Is “prayer” a four-letter word?

17 Mar

Whenever I read that somebody is “praying for” so-and-so, I tend to roll my eyes and scoff at it.  And I’m not really sure why.

Maybe I was burned one too many times by my Southern Baptist roots.  When I peruse Facebook and see that Sally is sick and people respond with statements like “I’m praying for you” – I instantly feel this indescribable hurt inside.  My mind instantly makes this person one of those Christians who doesn’t like my kind.  The kind that say words like “abomination” and quote 6 scriptures from the Old Testament.

Now, I know that all Christians aren’t like that.  I have some wonderful, dear friends who are both Christian and love me.  So, why do I think “prayer” is a dirty word?  Do I think that gay people can’t use prayer?  Do I think that liberals can’t tell a friend that they’re “praying for them”?  I’m just not sure.

The other day I heard somebody say “I’m sending positive thoughts your way”.  Hmmm.  I’m not sure if I like that any better.  Sure, I didn’t have the nausea-induced feeling that I get when I hear “prayer”, but it was just kinda weird.  Is that what people who weren’t raised Christian say?  Or is this a phrase used when you don’t wanna offend a non-Christian?

You’re probably wondering why in the world this is on my mind, right?  Well, Keithy has been sick for over a week now.  And if this were me, it would be no big deal.  We all know I’m a total sicky.  But this is Keithy – and he never gets sick.  And last night as we’re lying in bed, he tells me that even after a trip to the doctor, he’s still not feeling better.  I was feeling completely hopeless and helpless, and I just wanted to do something.  I wanted to pray for him.  But could I?  Would I be a hypocrite?

I got on Wikipedia to do a little research.  I wanted to know the history of prayer because all I knew it from was my upbringing – the same upbringing that hurt me so much.  I read that prayer is used by pretty much every single religion on the planet, and it’s been around for at least 5000 years.  Wow.  So, maybe I shouldn’t associate prayer with such negative feelings?

So, call it prayer, good vibes, positive thoughts – whatever.  I did one for Keithy this morning.  And ya know what?  It felt good.


8 Responses to “Is “prayer” a four-letter word?”

  1. Cake Betch March 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    I was raised Catholic but I don’t agree with the church on a lot of things so I guess I’m non-practicing. I DO believe that people have the ability to affect others with whatever prayer is… thoughts, good vibes, whatevs… and I subscribe to that. I never tell anyone I’m ‘praying’ for them because I don’t want to portray myself as something I’m not, but I suppose it could be considered ‘prayer’ when I’m thinking about and hoping the best for people. I’ll do a little ‘praying’ for Keith too 🙂

    • Bryant March 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Thanks, Tara. I loved reading your comment – glad I’m not the only one who feels that way.


  2. thisisnotadetour March 21, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    It’s so fascinating to me that we all see life through the lens of our own experience. I have some baggage from church and church people that I don’t know if I’ll ever get past. I still go to church, still pray, still call myself a Christian, still really believe in God… but I have baggage. I think we all do, you know?

    I still trust God, still really love Him. Do I trust God’s people, or, rather, people that call themselves His? Generally, no. Not anymore.

    How very sad…

    • Bryant March 21, 2011 at 12:34 am #

      Awww – I’m glad to know I’m not alone. I love hearing other people’s perspectives on this.

  3. exacademic March 21, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    Aww. I pretty much know exactly how you feel right now. With my brother being missing in Japan after the earthquake/tsunamis, and then trying to get safely out of Miyagi – this last week was the worst week of my life, and everyone in my immediate family. I was really fascinated with the way people chose to respond. Some people knew exactly what to say, some people were good enough, and some people infuriated me (granted I have been ridiculously emotional this whole time, so I tried my best not to respond to the people whose mode of support was upsetting or infuriating to me.

    The ones that upset me were people who blindly put their faith in God, and said, basically, “don’t worry about it.” I don’t believe in being unrealistic – for me, my brother was missing, and then in danger, and that was all there was to it. What happened would be what happened, regardless of “prayer,” “positive thoughts,” or well wishing of any sort. I didn’t mind the people who said they were thinking of him/my family, but I was really very very upset by people who coupled that thought with the idea that because of their faith (or whatever) everything would be fine and there was no reason to worry, even as we hadn’t heard from my brother for three days and he was in the demolished area of Miyagi, only 1.5 miles from the ocean. I felt bad for responding so obviously annoyedly (aka not responding back) to these peoples’ obviously well-intended “support,” but I wasn’t willing to pretend everything was fine just because of faith in a Christian God whose existence is completely subjective and debatable. You know?

    • Bryant March 21, 2011 at 1:03 am #

      I completely get it. I really do.

      For me, “praying” for someone isn’t about me at all. And I think that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. If I tell someone that I’m going to think about/pray for them, then I am genuinely going to spend some quiet time alone when I can think about that person and send as many positive vibes their way as possible. Not because I think my “prayer” will make things better, but because I want them to feel something in their heart – that one human has compassion for another.

      And since we’re on this topic, that’s exactly what I did this week – I would stop, close my eyes, and take a minute to think about you and your brother.

      This week when I “prayed” for Keithy, it felt good to acknowledge my feelings when I felt helpless. But I also dragged his ass to the doctor to get better. So, yeah, I get what you’re saying.

  4. Ashley March 25, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I wish I had seen this when you posted. ❤

    Interesting thing, over the last year I've found myself believing less and less in religion and God even. Many reasons factor into this change of heart but it is what it is and its been pretty difficult.

    Could I, who chose to be baptized in the seventh grade really be an atheist? That has always been the ugliest of ugly words. I mean, atheist kick puppies and push over old ladies, right? That's what I had always been taught in my Southern Pentecostal churches so it HAS to be true.

    But even with all the confusion, when times get tough, or something happens, I still find myself wanting to ask God for help. Not sure if its a knee-jerk reaction or if deep down I still actually believe in Him. Either way, long story short, I guess what I'm saying is I can kinda relate.

    • Bryant March 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      “knee-jerk reaction”….that has stayed with me for a few days since you said it.

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