Thursday, April 17, 2008

"I'll pray for you..."

I'm not one of those people who frequently tosses out phrases like "Have a blessed day," or "I'm so blessed" or "It was a God thing" or even "I'll pray for you." I didn't grow up saying these phrases, and they are unnatural to me. They feel forced. Sometimes they even give me the heebie-jeebies... I feel like saying them is a forced way of putting my faith out into the world. I will say, however, that I know people who say these things, and they flow naturally and sincerely off their lips. And that's cool.

I'm not shy about my faith. Hang out here long enough and you'll read about it. Hang out with me for a while and you'll know I go to church every week, and am very involved and always have been. I think my faith is seen more in how I live my life than in my words. I think my more laid back approach has been an asset in sharing my faith... lots of people have come to me with questions and shared their own faith with me because I think they see me as open minded and not pushy.

(sometimes people who say those phrases above can seem pushy... even to me. I might feel like I'm less of a Christian if I'm not constantly talking about it. I know this isn't true, but sometimes it makes me uncomfortable...)

So it is with a bit of surprise that I find myself saying "I'll pray for you" a bit more often these days. Whether it's in person, in an e-mail, or even as a comment on a blog, I'm saying "I'll pray for you." It probably has something to do with the fact that I'm getting a wee bit better and more consistent about praying. But I still worry, sometimes, that if I say "I'll pray for you" to someone that they'll be offended. That they'll think I'm pushing my faith onto them. Or even worse, that they'll hear it as "I'll pray for you because clearly you need help or you're going straight to hell." Unfortunately I think that some people have used "I'll pray for you" in that way.

But I'm saying it more, and hoping that people will understand my heart. When I say "I'll pray for you" I mean "I am wanting the best possible outcome for you and those you care about. I am hoping for you strength and health and wisdom and peace and whatever else it is that you might need that I can't see. And I am doing that the best way I know how, by appealing to the one that I understand to have the power to bring these things. I am appealing to the one that I go to when I need strength and health and wisdom and peace or whatever else it is that I need and am not aware of."

I hope that those on the other end hear it as an expression of my love and care for them, as positive and encouraging, and as something I consider powerful and important. As a gift. I don't expect the person to believe in prayer in the same way I do. That's not what it's about. It's about telling them that I want good things for them, and doing something to help them have those things.

Thanks to all of you have expressed your prayers and well wishes and good thoughts and solidarity in wearing pink today (which I accept wholeheartedly - whatever your religious bent!) for The May Queen's Godmother. Which, of course, is part of what got me thinking about all of this. I'm wearing a pink ribbon today, and every time I see it, I'm offering up a prayer...

32 comments:

Luisa Perkins said...

A lovely post, PM. I'll put in a prayer of my own for the MQ's Godmother.

Mad said...

I don't know if you've ever said it to me but if you did I took it in the spirit with which it was offered. I've read you long enough to know where you're coming from and I don't take offense of feel proselytized to when your faith comes to the fore. We believe different things. We respect each other's beliefs. That's cool.

heather said...

I encountered a lot of "have a blessed day" and the like when I moved south. Even almost 10 years later I'm still not used to it - it always strikes me as out of place, especially when I hear it on an answering machine or something.

I really like your explanation of "I'll pray for you" though. It crosses all boundaries and spiritual dimensions.

Amy Y said...

I agree with your other readers... I think there are some that would be offended and the way I see it, that's kind of their problem. It's all in the way you look at it. I think you may know that I don't share your belief (or maybe you don't?) but I think as long as the words are spoken out of care and concern and not judgement, they do no harm and will be appreciated.

It's often overlooked, but the message itself isn't as important as the meaning behind it... and the intention.

Anyway, hope all is well with MQ's godmother...

flutter said...

I find it kind, and I always return the favor

Sister Honey Bunch said...

I love the way you expressed this. Very cool.

Alpha DogMa said...

This is a wonderful post. I grew up with a quiet/passive form of Christianity and am uncomfortable with those phrases you listed in paragraph one. But I appreciate "I'll pray for you" for all the wonderful reasons you stated.


Great post. Wonderful perspective on things. I'm keeping MQ's Godmother in my thoughts.

Candygirlflies said...

So long as the sentiments are positive, and are offered in a generous manner, I never feel offended if someone "blesses" me or offers to pray for me, no matter what the faith!!

Thinking of your friend, MQ and you today... and offering up a prayer of my own for all of you. May there be the best possible outcome-- be sure to keep us posted!

Lots of love, CGF xo

thailandchani said...

Life is too short to be offended by other people's expressions of kindness. This one person here... me... Theravada Buddhist.. would take your well wishes in context and appreciate them.

If you have ever said it to me, I thank you - and appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Furrow said...

I'm very behind on blogs lately, but I happen to be wearing pink today, anyway. Coincidence?

I appreciate when people say they'll pray for me, especially during times I've felt at a a personal distance from God. I have a hard time saying it myself, though. "I'll be thinking of you" is usually the best I can offer. So I'll be thinking of you and your friend today.

LaskiGal said...

"I think my faith is seen more in how I live my life than in my words." I agree 100%.

I am like you . . . I don't say it much (seems so contrived), but I try to LIVE it.

I've got my PINK on!!!

YIMP :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

You always manage to come up with these thought-provoking posts that seem to say what I sometimes feel. I am getting better about voicing my beliefs, so yes, I do tell people I'm praying for them and I do offer it up right when I say it. It's kind of nice that we're all back on speaking terms with Him through the blog world.

Becky said...

It's something I always love to hear. Please pray for me whenever you want.

I'll do it back.

Jennifer said...

I don't say I'll pray for you because it's not the way I understand the world to work. I do, however, often, sincerely, and with complete faith, send good thoughts of hope, healing, peace, strength and kindness out into the world in regard to a certain situation. Whether we call it prayer or healing thoughts, or hopes for peace, it's all coming from a place of love and compassion. The label matters not.

I'm sending many hopeful, strong, healing thoughts out to your dear friend, today.

Bea said...

Call me old-fashioned, but when "God" becomes an adjective, I think things have gone too far.

Great post.

NotSoSage said...

Funny, I struggle with finding something to say to people who are suffering because I don't pray and yet I was raised to say, "I'll pray for you", and it still feels like a natural thing to say...instead I say things like, "I'm thinking of you" or "sending good/healing/thinky thoughts your way" which sound to me either too flaky or insincere.

If you said it to me, though, I wouldn't feel offended. If you are strong in your faith, then your prayers are your way of keeping me in your thoughts and wanting the best outcome for me. Who could ask for anything else?

Chaotic Joy said...

Thank you for writing this post. It has been something I have struggled with here and there. In my real life I am friends with only a handful of people who do not share my faith, and those handful know me well enough to understand my intentions.

There have been times in the blogging world when I have been tempted to write something like "you are in my thoughts" instead of "I am praying for you" because of concern about offense. But I haven't done it, because it's not me. It would be disingenuous for me to write it. It's NOT what I would say to a friend. And I'm praying for you is NOT just words for me. It used to be, but I have made a very deliberate and conscious effort to follow those words every time with prayer. To mean it when I say it and only say it when I do.

Prayer for me is (as you put so eloquently) the one thing, the only thing, that I believe I can do that might make a difference. That Can make a difference.

I hope that people understand my heart. I have come to the point that most of all people just want to know you are true to it.

JCK said...

Beautifully written and expressed.

Extra special prayer for May Queen's Godmother.

Kathryn said...

I use the expression "I'll pray for you" more now than I used to too, but I only say it to people I know who want to be prayed for. Like you, I wouldn't want to offend anyone.

BTW- I'm wearing pink!

jen said...

it's funny b/c i've often not liked having people say that to me, growing up it was almost pejorative. but from you? never.

it would be a blessing.

i've been thinking of you today.

another good thing said...

I wonder if the awkwardness would dissipate if I'll pray for you became
"textual" where we'd say: IPFU. or shortened like the tossed about love ya..it became Pray ya!

personally, I think it says, I will be sending well wishes your way and letting the universe know you are in it today--- who in their right mind who be opposed to THAT?

you can pray for LINDA SANDS anyday, girl.

Julie Pippert said...

I can so relate to your first paragraph...and I am hesitant to say it, even when it comes to my lips. But I hope people understand what is behind my more generic phrase. great post.

Jen M. said...

I worry about that, too. But then I wonder if I sound like a weirdo if I say "I will send non-denominational non-judging prayers to the universe for you."

I hope I don't sound pushy either, because I would never push that subject on anyone.

Ambassador said...

I remember the first time I heard someone say "I'll pray for you" and she used it like a weapon. It was her way of letting my brother know that she thought he was a God-less heathen and that she was far superior to him. My friendship with her ended shortly thereafter, and we were only sophomores in HS.

Regardless of personal theology, don't mess with my brother.

Thankfully, as I've mellowed with age, I've found that to be immensely comforting, especially coming from anyone in my extended family. During The Big Evacuation, it was welcomed from all corners.

Beautiful writing, my dear. Did you hear any of Terry Gross' interview with New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson? He had some great comments on prayer that struck a deep note within me.

Rima said...

For a long time, it was hard for me to utter and/or write out those words, too. For many of the same reasons that you stated. I say it and write it a lot more often now, as well, and I just trust that those for whom my words are intended understand their sincerity.

Emily said...

What Sage and Mad and JP said.

I remember one of the first posts I read of yours was about your faith, about the disagreements you have with some of the conservative Christian views. It inspired me to write my own, (first,) eye contact post, which you then commented on.

The words that come to mind when I think of you are: genuine, sincere, reliable, true, faithful, kind, loving, attentive... Those are attributes, I think that God intended for his church to display.

Emily said...

Also, on something completely unrelated and borderline (I hope not) inappropriate...
Have you read Alpha Dogma's post from today. It's hillarious. As usual. But I think it would make for a fun Monday Mission.

Is this less inappropriate if I end it with, "Blessings and peace to you, today, sweet friend." And promise to send you a Precious Moments doll in the mail?

No? So sorry.

carrie said...

You said this very well.

I never turn down a supportive comment because you are right, it is the intent of the giver - not the actual words, themselves, that matter.

Being not of a particular faith, I've often found myself toungue-tied in finding just the right words to say when everyone else is "praying" and "blessing." But it doesn't really matter, and I need to relax about it. I need not to read so much into things sometimes and just take them for what they are.

I'm much better at this than I used to be. :) And please know, I have not been offended by any of my blog friends when they've talked about God, prayed or anything. I love that we can come together in the spirit of whatever is going on in our busy lives and support each other, each in our own special way. I love it.

Thank you for writing this, and I hope your friend is recovering well from her surgery.

Hugs.

Sober Briquette said...

Blogging has had this effect on me - knowing about and sharing on a fairly intimate level with people that one really does not know, trying to find ways to express care and concern. Actually, I'd like to bring that out into the world - telling people how much I love and admire them to their faces, not just typing it into a screen.

I think the negative aspects of "I'll pray for you" are more prevalent in the south. I've NEVER heard it up here. But if I said it or heard it, I'd totally take it in the context that you (and commenters) are indicating.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Apparently, I missed this one, but it was a beautiful post, PM, and that's sort of what I was trying to say in mine. I hope your friend is doing much better now that it's a year later.

Mariposa said...

Love this post...and well said. Though I am used to this phrase, I most of the time say it to people closer to me and more careful about it here in BLOGland since I'm not so sure on how others may receive it.

Mariposa said...

Love this post...and well said. Though I am used to this phrase, I most of the time say it to people closer to me and more careful about it here in BLOGland since I'm not so sure on how others may receive it.