When people get on social media and ask for prayers, whether it be for a loved one going through a hard time, or for a tragedy they read about in the news, or for a job interview to go well…
I feel…odd. Off balance for a minute even.
I’m not sure how to respond.
Do I “like” the post? Do I kick the sand and say, “Yeahhh….you GO, girl…!”
What’s the appropriate response to someone who assumes that prayer is even remotely part of something we, as nontheists, can, in good conscience, take part in?
As time has passed, I’ve distanced myself more and more from condoning any belief system that follows a book written by men, in a time that is no longer relevant to anything, a book that is filled with hate and bizarre vitriol, and that people wield as a weapon on a regular basis and use as an excuse to treat people like animals…
Even when you say “I only like the good parts of the bible!” to me (is that like saying you subscribe to Playboy only for the articles?)…I just can’t condone it any more than I condone the people who digest and regurgitate the “bad parts”.
But I’m frequently asked to pray.
Pray for me. Pray for my family. Pray for these fine people I know.
Why would you put that out there to people outside your church over something like, “Can you think good thoughts for us? Send some positivity our way? We’re going through a hard time.” Or a simple, “I need help through this struggle.”
In doing so, you would refrain from being presumptuous enough to assume that everyone still believes (or ever has believed) in your god and what you feel he or she can do for your current issue.
I will help you. I will think of you. I will hope for you. I will raise a toast to you. Any excuse for wine…
But I will not pray for you.
I’d like to think that if there was a deity out there that granted wishes like a Genie in a bottle, I would pray for the end of famine, for no more children to suffer at the hand of monsters, for women to walk alone without fear, for men to feel strong and confident regardless of unrealistic social “norms”. I would pray for the end of social injustice and outright cruelty. I’d like to think if there were a limited amount of granted wishes, I would wish for the things that would make our world better. I’d like to think that if the granted wishes weren’t unlimited, that the magic deity would never give someone a good parking space or the win in a pageant. Because he or she would have more important things to address…maybe get to the other things when all that is taken care of…prioritize a bit.
I fully believe that, when most people ask for prayers, it isn’t done with malice or in any underhanded intention to convert me, to pull me into the cult of Jesus or whatnot. The last few people I’ve seen put a request for prayers out there are good friends of mine.
I truly want whatever hard time you’re going through to be gentle, and I actually really do want you to get that job. I want everyone I love to be happy. And safe. And healthy.
But why would you ask me to pray? Honestly, what is it that I’m even supposed to do with that?
There are some people who will say, “Well, if you don’t like it, you can ignore it.”
Well, I suppose could, but that would be ignoring a plea from a friend who is reaching out for comfort. Much like I am not someone who will compromise myself and pray to a deity that I don’t believe exists, I also will not do that. That’s not who I am.
I just wonder if people who ask that of me, ask that of people who love them but don’t begin to believe in any of it, have actually given any real thought to what they are actually asking. My guess is they have not.
I’m not asking you to stop praying or requesting prayer from your fellow congregation members.
But maybe it’s time to consider what you’re asking of the rest of us.