Thursday, January 27, 2011

Say a little prayer for you

Note: I'm going to use Facebook as a reference, but this applies to direct conversation too.

Every now and then, I'll see something on Facebook posted by a family member or friend to 'say a prayer for so and so' or I'll see a response to someone's status post that says "my prayers' are with you. I don't have anything wrong with either post, I'm just lost as far as what to say to someone if I wanted to show my support. I suppose I could say the same thing, but it wouldn't be true, I won't be praying for you so I feel like it would be lying to say it.

As reference, here is's definition of pray.

  1. to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to (God or an object of worship)
  2. to offer (a prayer)
  3. to bring, put, etc., by praying: to pray a soul into heaven.
  4. to make earnest petition to (a person).
  5. to make petition or entreaty for; crave: She prayed his forgiveness.
  6. to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to God or to an object of worship.
  7. to enter into spiritual communion with God or an object of worship through prayer.
    –verb (used without object) to make entreaty or supplication, as to a person or for a thing
For the purpose of this post, I'm going to assume that the majority of people consider praying for someone to fall under #6 or #7, in that you are asking for a higher power for intervention.

At this point, I should clarify some things as well.

1. This isn't about whether other people should pray for someone (I have no real opinion on whether someone believes in it themselves).
2. I will gladly accept someone else's prayers for my family or me and won't think twice of you stating yourself in this manner. (if my family or I were experiencing something difficult, I have no qualms in accepting support any way I can get it and if your God can intervene, all the better).
3. I'm bothered by this phrase, as I really want to show support to someone, but I hate the language required to do it.

Having made those points, let's take a look at number three which is the basis for this whole piece anyway. The statements "My prayers are with X" or "We are praying for X" are inherently stronger in meaning, then saying something like "All my best" "My thoughts are with you" "Hope things turn out well". There are a ton of other statements that could be used in exchange for a prayer statement, but they all (in my opinion) lack the certain force that one of the prayer statements has.

This bugs me to no end (hence the blog post). The worst part is, I'm really not sure what I'm going to do about it. I've tried crafting a number of statements, and either they wind up too long or they don't convey the meaning intended. And considering that written statements are about 100x easier then being in front of someone and trying to find a statement that makes sense quickly that conveys the right meaning, you can see this is not an easy task. I realize that this is just a word obsession and probably doesn't make a lot of difference, but as you can probably tell on some levels it bothers me. I guess I'll just have to keep working on it.


Grange95 said...

I choose to view the phrase "in one's prayers" as idiomatic for "in one's thoughts". Many people mean it (prayer) literally, but parsing out the literal from the figurative is pointless when the gist of the expression is one of support.

If you don't want to use the word "prayers", just say, "You're in my thoughts" or "You have my support in this difficult time" or simply, "Best wishes".

Michael said...

Thanks, you are definitely right and I usually use in my thoughts or something similar to you have my support.

There was a time when I could focus on the literal message and deliver it in the same way with no regards to my words outside of conveying the support.

I should have mentioned it (but didn't want to go into much detail), but part of this 'issue' is from being around my wife, who at time has had issues with everything religious, and has a hard time getting past words and to understanding in situations such as this.