I’ll Pray for You

I posted this question in the comments under the latest Jesus and Mo:

I just read the link to Archbishop Nichols. Every time somebody says they will pray for me, or God bless you, I feel like they are pushing their beliefs in my face and I wish I had a polite way to counter that didn’t sound… well, nasty. I’ve found that saying “Do you know how fuckin’ stupid that sounds?” just alienates people. The thing is, we’ve grown up with people pushing nonsense, professing very silly beliefs in public. It’s an accepted part of our culture. Push back and we are accused of being strident. What works? “I don’t believe there is a God.”? “Do you realize that you are pushing your belief system at me when you say that?” “Please keep your religion to yourself and leave me out of it?” (Said with a gentle tone and a smile.) Suggestions anybody? Or do I continue to bite my tongue and rant on my website?

The comments that followed were very interesting:

andrea says:
if someone says they’ll pray for me i reply that i can find my own prey thanks.

Maggs says:
@ Darwin Harmless
Try this script.  Neighbour from across the road: “I’ll pray for you my dear.”
Atheist: “If it helps YOU, please go ahead.”

Sandy says:
Except in rare circumstances (usually involving a well-established relationship), I too have experienced feeling judged when someone declared their intention to pray for me. And like many here, I too have sought the perfect answer, which in my case (as in some above) tended strongly towards the sarcastic. Ironically, the more retaliatory my response, the more likely it only served to deepen the other’s conviction that I needed to be prayed for. Being a little wiser now, I’ve learned to simply accept that others generally do mean well, regardless of how they present themselves (or of how I perceive their presentations of self). For me, at this time, I choose a simple “thank you”, or a solemn head nod accompanied by a small but genuine smile.

nina says:
my response to “I will pray for you” is “thanks for nothing”

Lana says:
How about “I’ll think for you” ? I haven’t had the nerve to use that yet but it has crossed my mind.

Andrew Hall says:
When someone says, “I’ll pray for you,” I think I’ll reply, “Thanks, I’ll sacrafice another virgin for you.”
Hmmmm… maybe not – virgins ain’t cheap.

Diane G. says:
“I’ll pray for you.”
“I’m sure you mean well…”
Maybe at least gets ‘em thinking a bit…

Fisheggs says:
my response to “I will pray for you” is “OK, but please wash your hands thoroughly afterwards”.

yokohamamama says:
Sandy is right–bowing is the best response, if only because Westerners don’t do it much anymore. Knocks people off their stride a bit. Since bowing breaks eye contact, there’s no need to say anything. And if your smile is faintly ironic, I’m sure none of us will ever tell…:))

Shaughn says:
I am an agnostic. As such I am convinced that no rational statements can be made about the existence of god(s), and thus no such statements can be made about effect and efficacy of prayer to god(s) either.
Being a veteran and member of ‘the brotherhood of them who have been shot at’ I can acknowledge the statement that ‘in trenches, there are no atheists’. Even atheists turn wise and agnostic saying I am not religious but if there is a god or gods, they are welcome to help.
When the mere intention of prayer is good, just be politely grateful. Personally, I prefer the buddhists’ greeting in return.
It might help.

AbortedAgain says:
“Thank you. But please don’t sacrifice any animal because of me.”

DR says:
MY response to “I’ll Pray for you” is usually ‘fuck off and bother someone else”, it’s worked so far.

DA says:
When someone offers to pray for me, I take it the same way as someone saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to me around December. If it’s clearly a pushy or passive-aggresive move on their part, I’ll react accordingly and usually make fun of them. If they seem to me to mean well, I just say thanks and leave it at that because I don’t really care that much. It’s like when girls here in China call me handsome, as they do with virtually all foreign men; I don’t actually believe that it’s true, but they mean nothing bad by it.

kiyaroru says:
If someone offers to pray for me I shall use either:
to which god?
why would God obey a miserable sinner like you?

Buford says:
Statement: I’ll pray for you
Response: No, thank you.
It makes the point politely and in a way that no one can really object to (if that is your purpose).
Tea- No, thank you.
Sugar- No, thank you.
[anything you don’t desire]- No, thank you.

Darwin Harmless says:
To those who responded to my “What do you say when somebody says they will pray for you?” question, thanks for the suggestions. I realize that what I actually say is “I appreciate the thought,” with what I hope is a patronizing smile, and leave it at that. Depending on the source I might elaborate to “I don’t believe that there is any value in prayer, but I do appreciate the thought.” No point in saying more, or in insulting one whose intentions are good, even if unintentionally annoying.

I realize that I’m more interested in countering the thought than in putting down the speaker with a clever prepared speech.  I do find it annoying when, in Archbishop Nichols words, religious people ‘Make your faith more visible’.  I want the same acceptance to spreading my beliefs.  But there’s no point in being divisive or hurtful.


1 Comment »

  1. random ntrygg Said,

    October 5, 2010 @ 8:09 am

    Sadly, some people can only hear the truth when it’s painfully delivered.

    I find it is good to have a few quips on hand, often when I find myself in these situations, I am too stunned to react.

    So, by having a few in the back of the mind, lets you be able to respond.

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