Mailbag #3

Anonymous asks:

How do you respond to a friend who is asking for prayers? 

Hi, Anonymous. Thank you for writing to me.

Say, “you’ll be in my thoughts” if it’s at all socially possible for you to skirt around the issue for the time being.

Most of time people don’t request prayers for happy, stress-free life events. As much as it sounds like you’d love to tell this friend the truth now is not the best time to do it.

It’s better to wait until the dust from whatever is going on in your friend’s life has settled down before you have the “I’m not [or no longer] a member of your religious group” talk.

If I’ve misread your message and you never intend to tell this person about your actual beliefs this gets trickier. It can be really difficult to compartmentalize one’s life like that. All it takes is one person who knows the truth to accidentally say something and your secret is no longer so secret.

No, I’m not saying that you have to tell them or that the only possible way to live a moral life is if you tell everyone everything about you. Sometimes it just isn’t safe to disclose certain things to certain people.  As a queer, child-free, non-theist I grok that 100%. 😉

There’s still the question of how one should respond to prayer requests without bringing (too much? any?) attention to what you actually believe.

If telling them that they’ll be in your thoughts is too vague, what about subtly shifting the conversation to something like this?

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about that. Can I bring you some groceries/babysit your kids/shovel your driveway?

Do you have a question for me? Submit it through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 

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