There are moments in life that all people reach where homage is paid to Murphy and we realize the fit has hit the shan. These times are unavoidable and although circumstances may be different, the idea of human frailty is so ingrained in humanity it will probably be found in the genome mapping one day. Whether or not the circumstances are our fault, bad things happen to everyone. Whether we attribute them to random chance, Darwinism, a maniacal deity, or a mischievous embodiment of destiny, they happen to everyone. When they happen, we reach out to those around us for help.
A popular response in modern Christendom to seeing someone in these types of circumstances is to tell them “I will pray for you”. This statement of good intention is meant to offer emotional support and provide hope. Admittedly, it is problematic. There are several factors that determine its value. Will the person actually pray? It is easy to feel for someone when they are in pain but too often Christians will say this and not do it. Simply put, this is repugnant. If you say it, do it. If we do pray then, are we praying for what we should? If we are just throwing it into our prayers as an afterthought and telling God to “fix it”, maybe we should reconsider what we are doing. If we are presenting the idea that prayer is something that brings attention to God about something he missed, we are misleading people and devaluing God. There is a huge responsibility people are taking on when they say this; if we do a poor job we are responsible to God for that.
With that said, I wonder about other things I hear when these circumstances occur. A popular counter from outside of modern Christendom is to offer positive thoughts and energy. Ok, I get it that our PC world is avoiding the concept of prayer and some people would truly not appreciate being told or even asking for prayer. I respect that. But what is the value of positive thoughts and energy? What does that even look like? A person sits in their home and thinks about positive things and a person in trouble at the same time? I get the idea that positive outlook and lessoned stress on a person who is ill is healing in many ways. I get offering to help that by not loading stress on them and helping remove stress from them. But how does that relate to “sending positive thoughts”? “Hey, I just sent a thought mail of a picture of a puppy”. I am not trying to be overly sarcastic, but saying this because we feel helpless is worthless and misleading. How does positive energy work? What does that do for a person? We are concerned that mentioning prayer and God is bad but we feel that bringing up the concept of a universal tank of positive energy that we can psychically link to and make deposits for others makes sense? Isn’t that how Tinker Bell was saved in Peter Pan?
When I pray for a person, I am connecting with the creator of the universe and specifically asking him to change the physical nature of the universe for somebody else’s well being. I am telling him I care enough about of the person who I am praying for to want God to intervene and I am doing the best I can possibly do for that person by doing this. It is a very real action. If a person does not believe in that or want that, I respect it but that does not change the reality of what I am doing. Offering someone positive thoughts does nothing regardless of the intentions of the person.
How is stating something that makes no sense better than telling a person you care enough about them to offer them hope. If a Hindu offered to pray from me I would not be offended. I do not believe that Vishnu will fix the problem but I understand that that person was offering the best they could for my bad circumstances. If we are unwilling to accept or offer prayers due to person beliefs, we are telling the people who offer them or need them we care more about our sensibilities than their concerns.
Regardless of personal beliefs, positive energy is like offering a person who is bleeding a happy word rather than a band aid.