I'm having a hip replaced on 12/4. Everyone who finds out I'm having surgery seems to think it's necessary to offer me their prayers. I don't feel comfortable saying "thank you" for what I think is a total waste of time, but I don't want to just not acknowledge what they think is a good thing.
Any suggestions? Should I just let it pass, or should I respond in some way. A lot of these people are just acquaintences and probably don't realize they've never seen me in church!
I live in a small town and work for Mormans so I have to be a little careful with making my beliefs, or lack there of, known.
Thank them for their thoughts but with a smile ask them to pray for the doctor instead. From politics right into the local churches, those that say "they will pray for you" seldom do. It's an idiom of speech that is created by the religious belief system. (Everyone wants to keep that system alive for many reasons.) The stronger areas of these prayers are people seen in church with closed eyes and clinched fists, swinging their arms around and talking to themselves, claiming they are talking to God. I've often wondered if they are "forcing" God to do something for you?
Your rant is understandable. Stay strong re: your brother. This must be very hard, indeed -- I offer no advice in this -- I listen for yours.
Re: prayers of others - - Your response of "thanks" is the most appropriate and kind thing to offer. Christians also have this problem. When you feel like you are in a privileged position in God's kingdom, it is awkward when some pseudo-Christian boastfully offers their prayer-services. A good friend (when I was a Christian) assured me that a simple "thank you" was the best response and I have carried that advice with me into my current world-view.
I understand your anger. When there is a tragedy and people are interviewed on tv they often say, "thank god, I've been spared." I wonder what they think of the people who haven't been spared? Did god get them, have it in for them? I'd like to be the one interviewing them and I would ask for clarification on that point. In one case a tornado took the life of a little child and some were so grateful to god for "keeping them safe". It boggles the mind!
I just posted a response to a similar question on this forum, and although I see you already have plenty of responses I'll go ahead and paste it below:
"I actually encounter that a lot (living in the bible belt) and I was hoping there would have been some answers to it already! It is a little risky to let anyone here know you don't believe. They just flat out are not accepting of nonbelievers.
Maybe something like "I'm glad I will be in your thoughts" would be appropriate as it is polite and doesn't acknowledge the prayers. After a couple of times they may catch on that you are deliberately not acknowledging the prayer aspect of the comment and therefore may catch on that you are not a believer.
While I know they have good intentions, it is a bit off-putting for someone to just assume their religion applies to everyone and I think a kind comment that is not specifically religious is more polite to use. Such as: "thinking of you in this tough time" or "keeping you in my thoughts" because that certainly wouldn't offend anyone's religion or lack thereof.
If they word it as they will be praying for you as a response to finding out you are a nonbeliever, I am pretty sure that is meant as a sideways insult.
Sorry for the long response and babbling, just a few of my thoughts on the subject."