When someone comments that they will pray for you, what do you say back? Even when I was a pretending christian I felt awkward when people said they would pray for me....

Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. - Anonymous

and another one I am pseudo-quoting since I can't find a reference at the moment........

Helping hands are far more useful than praying ones.

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Because I'm very open about my atheism (I wear it on my sleeve), when someone says they will pray for ME, it is usually because they know I'm an atheist and they are trying to insult & belittle me by saying I need them to pray for me to ask their god to make me a better person--in which case, I will usually turn and look them straight in the eye and wearing a big smile say to them "You KNOW I'm an atheist, but you can go right ahead and pray to your imaginary god all you want and you will be relieved to know that praying is the one socially-acceptable way to talk to yourself that won't get you legally committed." ;D
But I quite enjoy talking to myself. D; And I've yet to be committed. >.> And I'll have full conversations out loud in public. >.> I think it comes from living alone. XD
During THEIR Christmas Season, if a theist (knowing I'm an atheist) says to me "Merry Christmas!", depending upon their demeanor and tone of voice, I will reply either "Berry Ho-ho & Bingle Jells!" (to the obviously intoxicated ones) or "Happy Solstice!" (just to annoy them in return). If one of the non-knowing theists greets me with "Merry Christmas!" I will tell them bluntly that I am an atheist and ask them politely to not assume that everyone celebrates their holiday. However, I know considerate theists that will (knowing I'm an atheist) greet me with either "Happy Holidays!" or "Happy Solstice!" to which I will reply to them with either "Merry Christmas!" or "Enjoy your Christmas!" (or something along those lines).
Dean, one of the responses I've gotten to my atheism is "So you don't celebrate Christmas?"

And I say, "Christmas is a family holiday for me. Nothing religious about it in my household. So yes, I celebrate it by eating and having a good time with family and friends."

As to the Merry Christmas thing, I've just reformulated the saying in my head to be "Merry Krismas" (after Kris Kringle), and it's perfectly fine.
"c", this is the quote you are paraphrasing: "The hands that help are better far Than lips that pray." ~Robert Green Ingersoll (Declaration of The Free: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/inglife.htm) Also please see: http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/05/07/ill-pray-for-you.htm
I also go by the context and the speaker, as many have stated here. What I find to be more unconfortable are situations where YOU'RE expected to say "I'll pray for you", such as when a coworker loses a loved one. People almost always say something about prayer, or something about their loved one being in a "better place", or comfort them that they'll see them again, etc. I tell them that I'm sorry for their loss, that they're in my thoughts, and offer any assistance I may be able to provide. If their response is to ask for prayer, I try to politely paraphrase the above sentence again.

If the prayer offer is in response to my atheism, I consider it to be extremely condescending, but I try to be understanding. If I truly believed that my niece, for example, was going to spend an eternity in hell and my praying for her might prevent that, I suppose it would seem like the right thing to do. I try to concentrate mostly on how fortunate I feel to be living my life with my eyes open. As the only non-religious person in my family (many of them are extremely religious), I often feel I dodged the "delusion bullet", so to speak.
I agree on context-dependent response. How to treat the rest of the religious world is part of the struggle one inherits when having finally comprehended enough evidence that there’s no one in charge of human affairs except humans. My fashion of atheism has taken on many versions. To someone I have nothing personally investing in, I have sought to challenge them, in public, in the open. Nothing but a sparring match. But to those who are otherwise friends by some other commonality. What then? I personally challenge myself that there is an elegant way to put to words that their vacant insinuation of a higher power never has and never will follow through. The religious live, for the most part, exactly like us atheists. They conduct their lives as if there really was no one in control. They seek medical science and buy insurance in all its forms. Insurance makes no sense at all if a believer really believes. It’s an entirely man-made device designed to reverse the negative effects of destructive events that “God only knows” would happen. But if he knows then the believer should accept the fate according to “God’s plan”. Not cheat the Almighty’s intentions for what He had in store for them. Believers really don’t believe. They pretend. They, in practice, conduct their lives as if there is no god. So when someone says they’ll pray for me out of sincere good will, I will acknowledge their good will “I appreciate your concern”. But just as their personal faith-building comments come without warning, the maneuver works both ways. Rather than confront their passiveness in THAT moment I offer an atheistic gesture at another time, when their religion is asleep, when they are also being atheistic. I come out with idle observations about life, for instance, illustrating its indifference to human affairs. Example: “One of the great oddities of this world to me is how the most trifle of human ingenuity can have such a hand at the utter destiny of human life and death. Take the simple smoke detector. Shown to directly save lives that would otherwise be lost. A child’s life in exchange for an $8 bit off mass production?… Almost doesn’t seem right.” End of sermon. Then the monkey is now on THEIR back. Most times the passive remark will be heard and not challenged for the same reason we find it hard to reply to “I’ll pray for you”. The listener may wonder why I am telling the story, but I have essentially demonstrated that if “someone” WAS in charge, a life would not be worth 8$, else that someone is immoral. If you think about it, there are so many examples like this that can be a part of casual conversation. It might not accomplish much in the moment, but like any of us atheists, we came about our view because we digested enough evidence. Not everyone is there yet. But we can help them along with the facts around us.
I don't decline or make any real comment. If I happen to be around a group of Christians (or similar theists) I will join in the circle out of respect to the people, not the religion, but I do not bow, fold my hands or close my eyes.
I know it doesn't even say anywhere in the bible that you are supposed to close your eyes while praying; I wonder why it has become common to do so.
I usually reply back with "is that a threat?"
"Your allknowing God needs YOU to tell or remind him what to do?"
"Thank you! I'll pray for myself/you to the FSM"

Though most of the time I just give them a huh?* stare & don't bother saying anything.
I agree that context is crucial but sometimes a small doubt seed can be cast that will grow well after the conversation:

NOG*: I'll pray for you.

Me: That's rather presumptive of you, isn't it?

*NOG = Nutter Of God

Or how about -

NOG: I'll pray for you

Me: While you're busy with that, I'll go on researching the cure for cancer for everyone.




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