I'm an outspoken atheist, but I also try my hardest to be respectful of those that are religious. But there comes a problem. Here's an example of my dillema.
Me: "Hey there, how are you?"
Friend: "Doing just fine, how are you?"
Me: "Oh, doing okay...I have a (insert big life event here that might not turn out well)
Friend: "Really? I will pray for you..."
How do I politely tell them not to waste their time? It kind of grates on my nerves when people just say they'll pray for me. But I know they are doing it because they are concerned, but why can't they show it in other ways? How do you guys deal with this? Do you just let it go or is there some script that I can follow?
This truly depends on the situation and what you personally get out of prayer. There are situations where I do not know what more to do. When this occurs, I research and reach out to others; perhaps someone else in my life has the skills or information or resources to provide what I need. There are situations where there is nothing you can do to get what you want. When a loved one dies, there is nothing I can do to bring them back - and that's okay with me. Sometimes, there is nothing more you can do but move on. Other times, there is plenty you can do even if it's hard or difficult to imagine. I accept this, love the support I have in my life from others, and "vow" never to stop learning and striving. Think of this: when you pray, do you do some of these same things? Perhaps we're not so different.
Well, I don't pray. I think, personally, it's a waste of time and an empty gesture. So I try to find any small thing, because any small things helps. Even if it's walking their dog for them, or maybe helping them with some chore to help get that one thing off their chest. If all else fails: Coffee, laughter and companionship to help them through their time. (I'm figuring if they come to me with some sorrow, they are wanting my company anyway).
Like! Companionship, laughter, hugs are all helpful and healing, and are more practical than prayer.
However, I'm starting to see prayer as more like meditation. And if someone keeps you in their thoughts, aren't they more likely to check up on you and ask how things are doing? I'm still a new atheist/agnostic and in my family (as delusional as they can be) the prayer chain usually turns into a group of women cooking and cleaning to help the person being prayed for, so I never paid it any mind.
I've come across people who are deeply relational and very emotional in their disposition. So for a person like that, it can be rather hard to simply get over something. Especially a wife who has lost her husband of 30 years. Sometimes our reason simply can't explain away the hurt and pain. Yes family is very important in the healing process, but you eventually one has to return home to an empty bed. Then all of a sudden these feelings sneak up on you in the dark.
I pretty much just thank them for the sentiment, and ignore that fact that "I'll pray for you" is basically BS for "I'm too busy/disinterested/lazy to actually do anything to help you myself" Honestly, I understand your problem. It is incredibly annoying to have people say "Thank God" this and "Thank God that"...I got dragged into a Mission trip by my Lutheran Mother and Baptist Father one summer. Now all and all, the week was a good experience. I was working with a group to re-roof a retired couple's trailer. I enjoyed the work, and I felt good about it. What was difficult was having to grin and bear the long praying before and after work, and before meals, and the big preachy sermon things that came about intermittently while we were at "The Compound" as I called it (was really an old school with the rooms turned into bunk rooms...there were like sixty other churches there). What's funny is that that trip sort of set my atheism in stone, so to speak. When you're surrounded by people who honestly believe the myth, you have to decide if you're going to bear the annoyance, or irritate and possibly hurt the people you love.
There seems to be this silly idea that Theists and Atheists HAVE to be at odds with each other. All you need to do is accept that nothing you do will change them: THEY have to decide whether or not to stop living the lie. Until then, you just have to suffer through the "prayers".
I would say OK or that is nice, really awkwardly so that they hopefully get that i was being sarcastic.