Would You Allow Christians To Pray Over Your Baby… If They Asked Nicely? June 12, 2009

Would You Allow Christians To Pray Over Your Baby… If They Asked Nicely?

Many of you had thoughts on whether or not you’d allow a stranger to pray over your baby.

Reader Ruby Leigh wonders if a particular twist on the prayer would change your mind about it:

I just read the piece about the Wal-Mart woman praying over Lulu without request… I can understand how this would be off-putting… and perhaps a bit weird.

I used to be involved with a Christian community that really encouraged asking people if they wanted prayer (like while you are out on the street). They said that people are more receptive to this than other forms of so-called “evangelism.” So in the case where the stranger asks to pray, is it less uncomfortable?

I’m guessing if asked, many of you would just say no. But would the asking of the question make you any more willing to accept their prayers (even if you don’t think they’d do anything)?

Would anything make you more receptive to their prayers?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Infinite Monkey

    When my Christian friends tell me they pray for me, I thank them. They see it as the most they can do for my well-being. It may be futile, but I think its the thought that counts.

  • chinaman

    but I think its the thought that counts.

    indeed, for there isn’t much else.

    i’d say let them pray, the baby won’t give a shit, i won’t give a shit, the christian would feel good about himself, so why not.

    btw, it’s not what wouold make me receptive, he’s praying to an invisible man, not me or my baby if i had one.

  • Clarie

    *laughs* and the advert at the top of the comment page as I’m looking at it is for ourprayer.org.

  • ursulamajor

    If my child was sick and his/her religious relatives were around, I’d be nice and allow it. (Went through similar episodes when my husband was dying.) If not, then I’d respectfully decline the prayer.

    My 14 year old son would tell them to take a hike. I’m working on his delivery.

  • Matto the Hun

    No, no and no.

    The very fact that they ask makes them at least somewhat more sane than the insane religious lady from the original story.

    If it was someone I knew that asked it means
    A) That would have to be more sane still as I’m not likely to have a close enough relationship with an evangelical.

    B) If they know me they damn well ought to know better…

    So in this case there is even less of an excuse for that behavior making my answer a definite no and increasing the likelihood of a negative reaction on my part.

    If the situation that my kid was sick and my relatives wanted to pray, they can respect me and my family and pray at home. I would even appreciate that in a way. That’s how they express their concern and part of their process of keeping my kid and its well being in their thoughts, which is nice.

    If they cannot extend that respect, if they feel they have to pray over my kid, because how they feel about their religion is more important than how myself and my family feel.. they can piss off, I don’t need ’em.

  • Jasen777

    Say yes, if they will then let you pray for them. Then pray in the name of the Mother Goddess.

  • peregrine

    I suppose it would depend on the context. It is the thought that counts, so I suppose it matters what they have in mind. Is said Christian praying for the child’s general well being? In that case, there’s no harm in it. It would be no different than a general hope or wish for a person’s well being. It’s a nice sentiment, I suppose.

    Is the Christian praying that the child, in spite of being raised by heathen parents somehow finds God? Of course it would have no effect, and the kid would still be free to choose their own path either way, but I would find that insulting.

    Or from the opposite perspective, my wife is Pagan. How would the Christian feel if my wife offered to give some kind of Wiccan blessing or spell or something for their child’s well being? How would the Christian feel if a Buddhist offered a Metta meditation for the child’s well being?

    If they’re the kind of person who would say “thank you” and go along with it, then I’d be more inclined to grant them permission to pray for my child’s well being. If they’re the kind of person who wants no part of someone else’s rituals involved with their child, then I don’t want any part of their rituals involved with my child.

  • Spurs Fan

    I would normally think this would be harmless and see it as trivial to resist. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Peregrine has a good point:

    Or from the opposite perspective, my wife is Pagan. How would the Christian feel if my wife offered to give some kind of Wiccan blessing or spell or something for their child’s well being? How would the Christian feel if a Buddhist offered a Metta meditation for the child’s well being?

    The person would not be happy if I cornered their child to spout some viewpoints, and thus, give them some legitimacy. What if the prayer, after starting out as harmless, turned into something that I specifically didn’t agree with (Lord, help this boy grow up to be the spiritual leader of household, growing up to see men as ordained by God to guide their families).

    Too much of a Pandora’s box for me.

  • In the abstract, I wouldn’t mind. In practice, such things always seem to happen at inconvenient times, so I probably would be “put off”.

  • Delphine

    It all depends on how much benefit I will be getting out of the event. If they simply want to pray for me or my child, I would probably look at how much time I have. No time? Sorry. Have time? If they let me pray for them in the name of Darwin and Richard Dawkins then I will let them pray for my kid in the name of the god of their choice.

    That being said, if along with prayer service they’re offering free childcare or free t-shirt/mug/anything useful/money, then sure! Pray away!

    In fact, I am baptized by both the Catholic nuns and Protestants. My mother used churches as free day-cares. The nuns and the Protestants asked my mom if they can baptize my brother and I. My mom, being an atheist, couldn’t care less one way or another, so she said, sure, go ahead, if it pleases you.

  • My mother in law is Pentecostal, so in the interest of family harmony and because I really do love my husband I have been letting her pray over my kids for about 20 years.

    It hasn’t ever bothered me. She feels like she is doing her duty, my kids just go with it (they’re grown now anyway) and everyone is happy.

    I don’t care what she says or does – it really doesn’t matter, but it makes her feel better. She’s a wonderful lady and I have a good relationship with her.

  • Tim Stroud

    Here it seems as though we have to decide whether we are helping to perpetuate superstition, or are we trying to save the feelings of the religious ones who may be trying, in their own passive way, to help.

    Babies don’t care what kind of prayer they hear. It’s all gibberish to them.

    In this scenario confrontation doesn’t help anything.

  • Rest

    Pray over my child? No one, absolutely no one, shall pray over the anti-Christ! I’m sure that his/her head would start spinning, and the projectile vomit would take friggin’ days to clean up. Just not worth it. 😉

  • GT

    The prayers will do more to ease the faithful persons own troubled mind than it will anything else. With that in mind, I would say, “If you really want to have a silent prayer, then go ahead if you have to.” That way they get to avoid being “persecuted” and the kid and I don’t have to hear them blabber on about an invisible magic man.

  • ImmortalityLTD

    They could pay me. $1/word. That way they can actually help cure my child by contributing to pay her medical bills.

  • Put is this way: If you were visiting a tribe in the middle of a jungle and they wanted to pray over your child, you would probably say yes in order to not offend them and they might eat you. So, we should say yes to Christians or they might eat us.

  • A stranger? Absolutely not, that’s just creepy.

    A friend or family member is a different matter. If they asked and felt strongly about it then I’d see it as a sign of caring and it would be okay. Especially in a case where say the kid was sick, I think that’s a way to cope with worry and if it works for them then why should I stop them? It wouldn’t be the right place or time to debate belief and rationality.

  • If it were a friend they probably would know me well enough to not bother. If it were a family member I wouldn’t object… but they would probably know me well enough to know how awkward that would be.

    However, were it a stranger… I simply could not resist smiling and politely saying, “Well, thank you so much but I’m not superstitious.” It’s just such a good opportunity to frame the situation in a way that will get their attention… or at least catch them off guard. And saying something that is (to them) so offensive, but saying it in the most polite manner possible is… well… just too good to pass up.

  • Les

    Honestly, it sort of depresses me that this is even a question.
    I don’t believe their prayer has any effect.
    I am not a satanist or anything, I don’t think my baby would melt.

    Therefore, should I care?
    If someone wants to spend 2 seconds of my time praying about my baby, they are more than welcome to.
    I think it’s a nice gesture.

  • Chinaman wrote:

    i’d say let them pray, the baby won’t give a shit, i won’t give a shit, the christian would feel good about himself, so why not.

    It’s not my task to help the Christian feel good about himself, particularly a complete stranger. It’s not my task to help him feel bad, either, of course, and I wouldn’t invest my energy explaining to him WHY prayer of futile and his offer, while well-intended, is offensive to me. I’d simply give a polite “No, thank you.” and be on my way … quickly, if possible.

    If he feels compelled to pray, I cannot stop him, but I expect him to keep it to himself and not make me (or my child) stand around providing an audience for him. (per Matthew 6:5-7)

  • Jason

    No, the FSM would become enraged and strike down everyone involved.

  • elf_man

    I would still decline, but at least it shows some basic respect, since presumably they will accept the decision and not pray. If it’s just another tactic (people are more receptive if we do this) or they go ahead and pray anyways, or denounce me for my decision, then of course there is a problem.

  • beckster

    If a stranger came up and asked to pray over my kid, I would tell them to go away and stop being so weird. If they started doing it anyway and had their own kids with them, I would take that as a signal that I was now allowed to inform their kids that there is no god and mommy and daddy just tell them that so they aren’t allowed to have fun on sundays.

    I wouldn’t allow a family member to either. My kids are far more important than keeping the peace with an overzealous family member. Even if it is a family member it gives them the impression that they should insist on more. Same reason we did not give in to pressure to baptize our kids. If I gave in on the little things, then I would find myself having to put my foot down on much bigger things like communions and bible camp. My family is my husband and my children and while I love my parents/siblings/in-laws, they need to know there are boundaries. If they want me to respect their children’s religious upbringing than they should respect mine as well. Of course, this is just my family and my in-laws. Others may have more reasonable family members that won’t take a mile when given an inch 🙂

  • JSug

    To a friend, I’d probably say something like: “If it makes you feel better, be my guest.” To a random stranger? I’m likely to be less accepting.

    I really don’t understand people who insist on praying to god about everything. If everything that happens is part of god’s plan, then nothing they say is going to change anything, right? So why bother? Aren’t they being presumptuous assuming either that they know better than god, or god doesn’t know about their need?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I got prayed over once. Some atheist buddies and I went to a Christian group meeting because they advertised they would be discussing atheism. The discussion didn’t go well for them. As I was preparing to leave, one of the women asked if she could pray for me. I assumed she meant later, and I figured there was no way I could stop her anyway, so I assented. But she meant right there, right then!

    It didn’t work, I left the room just as heathenish as when I entered.

  • John Larberg

    I’d say that they could if I could place a hex on their family. A good hex though which I’d remind them of several times.

  • “Could you do me a solid and submit that prayer on this web [TBD] site for review and approval. That will make sure that it meets my child’s needs. And thanks a million for thinking of us.”

    That’s what would be in my head. I’d likely just make a noncommittal grunt if they wanted to pray over me or change the subject if they wanted to pray over my son.

  • Soulless

    Possible replies:

    “What sort of Voodoo are you working here?”

    “Not right now, he’s tired after performing miracles all day.”

    “Why don’t you get a baby of your own to pray over?”

  • AnonyMouse

    If they ask nicely, I will decline nicely. If they persist, I will be happy to explain my beliefs to them… unless I think that might encourage them, in which case I will explain that my baby is just fine and does not need any prayer at the moment.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I don’t inflict my atheism on them; they’d ought to return the favor. My family knows of my views. If they cannot respect them, then they’ll get an earful of them.

  • Robin

    Do you mean people are asking whether they can borrow your infant for a few moments to pray over them? Usually people mean that they will pray on their own time, not while you stand there. If they wanted me to stand there holding the child while they chanted, I would politely decline. (No thank you.) But if they mean pray on their own time, it’s not like I can stop them.

  • DUG853

    I’d say “no thanks, I’m an atheist” and walk away. (if possible)

  • Like it’ll do any good! Most certainly won’t do any immediate harm.

    I guess if it’s my family, then yes. A complete stranger at wally world? No.

  • Jen

    Maybe if they offered me money for it. If I was feeling really saucy, I might start yelling that they are NOT allowed to buy my baby, even for $20!

    (I might not be allowed back in the store again, but they will NEVER pray over another random baby again!)

  • zoo

    Well, I don’t ever intend to have a baby, but I would say no thanks and move on if I did. If they’ll pray over my kitten though I think I’d let them just because that’s rather unheard of in my experience outside of elementary age Sunday school (animals don’t have souls, after all >_<).

  • medussa

    First off, I don’t have kids, but I have had people ask if they could pray over my patient when I’m busy paramedicking.
    Granted, that is a little different, as I’m on duty, and beholden to the citizens of my fine county, but my first responsibility is to my patient, and in some cases, time is of the essence, sometimes, it’s not.

    I take it case by case. For one thing, I need to verify that the prayor actually knows the prayee (I’ve had total strangers muscle me out of the way to do their perceived holy duty) and wants the prayer, which is not always the case (in which case I gleefully shut the ambulance doors), and in some cases I tell them to pray elsewhere, as I need everyone who isn’t on my team to get out of the way and shut up.
    That part is very satisfying, except I’m usually too busy to really enjoy it.
    When my patient is in a church (which is surprisingly frequent, since god should be saving them), I ask the minister to pray after we’ve left, and when my patient was the minister, I told the congregation to go to the church next door for the time being (yes, I had fun with that one).

    My instincts tell me I would not let anyone who believes in the literal truth of fairy tales anywhere near my child.

  • Depends on the form of prayer. If their praying involved the sacrifice of a young goat then I’d probably say no.

  • llewelly

    Allowing someone to pray over your children would encourage the belief that public displays of their religious belief are accepted by everyone. It would encourage the belief that that they had gained a foothold with you or your children. It would encourage the natural and widespread feeling that their beliefs are pre-eminent and other beliefs need not be taken into account. It sets all sorts of bad precedent.
    Whenever a church/state prayer issue – like that of opening government functions with prayer – arose, they would think: “well, I have an atheist friend/relative/whatever, and they didn’t think it was a big deal when I prayed for their kid, so no-one should think this is a big deal either. It’s just a few militant atheists who want government functions to not include prayer.”

  • keddaw

    “Can I pray over/for your baby?”

    Erm, sure, I guess?

    “Can I circumcise your baby?”

    Erm, no, go away before I call the cops.

    “Can I sacrifice your child to ensure a good crop this year?”


    Praying for good things is a small step on a slippery slope, like horoscopes in ‘real’ newspapers.

  • Polly

    Can I pray for your baby?

    1)No, you might piss off Ganesh and then I’d be in real trouble.

    2)”Go ahead” then walk away.

    3)We’re building a college fund. How would you like to be an ANSWER to a prayer?

  • I’d still say no. I have no belief in the efficacy of the prayer, and my baby certainly wouldn’t have.

    Yes, there may be an argument to let the Christian pray so they can feel good about themselves, but why should I empower them to promote their fallacy?

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