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Do you want my prayers?

I mostly believe in the power of prayer. I have no solid proof that praying for something or about someone actually works, but as a person of faith, albeit not of the rock-solid kind, I like to think it helps. And I don't see how it could hurt. Right? I am looking at you, my faithless/atheist/agnostic blogging friends (and I will really be looking at you at the end of this post as well).

As I commented in another blog (probably in several blogs, actually, and perhaps even here), last year, a priest said that God answers our prayers, but not necessarily how we want them. I liked that thought. Well, not so much that it means I may not get what I want, but more so that it helps to explain why sometimes legions of people pray for something for days and weeks, and then it all seems for naught as they did not get what they so fervently prayed for. I can't say that if I prayed for something major, like the health of a loved one, and I did not get what I wanted, I would be okay with that. But thinking that my prayers are being answered in the way God planned helps me in everyday things.

Regardless, for me, praying is pretty personal. I tend to do it at home or at church, and I am not one to broadcast it. Which is why I often get annoyed when people or a news entity on Facebook posts about something bad that happened, and several or even dozens of people post that they are praying. It would be weird for me to pray for people I don't know or don't know well. But even if I do know the person, I don't feel the need to announce on Facebook that I just prayed for them. The whole thing seems a little insincere to me.

And that leads me to the larger point of this post: Should you pray for someone if you were not asked to? Will the people you saw on the news who just lost their house to a fire know or even care that you sent your prayers to them? What if they don't believe in God? Is it enough if you do, or will it just be offensive to them? And what about when you read about someone's exciting news or difficult event in their blog or twitter feed? There have been times I wanted to say, "I will say a prayer for you that you get through this" or something to that effect, but I don't if I know the person is not a believer or if I am unsure. So I may instead say something like, "I will keep you in my thoughts," even though that seems almost insincere to me. But I just don't want to risk offending that person.

Prayer can be a tricky thing, and it is obviously something I have thought about. What do you think about praying for people who don't necessarily want your prayers? If you don't believe in God, would you be offended if someone prays for you? Whether or not you are a person of faith, does it make sense to pray for random people? Is it a nice gesture that can't hurt or somewhat pointless because you have no connection to them?

I find myself ending this blog with "Like a Prayer" (Madonna) and "That's Why We Pray" (MC Hammer) rolling around my head. Maybe I better pray that that goes away...

P.S. I have a job interview on Thursday, and I will happily and gratefully accept your prayers, positive vibes, wishes of good luck, and anything else positive you might want to throw my way. :-)

Comments

Jessica R. said…
I agree that prayer is a very personal thing, and I pray for people all the time who may not necessarily want it. But I don't feel the need to ambush them by telling them I am either. It's personal to me, so if I want to pray for you, I will.

And I think as long as it's not said from a place of looking down your nose at someone, all kinds of prayers certainly can't hurt someone and, I believe, may ultimately help.
bluzdude said…
OK, as your heathen friend, I’ll chip in my two cents. For the most part, I agree with Jessica. If you want to pray for someone, do it. Does no harm, at that point. The key issue is actually telling them about it.

First of all, why tell them at all? Once you do, it becomes about you wanting credit rather than doing a benevolent deed. (The Facebook prayer postings strike me as particularly self-congratulatory.) And if prayer really works, you don’t need their consent or participation.

Now, if someone asked you specifically not to pray for them, then don’t. Or do… they’ll never know. You can respect their wishes for you not to bother them with it, and then do as you will.

When someone’s going through tough times, I generally tell them I’ll keep a good though for them, or send “best wishes.” It’s not insincere if you mean it. Sometimes if you just let people know that you’re in their corner, it can mean a lot. It would to me.

I remember, some years back, reading in the newspaper about a formal study on directed prayer. I went to Google it a year or two later, but was unable to find a reference to it. But the gist of it was that the group of hospital patients that were NOT prayed for (ie the Control Group) had same recovery rate as those that WERE prayed for but not told. And the group that was prayed for AND told about it, actually had a poorer recovery rate compared to the control group, because they then felt pressure to get better faster, which proved to be counter-productive.

Now whether it was a legitimate study or just thrown together, I couldn’t say (without finding the original source listing the testing entity). I vaguely remember that it was done at an Ivy League school like Harvard or Princeton, but I couldn’t swear to it.

As for me? I think praying is a nice enough diversion, but essentially a waste of time, akin to crossing your fingers and wishing on a star. BUT, I acknowledge that it can bring peace and comfort to those that believe in it. So there’s really no harm in it unless it becomes a required activity (outside of church).

Ultimately, it should remain a private issue. What I remember about my bible study (many, MANY years ago) is that God doesn’t like show-offs and holier-than-thou types. Unfortunately in our current Age of Media, nothing seems to count unless you’re seen on video doing it. And that attitude doesn’t serve God, it serves Man.

Long story short? Pray if you want to pray and don’t worry about what other people think. To thyself, be true. (Wait, is that the Bible, or Shakespeare?)

OK, I admit it… that was way more than 2 cents… ;o)
Facie said…
Jessica, you make a good point about not wanting to ambush someone. However, today I ran into someone I had not seen for about a year or more (we keep up via FB, but we are not close friends). She has been going through some stuff for awhile now, and I let her know that I had just come from mass and had prayed for her.

I told her about my blog post and about what you said, but it seemed to make sense in that moment to tell her, as well as acknowledge that I know she does not believe in God. She seemed okay with it, appreciative, but she is such a nice person that I cannot imagine her asking me to stop it.
Facie said…
Bluz: I am glad you weighed in! See my previous comment about my telling someone today that I had prayed for them, but I think it is more of what you said, so she knows that I am in her corner.

As for show-offs, I think of that on Ash Wednesday every year. We hear the reading/gospel about fasting but not complaining about it/making it known, but then we get ashes for all to see.

I have also read stories where prayer did work (e.g., the person got better after he had been in many people's prayers); I am sure there are studies and stories that support both.

I had to laugh at your line of "nothing seems to count unless you’re seen on video doing it." And I am thankful for that sometimes! :-)
chris h. said…
Have you ever read the classic "The Power of Positive Thinking" -- Norman Vincent Peale talks about sending out positive thoughts (I take these as prayers) to those around you all the time. It resonated with me. And I agree, no need to tell someone you're praying for them unless you think it will bring them comfort. (Personally, I can't imagine NOT praying and I'm grateful for any and all prayers.)
What an interesting topic. I was raised Catholic, but haven't practiced any religion for a long time. I do, however, still pray. I pray for people I know, but I also send up prayers when I hear about something bad happening to someone I don't know at all.

Like some of the others here, I don't think there's anything wrong with sending a little bit of positive energy out into the world. It might not help anybody, but I do think taking a moment to send good thoughts to someone is likely to make me treat those around me a little better. Maybe it's a like a ripple effect of positive emotion?

Good luck at the interview!
Facie said…
Chris: I have never read it and had forgotten about it until you mentioned it. Probably a good book for me.
Kristen: I like the ripple effect thought. I know when someone cuts me off in traffic or something like that, I get angry, and I sometimes send bad thoughts their way (nothing evil; often just a wish for a cop to drive by). I certainly feel no better afterward; it just raises my blood pressure.
I've seen you comment on Cassie's blog a million times but . . . I guess I never realized your name was a link? Today, when I saw a comment of yours on Bluz's blog, I finally realized you have a blog of your own. I've been reading through your posts and enjoying them, but I liked this one in particular, mostly because you were actually taking the time to wonder if people want your prayers, which I don't think a lot of people do. Even as a non-Christian, I appreciate it when people tell me they're praying for me; I just take it as the same as thinking of me, and it's always nice to know you're cared for. I remember when I was a kid and my mom was dying of brain cancer, though, members of my childhood church said they were going to come and surround our house and hold hands and pray for her. SO CREEPY. I appreciated the thought but was sure glad my dad kindly asked them to stay home and pray for her there.
Facie said…
Thanks for stopping by, AM, and for the comment. I have read some of your posts as well and appreciate your humor. Maybe I will have to delurk...

Your comment brought me back to the time when I had broken up with my then boyfriend/now husband. He unfortunately had gotten into a car accident the next day or so, and I was in the copy room at work telling this to a nice and very religious coworker about it. She grabbed my hand and started praying out loud. It freaked me out and embarrassed me.

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