It used to get under my skin when people would tell me they were praying for me. It came from a long history of feeling judged and condemned by a religious community. "I'll pray for you," often in reference to my sexuality, could come across less as an act of compassion than a declaration of, "You're bad."
My response to being told that I was being prayed for was not very nice. I'm ashamed now of the times that I responded to those words with, "Please don't," or long explanations of how I wasn't Christian or didn't believe in God, or whatever else it was that spewed out of my mouth.
The shift came in an odd sort of middle of the night epiphany. This is when most of my emotional shifts take place. Lying in the dark, staring at the ceiling, I recalled the voice of a pastor I used to know and love. What he named his love didn't matter. How he chose to label compassion or humility wasn't any of my concern. All that mattered is that he lived what he talked. He was humble. He was a well of compassion. He was love.
And he ended every service by looking at the congregation and saying the words, "I ask that you pray for me, as I always pray for you," and then he would simply walk out.
It mattered because he meant it. It wasn't so much the words. It was the sincerity of the plea, it was the way the inflection was different every time. Sometimes his voice would crack, thick with emotion, as he made his request. Sometimes it was said with joy and sparkling eyes. It may have been repetitive, but it was clearly never spoken on auto pilot. It wasn't just something to say because it was part of the routine. He didn't see himself as someone who was above the people to whom he was speaking. He was right down there in it. He sincerely prayed for the well being of others, and he sincerely asked that others would pray for his own well being. Love is circuitous.
If you tell me that you pray for me now, the only response you will receive from me is, "Thank you."
I don't care if you are praying to God, however you name him or her. I don't care if you are sending out Universal intentions or lighting candles and holding me in the light. I don't care if you're conducting a ritual or crossing your fingers. If you are, in some form, thinking of me with kindness, love, or compassion and wishing goodness upon my soul or my life, thank you.