How does one react appropriately when someone makes an unwanted prayer on your behalf?
This is an issue that I have encountered frequently over the years but has become more irritating the older I get. To be clear, I’m talking about people making prayers on your behalf that have no connection to your actual needs and wishes. For instance, ladies in a certain age cohort (I’d say from about 18 up) suddenly find people praying that God will send them their life partner or give them wisdom in making their choice. This prayer seems harmless enough but the question is who told the person praying that the recipient of the prayer was even looking for a life partner? It’s just assumed that since x is the expectation of the prayee* at a certain age or stage of life, it must be what is keeping them up at night. Another example is people praying that a newly married couple will have lots of children or start having children right away. I suppose it has never occurred to them that the couple might be planning to delay having children or (shock!) might not even want kids at all.
I find it even more stressful when I am expected to join in or agree with such prayers. In my mind, I’m thinking “why on earth should I say amen to something I don’t actually want?” I think what really gets me is the sense that the prayerer* knows (whether they’ve spoken to me about it or not) what it is I need in my life. This idea that they know, as a matter of course, what’s good for you and what you should want is what sets me off. To me, assuming a closeness in the relationship that is not there is what leads to these misdirected prayers. If you were indeed close to a person, you would know or you would think to ask what the pressing concerns for them are that might require your help or prayers instead of jumping in with solutions to imaginary problems. If the prayerer asked the prayee for instance, they might find out that he or she is more concerned about their ability to make rent this month, about their job, that their car doesn’t break down e.t.c. than all the other random things the prayerer picked to pray about.
The only thing is, there’s no way to actually voice all this without seeming rude. So I try to dodge such people in the first place or limit the conversation before they start wandering into areas they weren’t invited to but sometimes even the best dodging skills can’t help and I still find myself cornered into being prayed for. At which point, I reluctantly say amen whilst internally reversing the prayer to avoid annoying the prayerer who thinks they are doing me a favour. I can’t imagine how someone of no faith or a different faith would cope with friends or family forever insisting on praying for them.
I do recognise that the prayerer most likely has good intentions. After all, if they didn’t care they would not be offering prayers or well-wishes. This is what keeps me from giving my honest opinion about the prayer offered on my behalf. I can even be found smiling and saying thank you despite not feeling particularly grateful in that moment because I want to acknowledge the thought behind the action. I know it’s a bit rich to tell people how exactly you want them to channel their care and concern for you but I’m going to do it anyway. So my advice for would be prayerers is simple: instead of assuming that you know what is bothering a person, just take the time to ask before you launch into your prayer.
I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences and can offer tips for dealing with such encounters?
*Prayerer – the one doing the praying.
*Prayee- the one being prayed for.