I Don’t Pray. Do I?

At what point does a regular thought turn into a prayer?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a religious gal.
I believe in kindness.
In love.
In making the world a better place.
But I’m not sure how I feel about God.
No, I’m not a heathen. Just a questioning person.
I’ve often searched for the alternative to prayer.
I work for a childhood cancer foundation where everyday I talk to families, 
social workers, and others affected by these horrible diseases.
And I often use the phrase, “we’ll keep your family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Sometimes, it feels a little dishonest.
Will the family be in my thoughts?
Yes. Absolutely.
Will I be wishing and thinking and hoping that their child wins the battle.
Yes. Yes a thousand times.
They’ll be in my heart every day.

But what makes that different from a prayer?
Is it that my hopes aren’t directed at God?

I’m not sure.
So what is the difference between a prayer and a really powerful thought?
This was on my mind these last two days as so many people sent #prayersforboston.
Was I thinking of Boston? Of those injured, hurt, and killed? Absolutely.
I was hoping for their recovery, thinking of the families of those who were killed, and doing my best to send my heart to them. 
And I was hoping and worrying fiercely that our nation would mourn these loses but not let these treacherous acts leave us too anxious. That they wouldn’t crush our resilient spirit.
But was I praying? I’m not quite sure.
It seems like, religious or not, when someone says they’ll pray for you it brings people peace. I like giving people that peace. For them to know that I’ll never forget them or what they’re going through. In moments like this, I want to do something, anything to help. But what is there? Sending prayers seems like one of the only ways to contribute to situations that are out or your control.
So what counts as prayer?
What else can you say to people in their worst moments?
I’m just not sure.

Have you ever read just one single line from a blogger and known you’d instantly click with the person? That’s how I felt about Rachel the moment I readI’m a fat person trapped inside a not-as-fat-as-I-should-be-but-still-sort-of-chubby body.” It’s like she took my thoughts about myself right out of my head.
Rachel’s got tons of other fun stories to share. Some make me crazy jealous, like how she spent election night at Obama’s headquarters in Chicago. In her post about her beliefs, she manages to be simultaneously funny and deep (how?). 
I’m definitely considering stealing some of her ideas for my own 30 Before 30 list. Hers rocks! True to blogger form, she has a beautiful love story, but hers has a twist:  it started 13 years ago with someone getting drunk and suspended! Plus she’s not afraid to use the expression “haters gonna hate.” My kind of girl.
Go visit Raves + Revelations or send a note her way on Twitter and follow her on Bloglovin.
You’ll love her. 

  • i feel exactly the same way! i went to catholic school for 12 years, and i believe in god..(i call myself a lapsed catholic, since i never go to church)…but do i pray? not really. i tend to say “thinking of you at this sad time” or something like that in place of “praying for you”. glad someone else feels similarly!

  • I know what you mean too, Nadine. I, like Kate, am definitely someone who grew up Catholic, but often grew up questioning my religion more than believing in it. I have a hard time saying I’ll pray for someone because, well, I don’t usually pray. I think though that keeping the memory alive and sending positive vibes and telling the family you will do so is one way to make them feel a little comfort. It’s a weird thing!

  • I really enjoyed this post, because I always have trouble with this….I’m not religious myself, and feel almost fake somehow by saying I’ll pray for you. But how else do you tell people you’re thinking of them?
    I think I try to say I’ll be here for you….it’s the next best thing I can think of to let someone know that my thoughts are with them through the difficulties.
    <3 Kiersten

  • I feel like I am very similar to you. I sometimes worry that I am lying when I tell people I am praying for them because I don’t directly reach out to God.
    I am not very strong when it comes to religion, but I do believe God is there. I like to think that when people and things are heavy in my heart and mind that God picks up on that. Maybe that sounds crazy, and maybe people think I should be more strong in my practices. But I think everyone has a unique relationship with Religion and with God, and that’s mine.
    So, if saying that you pray comforts someone, keep saying it! If you are thinking and caring about them, you are doing a lot.

  • This was extremely well-said! I feel very similarly, and I think it’s completely okay to say someone’s “in your prayers” even if you don’t “formally” pray. I think everyone can have their own definition of prayer, and that’s OK.

  • Even as a Christian I struggle with this. It is hard to sit still. I don’t always stop and address my thoughts to God, like we know prayer to be…but God knows our thoughts and intentions…there’s nothing we can say without “praying” that would surprise him. 🙂

  • I consider myself a Christian and I question things all the time. And one of the things I struggle with the most in life is what to say to others when they are in need or have gone through some sort of tragedy. Because I NEVER know what to say. But I think that even if your thoughts aren’t directed towards God, he still hears them and knows your heart. And that counts for something, right?

  • Wow. My sentiments exactly. I was raised as a Southern Baptist, which I quickly denounced once I was old enough to realize I didn’t have to believe everything that my parents said or did. I am a very spiritual person, but question everything related to organized religion. I don’t feel like I would ever fall into the category of one religion, because there are parts about each of them that I just can’t swallow. I believe in kindness, generosity, love, and honesty.

  • I actually am a heathen, so I loved this post, ha.

    I always just rely on, “I’ll be thinking of you.”

  • This is the best post I’ve read in a long time, and it makes me feel so happy to know that someone else shares my same beliefs about prayer and religion. Like you, I am not religious (which is difficult living in the south). I always shy away from the word “pray” because I assumed that only religious people prayed. However, I am not afraid to tell someone that I will pray for them because like you said, it brings people comfort and peace. And to me, prayers are good thoughts that we send out into the universe, and the world could definitely use some more of those.


  • We’re totally on the same page. I’m not religious and I very much question all aspects of religion because I am a questioning person. I am not sure what I believe about God and I agree that “praying” has a religious connotation… I always prefer “thinking of you” or “hoping for the best”. I’m so glad someone else feels the same way! It’s refreshing to hear your point of view.

  • I find it interesting different people’s thoughts on prayer. They think it has to be this certain way – but it doesn’t. Just because people aren’t kneeling, folding their hands, or starting with “Our Father” and ending with “Amen” doesn’t mean they aren’t praying. Sometimes it’s a thought. Sometimes it’s a feeling. Heck, the Bible even says that the Holy Spirit prays for us with sighs and groans too deep for words. So basically, when we aren’t praying or don’t know what to pray, we’re still praying. It’s kinda cool. Because even thoughts that aren’t directed at God, he still knows them. So… that’s my two cents.

  • Love this post. I used to be very religious but since my father’s passing a year ago, where I prayed endlessly for his health, I haven’t been able to pray. I was called out by a friend when I said I was sending my good thoughts to those in Boston. She asked why I didn’t say prayers and then I got an ear full. It’s annoying to think that my thoughts are any less valuable because I don’t call them prayers. Thanks for the post!

  • Love this post. <3

  • I 100% agree with where you are coming from. It’s really hard for me sometimes to “pray” so to speak…I am also not a heathen either but when I see others suffer or something is going wrong in my life etc….its so hard knowing what does god hear, how does he heal and hear everyone pray? It’s a mystery to me sometimes….

    xo Dinah @ sunshine super glam

  • thank you SO much for writing this. you took the thoughts right out of my head! xx

  • Great post girl!

    Sincerely Miss Ash

  • I feel like thinking positive thoughts is praying in a way. Sometimes I do say an actual prayer for people in need but other times it is more thoughts of good will/hoping for the best in their situation but I think the premise is basically the same.

  • Such an beautifully introspective post and I’m glad you shared it Nadine! I think sometimes we all wonder if we’re saying the rights things but deep down we know, the sentiments are always the same. We want to convey that we care deeply.

  • I am sooooooooooo right with you on this girl. I am non-religious and I don’t know how to say to people “you are in my prayers” when I don’t exactly pray. I try to use “you are in my thoughts” but it doesn’t always seem to give the same comforting reaction. But I do pray, I take quite time out to think of others and keep them in my heart. To give thanks for the wonderful life I live. I just don’t direct it to anyone in particular. It’s more self-reflection, meditation.

    I actually went and pulled a snipit from an email I had written to my family. My mom often sends out emails asking for prayers for people, and I never know quite how to respond.

    “Prayer provides an opportunity for people to remind themselves of how one should be living, those less fortunate, our own failings, and our good fortune. I think this is good practice for everyone and is not only valuable if you are praying to a specific God. Some people may pray to a Hindu God, some may pray to a man they envision robed with a beard, some may pray to the clouds. Every one has their own version and taking time out of your day to reflect on your life and those in it is a practice I will always hold dear.”

  • I love this post! I found your blog through a frend and I absolutley love it! Consider me your newest follower 🙂 If you have a chance check out my budding blog, Slightly Strange. I would love new followers and any and all advice you can give me!

  • I just recently stumbled upon your blog via Sharlee’s. This was such a great post! I loved what Allisa said as well about everyone having their own definition of prayer.

  • You can pray to whoever or whatever you’d like! I feel the same way you do about God, but sometimes I find myself what most people would call praying.. but I think I’m just talking to whoever is listening.

  • I’m the same way – that’s why I never post “thoughts and prayers to blank” or say that to others. I tell them “I’ll keep your family in my thoughts and heart.” Because even though I do pray, I don’t remember everyone and everything and keeping them in my thoughts and heart is 100% what I’m doing. These are some great honest thoughts.

  • I do believe in prayer, strongly. I love when something that someone else says makes me think about it in a different way, though. How would I define prayer? I believe it’s a conversation with God. But I love pondering, and you certainly have prompted me to do that! 🙂

    Gayle | Grace for Gayle

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  • afifa

    Very very nice thought. I can soo relate to it.
    my opinion about prayer is that its a choice you make to love your God.
    He is definetly watching and guiding us in every of our matters.
    wether we make a prayer or dont does not bother us in our everyday life routine.
    prayer is just like saying ‘I love you’ to your mother…just to aknowlege the Love.
    so in my opinion Prayer is like sending love to your God.
    Atleast we believe He is there.
    Shouldnt we send our Love…
    please correct me where i am wrong
    Lovee youuu:)

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