In Lieu of Prayer


I spent my lunch going over the news coming out of Newton, CT and I saw many tweets and Facebook statuses offering prayers to the victim’s families. I love that idea, that we can put out those kind of thoughts into cyberspace. I truly believe there is value to that.

But I don’t really pray like that, so those words coming from me would ring false. And they would carry a meaning I don’t intend.

So I stared at a Twitter box and a Facebook window wondering what to say. How do I convey my thoughts to the universe in hopes that they’ll reach the epicenter of tragedy in some small way.

I vow to spread joy and love in my own community today, and hope the ripples reach those in Connecticut that will need it in the days/weeks/months/years to come. I will not honk at the slow driver or scowl at the confused cashier. I won’t complain about a stranger or gossip about a friend. I vow to promote love and joy in a world darkened by tragedy today. And I will hug my children tight tonight, and count my many blessings.

I ended up writing the above statement on Facebook. (Corrected a typo before putting it here.)

I often feel at a loss without some sort of religious standard to lean on during times of grief. I have a hard time conveying my love and support to friends and family who need and want the soothing prayers of their loved ones. I want them to know I’m thinking about them, and that my heart is with them in their sadness, but the words, “I’m praying for you,” always carry a different (and often false) meaning than I intend. I feel like it’s dishonest and I want nothing but sincerity to go towards the people I’m trying to comfort.

Am I alone in this? I know many of you connected with me over your Spiritual-but-not-Religious status. When you want to send your sympathy, what do you say?

I fell back on my standard. The only thing I ever know to do when I want to say something like, “I’m praying for you.” I told the universe I’d hug my kids tight and be good to my neighbor and hope that the positive energy I create in the process someday reaches them when they need it most.

It’s all I know to do.

And I hope my words don’t ring empty. I hope I can keep them in my heart on my most stressful days. I hope I can think of the parents of the dead children in Connecticut and continue sending love and comfort into my community in hopes that the ripples of joy will some day reach them and warm their hearts a bit.

I’ll smile at the cashier. I’ll wave at the crossing guard. I’ll thank the teachers at my children’s schools and I’ll hug my friends when I see them next. I’ll put up the buggies at the grocery store and throw away the trash on the sidewalk. I’ll buy flowers for a friend and cook dinner for my family. I’ll donate food to the food bank and drop off jackets at the homeless shelter. I’ll do all of these things in the name of the hearts broken in Newtown.

Because – while I don’t have a prayer to offer – I still have a heart filled with love to light the darkness of those entrenched in grief and sadness.

10 thoughts on “In Lieu of Prayer”

  1. Beautifully said. I chose to brighten three children’s Christmas by donating toys. Not much, but felt blessed that I could. Spreading joy and love what a wonderful sentiment.

  2. I feel the same way. Actually, today I even said to my mom “I wish I was religious today, just so I could believe that man is going to burn in hell for all of eternity.” I think your post was beautiful.

  3. This. Exactly this. I wrote about the wrongness of our country this morning and this is a way to rightness. Peace is hard, it is a practice, but it is so much better than violence.

    Thanks for this.

  4. Thank you for this. I will ‘send good thoughts’ to my friends who need prayers because that’s what I believe in. Being good.

  5. You know what, I think it is awesome that you care enough to find a way to reach out that is meaningful and true to you. While I am a faithful person, I don’t think that gets us off the hook as far as being responsible, caring and loving human beings. If EVERY SINGLE PERSON felt truly loved in this world we wold have a lot less of these scenarios I truly believe so yes, act on those feelings and keep expressing these sentiments because we are free to believe what we wish and being empowered in our beliefs is a STRONG thing!

  6. Clicked through from google reader just because I wanted you to know…this is beautiful–beautifully written, heartfelt sentiment. Thank you for giving words to feelings that I couldn’t. Lots of love to you and your family.

  7. Hi…

    Wonderful articulation. Beautiful sentiment. I do have a question: “what is spiritual-but-not-religious” because a commenter said “from one non-believer to another”.

    My beautiful spiritual-but-not-religious best friend died tragically 10 months ago giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. We had many discussions on life and one I remember about this very topic where I managed to infer that she was a “non-believer” due to her spiritual-but-not-religious statements. She looked at me askance and said something to the effect of why would I assume that she doesn’t believe in deity or have faith? She said she *does* believe in God. Does worship just not affiliated to a particular theology nor did she feel compelled to share her faith in an organized way in the inside of some church structure. Rather her idea of fellowship and being spiritual in her faith was to spend time in places that nurtured her soul and affirmed her faith that the world was in some ways divine. She loved big, was generous, often randomly kind to strangers and a life teacher like no other. So, if you have an answer to what is “spiritual-but-not-religious”? Also, if you’re a “spiritual” person there is some indication that there’s a reverent part of you so why would that make praying a “non-option”? Honestly just curious not looking to debate or debase or contradict a position.

    Thanks for your beautiful thoughts on love and sending it the way you did. I applaud your action.


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