Recently, there was a Dear Abby column where the writer asked about how to respond when someone said (in response to hearing about a serious illness or death), “I’m praying for you.” I did write a response, but who knows if it’ll be published. And then I started thinking that I was quite qualified to write my own blog post on the topic.For the last three and a half years, I have heard so many people say that they were praying for Chris, that I can’t keep track of how many have said it. Chris doesn’t believe prayer will help him. The boys don’t either. I don’t know if it will help, but it certainly won’t hurt.
I’ve taught the boys to say “thank you,” and to leave it at that when someone tells them that they are praying for our family. It is the polite thing to do. It was one of the conversations that we had shortly after Chris’ diagnosis and we were all bewildered and overwhelmed. We had so many offers of help and comfort that we couldn’t see straight. I’m not complaining. At that point, everything caught us off-guard.
As time has passed and I got a new job, David entered high school and Michael plays soccer for different coaches with different teammates, the issue has not lessened. Just after Thanksgiving I sent an email out to my colleagues about Chris (I couldn’t remember who knew about his Lung Cancer and who didn’t), I received many responses of, “I am praying for you and your family.”
I don’t mind the praying for us. It isn’t going to hurt anything and after all this time, I realize that other people don’t know what to say when they find out about Chris or we have bad news. Their offers of prayer are genuine and if they feel that it will help, who am I to tell them otherwise. It gives them something positive that they can do and feel that they are helping. Offering prayer is comforting to them in dealing with our unimaginable situation.
Religion isn’t a topic we talk about with acquaintances; it is something that doesn’t generally come up. But when dealing with sharing Chris’ condition, it comes up regularly and so my boys have had to deal with being Atheists and prayer at a young age. They’ve learned that when someone tells you they are praying for you, it isn’t the time to explain that you don’t believe in G*d; it isn’t the time to explain you don’t believe that prayer has any power. It is time to be gracious and accept the wish of the person to do something for you. The person is trying to offer comfort and reconcile their own feelings of helplessness.