Hello everyone,

I am having trouble figuring out how to respond to this student and and seeking advice. I teach online to college students at a private (not religious) college. One student is going through a tough time and sent me an email asking me to pray for her. I have to reply but I am not sure what to say.

My considerations:

  • Of course, I don't plan to pray and don't plan to tell her I will. But, since she is going through a very tough time and seeking comfort, I want to careful about how I respond. I want to respond in as comforting a way as I can.
  • Even though they are college students, I have always operated in a manner as to not let students know my feelings on religion (even when I was religious). I'm just uncomfortable with the idea of having it know to students (especially when I work with high school students).
  • The email is subject to be read by MANY people who work at the college. It is far from private. I don't want it to become an issue.

I think I might just say that I will keep her in my thoughts. If anyone happens to read this and has any advice, please let me know.


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Skepticmom-

These types of situations are always so difficult for me too.  I would maybe let the student know that you are sorry to hear  she is having a difficult time, and that you will think of her often and hope she is quick to find solutions to help her past this obstacle (or something that might be more fitting to the situation).  I imagine she sent you the email because she wanted to share with you what she is going through, and the request for prayers seems to work well for this sort of thing.  I like your idea of saying you will keep her in your thoughts, but I would add a bit more, just so she doesn't feel she is being blown off (I'm guessing you planned on adding a bit more too).  Good luck, and please let us know what you decide to say.  It could help us all at a later date.


Thank you Annie for responding. Yes, I definitely don't want her to feel blown off. So I don't want to just put something trite. But, of course, I don't want to say I will pray. I have not yet replied. I plan to do it today. I wanted to take some time to think about my response and get advice. Your ideas were helpful.

Our college also has some counselors, so I am going to refer her to them too (the details of her situation sounded like she could benefit from counseling.). I haven't figured out exactly how to phrase it yet, because I don't want to make it seem as if I am pawning her off nor do I want to make it seem like I think she is mentally ill (I don't think she is; I think she is going through a very rough time and it may help to talk about it.)

I don't know that my response will be good enough for others to follow it. But maybe others could weigh in and then the next time that this happens, my response will be better. And I am hoping it helps others who are in my situation and feel a loss as to what to say.

Thank you again for responding so quickly!

OK - Here is the body of my email (redacted for anonymity):

I am really sorry to hear that you and **** are going through such a difficult time. I can't even imagine what you must be feeling. I will keep you both in my thoughts often.

I hope things turn around for you both very soon. While you are going through this, I think it might be helpful to talk with someone who works with students going through life difficulties. **** has staff members who work with students who are in difficult situations. I think that it would be helpful to contact the college and ask to speak to someone. You could ask **** to refer you. If you would prefer, I can try to have someone call you. Please let me know if you would like for me to do that.

Again, I am sorry to hear about your situation.



I am sure that it could stand some improvement. Even though this one has been sent, if others out there have suggestions or are willing to share their own responses, I think it would be very helpful if this comes up in the future.

I think it sounds great!  You were caring and offered possible ways for her to get some counseling, if it would be helpful.  Some people are turned off by counseling, but I think it is a gift we can give ourselves during difficult times.  You did a wonderful job of letting her know that many students go through difficult situations, without diminishing or downplaying hers.

I won't pray for her either, but I do hope things improve for this student.

Thank you so much. I feel a little better now. I hope that she doesn't feel blown off because I never said I would pray. I hope she responds in a way that I can tell how she feels about my response.

Thank you again!

Well, I got a response from my student. She seems to think that what I wrote means that I will pray for her. She went on and on thanking me and telling me how when people pray it makes god do something. 




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