Friday, April 19, 2013
Opinion: Not everyone uses prayer to cope so don’t force it
The last thing you want to do in light of tragedy is offend someone.
Events like the bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15 remind us of the immense evil and hatred that are a constant in the human experience.
However, some evils are more individual, some more senseless, obscuring all rational explanation. Violence itself does not seem tragic even if it is deplorable, but tragedy is something else entirely. It would be quite a task to try to explain how the existence of evil is consistent with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God, and many more intelligent men and women have done so. Instead, I want to take a humbler approach, looking at how theists can treat tragedy without being obnoxious, condescending or stupidly optimistic.
Prayer is one of the chief ways in which people of faith deal with tragedy. When it comes to the tragedy of loved ones, theists (I especially see this amongst committed Christians) need to be wary of how they are perceived when telling others, “I’ll pray for you.” I think that people are generally well-meaning with these comments to those touched by tragedy and hardship, and many genuinely believe that prayer can lead to divine intervention.
However, non-theists, or even people of different faiths may react differently to this attempt at solidarity. Some find it condescending, which is hardly the intention, but in the midst of tough situations, offending others is the least desired outcome.
All theists reading this, put yourselves in an atheist’s shoes, and atheists, correct me if I’m wrong. If you do not believe in God or some higher being(s) and someone tells you that they will pray for you, what is the natural reaction?
First, I think a judgment is made about the delusion that the other’s prayer will actually affect the outcome, emotions, or the situation in general.
Secondly, the perceived condescension comes from the notion that the person who prays is in a higher position than the atheist. Lastly, it seems, perhaps, lazy or flippant for someone to offer prayers for another without trying to help the other person in ways he or she wants to be helped.
For Christians who think atheists are wrong to feel the way that they do, I will throw a little scriptural weight behind my comments. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus tells his disciples, “when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.” I think this verse gets at the heart of some motivations for telling others “I’ll pray for you.”
In short, it depends upon who is watching. If the person you are praying for would welcome prayer, then by all means pray openly for that person, with that person, or make them aware you are praying for them.
But for those who are not of the same faith, wariness is advised so as not to offend. There are much more effective ways to communicate love to others instead of making them uncomfortable or angered by praying for them.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Daily Campus
Dearman is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy.