My religious or spiritual beliefs are personal and not Christian. That's neither a boast nor a feeling of deficiency; it's just what I've come to believe over the course of time.
When I was a kid, I used to pray the ritual "now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep" and then add the "goblesses": gobless Mommy, gobless Daddy, gobless Gramma and Donna and Aunt Lil; but one night as I clasped my hands to pray for the undoing of a bad choice I had made, the voice of Reason within me said, "God is not listening to you, and even if he was, do you really think he'd grant your prayer and undo your stupidity?" And I did not pray. Not that night, and not for over thirty-six years. If I were trying to be really biblical here, I'd say "not for forty days and forty nights," but this wasn't a symbolic hiatus.
My resumption of prayer was brief: "Please God, help this baby," my unborn grandson, the reason for a team of medical personnel scurrying to answer a delivery room code. And then my agnostic self returned. I guess some habits run deep - like the way I still "rock" my supermarket cart while pondering various laundry detergent options, despite the fact that it's been almost thirty years since any little kid in my care needed the rocking. Maybe my early religious conditioning shoved my rational mind aside and took over for that instant in the birthing room.
I'm reminded of prayer and my rejection of it because lately a couple of friends have been going through some very hard times. Shaman is seriously ill, and there is a line of support that I am having trouble with. Most people would say, "You are in my prayers," but for me that would be a lie. Another friend, a survivor of breast cancer and the mother of one daughter who has battled the disease, has just learned that her other daughter has an aggressive breast cancer.
"You are in my thoughts" just sounds shallow to me. They are in my heart, a heart that aches with concern and caring, but they will not be in my prayers. Agnosticism does not supply answers or something to have faith in; it is the belief that whatever divine forces might exist or be at work are unknowable.
This aching heart, these hopes, is what I offer. I hope for the best for each of my dear friends, hope in a fervent and sincere way. My concern is no less than that of a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or any other who prays, but it is not prayer.
And so, Shaman and Helen, I hold each of you in my heart, and I hope that you can feel these sentiments and know that this is my way, a way that I believe is no more and no less valid than prayer. But sometimes I wish I could just honestly say, "You are in my prayers." That would not need an explanation.