In the "Dear Abby" column today Abby answers a question that is similar to one posted here about how to respond to those who say they will pray for you when they know you are dealing with illness or a serious problem. She states as part of her advice "And most people battling a serious illness welcome a "blast of positivity," whether it is couched in religious terms or not." I strongly disagree as it's just so frustrating to have to deal with that remark on top of other things.
Just wanted to point this out in case others have better things to do with their time than to read the comics and advice column which I seem to find time for most days.
I'm so sorry that you're going through this and the only thing I can offer is to say that I know many who have gone through the cancer surgery, foul medications, and whose life is now at a good place. When you stated, "It's burdensome to accept the prayer wishes with grace, while not expressing how I really feel about it.", you're so right, it is an enormous burden to not be able to deal with this honestly with them. How I'd love to tell people who are "praying" for me what I really feel about it. It does add a lot of needless stress to have to deal with that and the truth is, it's never worth it to engage them as you either alienate them (okay, sometimes a good thing) or arrive at an impasse because they want to believe what they believe whether or not it makes sense. It's good that we have this site to be able to talk with those who understand.
Hmmm, this is a tough one. It's simply what religious people DO; their form of saying, "I'm hoping for the best."
When my brother-in-law had a prayer circle at our rehearsal dinner, and blessed us, I thanked him later. He said, "I was afraid you wouldn't like it," but I told him it was very thoughtful and appreciated. I meant it.
What I did NOT say, was that if he were a voodoo priest doing a special dance, that also would've been appreciated just as much! Or if he were a Wiccan and wanted to recite a special poem- awesome. The point is, he did something HE felt was special. Also, most of the people (family) attending could relate, so if it made them all feel comfortable, great. The wedding itself was completely secular.
It never would've occured to me, to be honest, to cook for somebody who said they're undergoing cancer treatments. Although, when a co-worker's childhood home burned to the ground last year, my husband and I gave her $100. It was the number that we each came up with individually when I told him that a collection was being taken up. So maybe my charitable radar isn't completely busted!!
It bothers me when people say, "I'll pray for you" as their assumption is that their prayers are somehow needed or wanted. It's really something they are doing to make themselves feel better, in my experience. If they wanted to do something for you, they should offer to do something of meaning as stated above by Sentient Biped, cook a meal, drive you to chemo, take the dog to the vet, etc. That your BIL would say he was afraid that you wouldn't like the prayer circle makes the point, in my mind. Why would anyone do something that you wouldn't like at your rehearsal dinner? If he asked you in advance and you gave your approval, that's different. But that prayer circle was for him. You were very gracious. Sorry, I don't mean to come across as judgmental but I spent too many years being bullied into quiet (I'll use acceptance but can't think of the word I want) by some of my overtly religious family members.