Comments on the
"I'll Pray for You" Subject
Sorry, we simply cannot post all of the many comments received. We included a sufficient number to show diversity of responses and opinions. Some had to be trimmed for length.
I actually get told this by good, kind hearted relatives often. I used to chuckle a bit under my breath when they expressed this to me but after a while I got a little fed up with it. So now I tell them, " You are not praying hard enough. Pray harder because it's not working".
To me this serves two purposes: 1) it gives me the means to give them the hint that their prayers are meaningless to me personally by making a joke out of it, and 2) it gives me the means to make them think about what they are doing in their lives and that they are just wasting their time. In addition, making a joke out of it, seems to give them the hint and not offend anyone.
This also allows me to keep the joke going because it seems the same people always say this over time. I can respond, "It's still not working. Come on, you have to pray harder. Maybe you are not doing it right?". I love to see their puzzled expressions. It's like cussing at your dog in a happy, pleasant voice. They sit there wagging their tail as if you are praising them, not having a clue to what your really saying.
My reply to "I'm praying for you" or "We will put you in our prayers" is..."Okay." It gives the hint that you don't really think their effort (in praying) has any value.
My response would be “It is a comfort that you will be thinking of me”. I have in fact been touched by Christians saying prayers for me, not because a god might answer them but because it is a sign of their concern for me.
I have come to the conclusion of late that “God is love” – in other words, a religious expression of people’s love for their fellow human beings.
Non-religious people have simply said they are thinking of me and, for me, the end result is the same. This shows that the religious packaging is not necessary for people to think kind thoughts.
Re: when somebody tells me "I'll pray for you", I always smile and say "If that makes you feel better, go ahead." This is my response to those with good intentions.
For those who do a "drive-by" praying at me, I simply say "YUCK!! Get it off me! It buuuuuurrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnssssss!!" And then I go wash.
This subject is a delicate one and hinges a lot on what your relationship is to the person using (the expression) and his or her motivation. In its simplest form, it may have no meaning at all having anything to do with morality or humanism. It's just something he's said all his life and never gave a thought to. In such a case the reply depends on your relationship and purpose and the best answer might simply be "Thank you" and let it go at that rather than creating an issue with someone not ready for it.
On the other hand , if the person using the expression is a thoughtful type who might well be a Bright if the whole issue were called to his attention, it might be advantageous to do just that in a simple non-confrontational way and let him think about it.
So the answer to your question is not so simple. Think about that.
I just give them a slight smile and nod my head and go about my business. I think that lets them know that I am not overjoyed about being prayed for. Another response could be, “Thanks, but I can handle this on my own.” It depends on who it is that is trying to help me as to what kind of response I use.
“Thank you John - but you know I'm a bright.” If he doesn't know that or even know what a bright is, this may lead to a pleasant conversation about brightness.
I actually had an opportunity to use my "I'll pray for you" response: "Thank you for caring! And if praying for me makes you feel better, at least it's doing some good" ... and then I fumed for hours about the arrogance of this person, that she assumed that she had a direct line to a god!
The correct response to this is identical to the correct response to the comment 'God Bless You'. The sentiment expressed by people who believe in certain situations is to invoke part of their belief in God. It is an act of graciousness. Simply because you do not share that worldview is no excuse to meet their graciousness with a (albeit gentle or even clever) rebuke.
Think of it this way. If you were Christian, and a Muslim said to you, 'Allah be with you', the correct response would not be to let him/her know that you would replace 'Allah' with 'God'. The correct (and gracious) response is 'Thank you'.
“Thoughts” is the secular equivalent to the social use of prayer. i.e. "You will be in my thoughts." Hence my response has a double meaning.
Depending on the situation/person, this statement (pray for) is a sincere offer of support from a believer. While it does make me uncomfortable as a non-believer, this comment does not seem to me to require an acknowledgement of my humanistic worldview. To do so, may seem adversarial, curt, awkward or just plain egocentric. It's not always about my [non]belief system. If the person infers the secular meaning from my use of the word "thoughts", then there may be a dialogue around my worldview.
I generally respond with some variation of "Your kind thoughts are most appreciated." That throws the emphasis back to the individual...
My response depends on the person. If it's someone who has been confrontational and is really saying "F*** you," I respond with the traditional, "I'll be thinking for you!"
OTOH, if it's someone who means well but is simply clueless, I respond with, "Oh, please don't! If there's anyone up there, I really don't want to draw his attention!" That usually gets a laugh!
An intelligent community activist with whom I had worked with and respect took me by surprise when I related my concerns about the ill health of one of our friends. Do you want us "to pray for her" at our prayer circle? Now I knew that this would not bode well with our friend. I paused and hesitated to reply. I did not want to offend either. I do not recall my answer but I still feel it was inadequate.
May I suggest the word shihum, that is SHI.....HUM, with emphasis on second syllable. It was a word which my late uncle Andrew used and he said it expressed everything! He is what I would have described as a 'Bright'.
I'm generally non-confrontational. I don't push my beliefs on people as I know how much I resent them pushing theirs at me...
So if I'm told I'm in someone’s prayers or something similar, I usually respond with "Thank you - I understand the power of positive thinking". If they pick up on this, it gives me an opening to explain that I'm happy to know that people care for me, and that that knowledge in itself will be good for me.