring forcefully under control”. Force is necessary at the beginning to make the untamed land serve the humans.” 2

“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” Gen 1 :26-31

“Humans are expected to respect the environment;they are not to kill for food but are to treat all life with respect.” Plants will suffice for food for humans and animals; there will be no bloodshed.” 3

  • Footnotes: NJBC, 1,2,3 New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Brown, Fitzmyer, Murphy
  • For more information about the authors of Genesis: go to: Texts of Genesis: J, E, and P

There are over 2.2 billion Christian believers, 15 million Jews, 1.9 billion adherents of Islam. So 4 billion of the estimated 8 billion world population are believers of the creator God of Abraham. This means that half of the world population believes in a creator God who demands that they respect the earth and its inhabitants. How much evidence is there of any effort to stop the harm being done to the planet by the many forms of pollution, destruction of natural forests, use of fossil fuels?

The biggest deterrent to action is the fact that humans, who believe in a theistic God, expect that God to intervene in human affairs for their safety and well-being and that of the world’s inhabitants. Prayers are offered to have God influence humans to act. It hasn’t and will not work! Two thousand years of history shows that humans, rarely if ever, are moved by the “grace” of God.

Most people “pray” that God will do this or do that. “May God bless you!” “Let’s pray that our team wins!” “Pray for the victims of the earthquake”.

Humans expect God to be like earthly rulers who protect their subjects and answer their petitions for help.

I’m not trying to be disrespectful, or cynical. I just keep asking myself why God seems to answer the prayers of some and not the prayers of others! Why does God stand by while there are so many natural disasters, wars, disease, etc.? We humans expect God to intervene and protect us. Yet such events happen much to our dismay or disbelief.

The Israelites believed that they were God’s chosen people and that God would protect them if they obeyed the commands given to them by their God.

An example of God’s protection is found in the book of Joshua: “The Lord said to Joshua: With my help, you and your army will defeat the king of Jericho and his army, and you will capture the town. Here is how to do it:” eventually “The walls of Jericho fell flat. Then the soldiers rushed up the hill, went straight into the town, and captured it. They killed everyone, men and women, young and old, everyone…..even every cow, sheep, and donkey.” Joshua 6

Did the author, Joshua, believe that Yahweh ordered him to execute those directives? If the Israelites believed that they were God’s chosen people then all other people were the enemies of God!

Let’s review the following for more context.

Since the beginning humans have created gods or a god who was a ruler of their world on land, sea, and in the sky. They prayed to a god, and believed that such god was watching them and that god would protect or even punish them with acts of nature, sickness and even death. For more about this you should read Karen Armstrong’s book: A History of God

Today, when we pray for the victims of crime, disease, tragedies and the like, we hope for some sort of response from God that will provide a remedy, comfort, a cure, victory, and even a win for the home team. Perhaps it’s a form of expressing hope to avoid defeat, loss, death. or the doom and sorrow that follow. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with wishing or hoping for a good outcome but is that the business of God? Whose side is God on, anyway?

We’ve all heard the saying,”God helps those who help themselves“which emphasizes the importance of self-initiative. The expression is known around the world and is used to inspire people for self-help. The phrase originated in ancient Greece as “the gods help those who help themselves” and may originally have been proverbial, although it has been commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin was a deist. Deism is essentially the view that God exists, but that God is not directly involved in the world. Deism pictures God as the great “clockmaker” who created the clock, wound it up, and let it go. Therefore there is an implicit need for us to help ourselves.

On the contrary, the religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity have always held that God is providential and intervenes on our behalf. This is known as theism and is similar to the polytheism of the pagans. The major difference is that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity hold that there is but one God. This is known as monotheism. Sometimes, while the pagans believed that there were many gods (polytheism) they also came to believe that one may have been more powerful and had control over the others (polytheism).

In Greek mythology the chief Greek deity, Zeus, was considered the ruler, protector, and father of all gods and humans. He regulated the celestial phenomena and defined the laws that govern people. He held the lightning bolt with one hand and the scepter with the other, which had an eagle at the top. He was known as the ‘Lord of Justice’.

Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture and protected the trees, plants and grains. Poseidon was the brother of Zeus. He was allotted the kingdom of the sea but he was also considered the god of horses and earthquakes. This is why he was called “the earth-shaker”. 

Then there was Thanatos, the god or personified spirit (daimon) of non-violent death and his counterpart in Roman mythology is Mors. Thanatos was the brother of Hypnos (Sleep) who was the god or personified spirit (daimon) of sleep. He dwelt in Erebos, the land of eternal darkness beyond the gates of the rising sun, and rose into the sky each night in the train of his mother Nyx (Night).

In case you think that only the pagans believed in polytheism, or many gods, many of the pagans, who eventually converted to Christianity, had some influence on the the Roman Catholic Church which then copied a similar legion of “gods” whom they call “saints”. You may say that’s ridiculous because they were humans who were designated as saints because of their self immolation or some miraculous intervention. Yet any Catholic will tell you that many saints are patrons of some action or profession and that they pray to that saint to “intercede” on behalf of the petitioner and request a favor from the Almighty for them or someone else. (Sounds a bit like Greek polytheism to me.)

According to one Catholic nun who taught me,”every saint is in heaven, very near to God, and every saint can bring your prayers and petitions to him! They are not picky about who asks for their prayer or for what cause. Thankfully, most believe that there is no competition whatsoever among them as to who is the greatest, or who gets most prayer requests! So, if you do not know which saint to pray to, you just pray to one of your favorites. They are all in heaven with God, who listens to their prayer.”

Traditionally people call on patron saints for specific causes.

For example,there’s St. Anthony of Padua who is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and supposedly responds to this jingle-like prayer: “Anthony, Anthony come around, something is lost and cannot be found!”

More pagan like are the images and artifacts like statues, relics, medals, and scapulars that are supposed to have “sacred power” or influence which is connected to the Almighty. This is not the actual teaching of the Catholic Church but many Catholics believe this and wouldn’t do without them.

Actually, Kateri, the Mohawk form of Catherine, was named in honor of St. Catherine of Siena. Kateri is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church and is the patron of the environment and ecology.

Here’s a long list of such saints:

All of this borders on superstition yet many still rely on such artifacts or prayers as protection, petition, or intervention on behalf of God or at least as an indication that they respect the power or holiness that comes as a result of using them.

A New Theology is Necessary


Creation: God’s Spirit Breathing on the Human Soul

God’s collaboration with humans can be interpreted as the human soul being infused with the Spirit or breath of God In the Tanakh, the word ruach generally means wind, breath, mind, spirit. In a living creature it means breath. In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:10 The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

In mankind, ruach further denotes the principles of life that possesses reason, will, and conscience. Ruach imparts the divine image to man and constitutes the animating dynamic that results in man’s nephesh. The Hebrew word nephesh or nefesh (נפש, pronounced “neh-fesh”) in the Hebrew Bible generally translates to “soul”

It is also translated into English as: living being, life, creature, mind, desires, heart, appetite, persons. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (nephesh) and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5,

Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.” (Matthew 23:27, and in Psalm 19, David wrote: “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory… no speech or words are used, no sound is heard; Yet their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth”. 

With all this in mind, we can assume that in the Judo-Christian heritage, it was believed that humans would develop a new theology or understanding of God as the result of the evolution of their consciousness.

This reinforces the theory that human consciousness is constantly evolving which is supported by the fact that there is now a collective awareness by humans that the care of the the planet is of primary importance.

Actually, we can assume that the evolution of human consciousness had started when the universe and all that is in it was created. This, some modern theologians refer to as the Alpha or starting point of creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1: 1-5

According to Karen Armstrong, in her work, A History of God, “Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Cardin saw the whole evolutionary struggle as a divine force which propelled the universe from matter to spirit, to personality, and finally beyond personality to God. God was immanent and incarnate in the world, which had become the sacrament (sign) of his presence…. Christians should cultivate the cosmic portrait of Christ in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians and Ephesians: Christ, in this view, was the omega point of the universe, the climax of the evolutionary process when God becomes all in all.”

“Scripture tells us that God is love, and science shows that the natural world progresses towards ever-greater complexity and to greater unity in this variety.This unity-in-differentiation was another way of regarding that love that animates the whole of creation.”

Our responsibility to nature is to manage and take care of it. As we read in Genesis 1″We are, in fact, the masters, like it or not.” This quote from Thomas Lewis in his article The Natural Man, is very accurate; “we are the masters of the earth”. We manage the earth with everything that happens. We work with everything, with the natural disasters that happen, we manage those and work to rebuild the damage that they cause. Whatever happens on the earth we manage it or ignore it. Humans are responsible to take care of the earth.

Prayer is not the answer. We are aware of the creator’s presence in all of creation which includes us. We worship God by caring for creation, for the creatures as well as the environment.

Listen to and reflect on these biblical authors’ interpretation of God’s revelation about creation.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind. — Job 12:7-10 (ESV)

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. — Romans 1:20 (NLT)

However, BEWARE!! The prophet discerns, through inspiration, that human consciousness evolves and humans must awaken to the knowledge (science) that modern climate change is a precursor to devastation.

The earth dries up and withers,
    the world languishes and withers;
    the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
    under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
    violated the statutes,
    broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
    and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
    and few people are left. —Isaiah 24:4-6 (NRSV)

Do Not Be Anxious

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” 

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’ (In God’s kingdom, all exists according to the Will of God-the Divine Plan. Caring for the planet is the Will of God and so for all to be well- we MUST care for all creation,)

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Mt 6:25-34

Finally, a few concluding thoughts are offered.

The creation of the world is not only a process which moves from God to humanity. God demands newness from humanity; God awaits the works of human freedom.” Nikolai Berdyaev

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Saving the planet requires action. Not Prayer.

The Role of Individuals in Protecting the Environment – Video & Lesson Transcript |

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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