Monday, January 3, 2011

Praying for Our Atheist Friends Who Face Surgery

Across town, one of my best friends wakes up today (is likely already awake) to prepare to have hip replacement surgery. I have already prayed for her. And you might say, "Of course. We would expect you to pray for a friend facing surgery."

Except this friend is an avowed atheist, one of those mind made up, no hint of doubt atheists. I've wondered about the ethics of praying for atheists. I've already decided that God won't be upset if I pray for her. I pray for atheists of all sorts, usually the sort of prayer where I ask God to melt the frozen hearts of dictators, human rights abusers, those in power in all sorts of settings. My friend is no evil creepazoid. God won't mind my prayers for her safety and health, for the sure fingers of her surgeon, for her nurses.

Do I need to get her permission? I thought about this too, but I decided not to get her permission. I'm not going to be one of those loud people, who, when the surgery is a success, announces that I prayed for her. I'm not going to pray with her in a loud voice before the surgery. I won't even be in the waiting room. No, I'll pray as I so often do, in the privacy of my own bed/room/office.

I will think of those studies (perhaps disproven?) that showed that patients who had people pray for them had an easier recovery than those who didn't, even when the patients didn't know anyone was praying. I'll pray because it gives me something to do, a purpose. I can't stitch together flesh or administer drugs, but I can pray. I'll pray because it soothes me too. I'll pray because God wants me to pray. I'll pray, not because I can prove anything with science, but because it's what I do. It's a practice that will point me towards the person I want to be.

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