“I’ll pray for you”

prayerWhen someone says, “I’ll pray for you,” what’s the polite response?

I’d say it depends on the intent, and the situation.

We all know that “I’ll pray for  you” can be a Christian’s passive-aggressive way (or a passive-aggressive Christian’s way) of putting you down. It can mean, “You’re such a wretched specimen of humanity that you need divine intervention in order to avoid your just punishment of eternal torment by fire.” True, many Christians believe (or say they believe) that the same is true of themselves. That’s not unusual — lots of people put other people down because of their own deep-seated sense of insecurity or lack of self-worth.

If someone’s clearly being passive-aggressive about it, you might have a hard time responding politely (or even civilly). But passive-aggressiveness is a two-edged sword. There are lots of ways to say “thanks,” and you can say it in a way that implies sarcasm (“Yeah, great, thanks.”), bemusement (“Um, thanks?”) or dismissal (a simple “Thanks” that’s delivered in a way that implies, “Whatever, Bubba”).

But lots of times, “I’ll pray for you” is a perfectly well-meaning gesture of goodwill. If a Christian hears that you’re going through some tough times, and says they’ll pray for you, they’re not only expressing sympathy, but even promising to do more than just keep you in their feelings.

Face it — if a friend of yours had connections in the real world, and offered to use them to make your life better, wouldn’t you be grateful? I sure would. Even if my friend’s connection turned out to be unable to help, I’d still be grateful to my friend for making the effort, even though it turned out to be useless. Likewise, just because there’s not one shred of evidence that praying for you will have any effect whatsoever on reality doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be grateful to someone for making the effort.

P.S. I’ve been unemployed for 6 months, and I have my very first in-person interview tomorrow, for a job with a TV program, a morning news broadcast you’ve almost certainly heard of (no, not that one). If any religious believers are reading this, I won’t mind at all if you pray for me to do well in the interview. Then again, if you hate this blog and pray for me to fart loudly in the middle of the interview, or walk into the room with toilet paper on my shoe, or otherwise fail spectaculary, I won’t mind that either.

(Prayer cartoon via The Bronze Blog)

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] « “I’ll pray for you” Sunday Sermon: “It takes faith to be an atheist” […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by vark on September 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    U will pray for me? will you also sacrifice a goat? (Hat tip to D Dennett).

    Reply

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