General Question

earthduzt's avatar

Should you join in prayer just to satisfy someone?

Asked by earthduzt (3215 points ) July 15th, 2010

So we went out to eat with some friends recently, it was a somewhat large party. Well food came and some of the people there wanted to say a prayer, I do not believe in any of that so of course I did not say anything, no amen afterwards I didnt even bow my head or close my eyes. Well after the dinner a friend told me that one the party members there was concerned that I did not join in prayer and was upset about it, and he basically told my friend that I should have just joined in out of respect. Needless to say I was kind of offended just as much as he was, I mean if I came up to him and said “well since you are out with me can you please refrain from believing in whatever you believe in while you are out with me?” Do you think that would fly? I stood my ground and told them sorry, but I just wouldn’t do that. Is this wrong of me, should I have joined in just out of respect and not to cause a problem like this? Or just stand up for what I believe in and ignore it?

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52 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Standing by neutrally and remaining silent is not disrespectful.

tinyfaery's avatar

No. My wife’s family prays before meals. I just sit there silently and stare ahead until they finish. Someone once asked me if I would pray with them. I just said, “sorry, I don’t pray”. I try not to be a hypocrite.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t think it was disrespectful, either, but I understand the discomfort of the hosts. They didn’t want to think they were making anyone uncomfortable, so they asked you to help them be comfortable. Not very nice hosts, if you ask me. Not very Christian, for that matter.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t know why they’d be upset – respect goes all ways, respect their prayer and don’t pray and have them respect your lack of need to pray.

wgallios's avatar

I think remaining silent is quite alright. Your are not disrespecting their beliefs. It’s not like you stopped the prayer to let everyone know you did not believe in praying.

You did respect their prayer, and they should respect your beliefs as well.

janbb's avatar

Great question; I am trying to think what I do. I think depending on how militantly atheistic I am feeling on any given day, I will either stay silent and look straight ahead or half-bow my head. I think either is respectful enough and would not expect to be challenged for it.

Fly's avatar

Of course not! Remaining silent is not disrespectful of their beliefs, but asking that you put your beliefs or lack thereof on hold for theirs is just not right. Nobody should expect you to something that they wouldn’t do for you.
When I am in such situations, I stay silent such as you did. I slightly bow my head in silence on occasion. I don’t believe anyone I know has ever been upset by either, and they seem like perfectly respectful alternatives.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I remain silent and look at the table or floor. I think that’s good enough for most people. I have passed on leading a prayer at a family dinner though, and I simply said that I’m not religious. Luckily, no one had a fit or proselytized me.

Aster's avatar

People who complain about this like she did give Christians a bad name. I pray but not for a meal. It doesn’t feel right. But I do bow my head in respect to the others at the table and of course, they’re not watching me, right?? Don’t want to be rude.

Spider's avatar

It depends on what you want to do. This is a great example of the concept that how you do something can be more important than what you do.

If you want to passively communicate a lack of interest in something that may be very important to someone else, then you should do what you did; knowing that someone may be offended. (I’m not defending the offended – just stating that it’s unreasonable to assume no one will be offended by anything someone does.)

Personally, I slightly bow my head when I’m in that situation. I take a moment to myself to think about whatever I want to. I almost see it as a brief gift of silence that is all mine to do with what I please, just as each other person does what they please in those moments. Whether I’m “praying” or creating a to-do list in my head isn’t anyone else’s business, so I don’t care whether or not they think I’m praying or not. At the same time, I don’t have to respond to ridiculous accusations and risk someone else’s discomfort being blamed on me.

gasman's avatar

If your friends disapprove of your polite non-participation in their insanity, maybe you should look for new friends.

Aster's avatar

@gasman You tell ‘em, gas.

doublebogie's avatar

My very best friend in life is a Lutheran Minister, we grew up together He knows my feelings about religion and I know his. He doesn’t expect me to pray with him at dinner or other functions. I do respect his time of prayer by silence. He respects my beliefs by not trying to save me. I’m pretty sure he prays for my sole in private though. You didn’t cause a problem the person made their problem yours.

cookieman's avatar

I think you handled it perfectly well.

Similar to @tinyfaery, I will simply sit silent and wait for them to finish. I do the same thing if I happen to be in a church, temple or synagogue.

escapedone7's avatar

Apparently these super religious people have never read Matthew chapter 6.

ninjacolin's avatar

If you want a fight you can have one. If prayer is a fiction, what’s the harm in participating? Unless you really want to handle a discussion later, as you had to, I would advise just bowing your head. Consider it a dodge… again, unless you welcome the opportunity to share your contradicting beliefs.

earthduzt's avatar

Well I just kind of looked forward and hung my head a little, it’s not like I was chowing down while they prayed or anything like that, I remained silent and just reflected with myself not particularly to some God

Aster's avatar

The Bible directs us to pray to God all day long. So? I’ll tell you so:
when you pray a lot it (as He knew) it can relax you like meditating.
So what’s the harm in trying it? Just the act of expressing your thanks for what you have and asking for things is good for us.
I am not saying it makes sense to everyone

TexasDude's avatar

I’m not religious in any way, shape, or form, for the most part, but I’ve been in several positions where I’ve been around groups of praying people or even asked to say the prayer myself. I obliged every time and it never killed me or caused any long term harm. I think it’s polite to adapt to the customs of those around you, within reason of course.

SmashTheState's avatar

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” [Matthew 6:5–8]

NaturallyMe's avatar

No, you were fine. I think it’s often rude of believers to want to force others to join in with their beliefs. Respecting their beliefs are fine, but sometimes they think the world seems to revolve around them and if you do not act according to their beliefs, you’re somehow the one who offends them.

I never close my eyes at family prayers and often don’t bow my head either. (This doesn’t mean that i’m not thankful for the meal, my prayer is being thankful for the meal in my head).
Also, i chose to have a non-religious wedding. Certain religious family members and some of my parents friends would not have approved, my mum said. So just to satisfy them, i phoned up the reverend and asked him to place an opening prayer in there somewhere for the sake of these people. I was miffed about it to say the least. Fortunately though, he forgot about it, (heh heh heh!!!), so my wedding ceremony turned out as I originally wanted it, because the last thing i wanted to do was please someone else with my ceremony. Anyway, everybody (with the exception of 1 silly guest) loved the ceremony.

So, ya, they just have to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around them and their religious beliefs. Whoever doesn’t like it can be miffed if they want, it doesn’t affect me. :)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Here is the problem (for me, anyway) with this situation. The person who was upset about your non-conformance should have come to you directly. And the friend that told you about the situation should have told the person who was bothered by it to discuss it with you and not them.

A wise friend once told me: when at a difference of opinions with someone, switch the tables. In this case, if they had been asked, “How would you feel if we were eating together and I felt that you should not have the opportunity to pray before your meal?” It usually gives them food for thought (pun intended).

syz's avatar

I don’t.

jazmina88's avatar

You weren’t rude…or you would have chomped on the lamb chop during the prayer.
That was demanding of your hosts.

They need to get over it, if they dont…..it’s up to you. Defend yourself or find new buddies.

and PS – you dont have to pray with your eyes closed. I get dizzy. :):)

soarwing11's avatar

You did the right thing by standing your ground. Better to be honest with others and have them dislike you, than to do something that you don’t believe in. If they’re really your friends it wouldn’t have been a problem – or won’t be a problem for very long.

frdelrosario's avatar

To be polite, I bow my head and work on chess puzzles in my head.

I didn’t buy into “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, either, but I recited that a zillion times like every other kid.

SmashTheState's avatar

Despite (or perhaps because of) being Catholic, our family was not overtly religious, and we had a little ritual we’d do whenever we were with other people and they suggested we say grace: our whole family would say, in unison: “GRACE!” and then dig in. Needless to say, we were never invited to dine with religious people twice.

jazmina88's avatar

grace is an awesome word…....!!!!!
I named a cat Grace…..

Blackberry's avatar

No. When I’m at military ceremonies with a chaplin who does some religious prayer hoopla, we are all supposed to bow our heads and assume the prayer stance. I just stand there looking at everyone else pray.

jca's avatar

i don’t think there’s any harm in bowing your head. you can think about whatever you want while you’re doing it, without offending anybody. when in rome, do as the romans do. i am not a prayer person either (i do believe in God but i don’t pray prior to meals), but i will bow my head and cause no controversy.

i have participated in friends’ religious ceremonies, for example lighting the menorrah, and it does not mean i believe in whatever their religion is, i just do it as a learning experience and look at it as fun. no harm done, nobody’s trying to convert me.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I don’t think you did anything wrong. I don’t bow my head, either. I’m not defiant and rude about it, but I just look ahead until everyone is done. Some people look at me strange, some people ask me why I don’t do it and I just explain, “Oh, I’m not religious” and I smile. Usually it ends there.

Blackberry's avatar

@DrasticDreamer Yes I use the same line, “I’m not religious”, although sometimes I just wanna say “I’m an adamant atheist and I’m gonna eat your babies…..” lol…..

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Blackberry I know the feeling. I won’t forget the Christmas where one of my ex’s family members let her really young son go on about my ex and I for not praying.

reijinni's avatar

I mostly try not to join in. But I wind doing so anyways. I mostly avoid it by being somewhere else at the time.

casheroo's avatar

I would have done the same as you. Even when I attend Catholic weddings, I don’t partake in any of the songs or prayers. I just remain silent.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Spider ‘s response deserves a second look. He points out that you chose to demonstrate silently that you would have nothing to do with their prayer. You could have half-bowed your head to avoid drawing attention to your defiant non-participation. You could have kept your eyes open and imagined the hostess naked if that pleases you. No amen, no prayer, no confrontation.

andrew's avatar

I call shenanigans a little, here.

If you simply sat there silently while the prayer happened, that’s one thing. But, if you sat there, stiff, eyes wide open, glaring at everyone doing their silly prayer, that’s another.

Best to be gracious in these situations. Of course, the way the information got back to you is annoying and petty, and since you were out for food instead of at someone’s house, that’s different as well. Were you the only one who didn’t partake in the prayer?

Not quite enough information to form a complete opinion, but something doesn’t quite add up.

earthduzt's avatar

@andrew I don’t play shenanigans, I think I am a little too old to be playing that. No one else had a problem with it, except the one person and evidently he is one of those overly religious people…maybe he was just questioning it thinking he could find some fresh meat to convert. I did not know everyone there.

AmWiser's avatar

You wrote: ‘Well after the dinner a friend told me that one the party members there was concerned that I did not join in prayer and was upset about it, and he basically told my friend that I should have just joined in out of respect’. I just want to know why that person wasn’t engaged in prayer. Was that person looking to see who was praying and who was not. Some people just have issues and like to keep mess stirred up.

MrsDufresne's avatar

You did what you felt was right, and (I feel) that was the right thing to do. The person telling you that you should feel “wrong” is the one that is wrong in my opinion.
Oh and good for you for standing up for yourself too. ; )

earthduzt's avatar

@AmWiser I think he looked up for a second, again I’m not sure…it was a fairly large group and I didn’t think anything would come about it, so evidently someone saw me not praying. Like I said I did not know the guy that questioned it, but was told after the fact that he was a pretty religious person…so maybe he did look up for a moment just to see who was praying /shrugs

AmWiser's avatar

@earthduzt I understand what you’re saying, but don’t sugar coat the scenario. If you are praying, you are praying, its for you own benefit. You don’t look up for a second to see who is praying or not. In a second one should not be able to discern who is doing what unless you are not praying.

MaryW's avatar

@AmWiser has a point, it is not Christian to be looking “to stir things up”

FutureMemory's avatar

@MaryW Since when? Christians love to get in non-christians faces about their non-christian ways.

SmashTheState's avatar

@MaryW said, ‘it is not Christian to be looking “to stir things up”’

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” [Matthew 10:34–36]

Blondesjon's avatar

Jesus Christ! You people act like bowing your head and closing your eyes for a couple of seconds is an admission of something. Let me tell you all a little secret . . .

. . . it’s not a fucking contest. Nobody is keeping score. Come down off of your high horse, show a little respect, and then eat.

What? You’re afraid Jesus might sneak into ya when your guard is down?

FutureMemory's avatar

@Blondesjon What? You’re afraid Jesus might sneak into ya when your guard is down?

Yeah, and I’ll be god damned if I ever let that happen.

Blondesjon's avatar

@FutureMemory psst . . . he doesn’t really exist . . .

the god damned was a nice touch.

netgrrl's avatar

I’ve never joined in. Out of respect for the beliefs of others, I sit quietly, I don’t close my eyes but generally I do incline my head slightly. I don’t say “Amen.” No one has ever said a thing to me about it.

I think it was very rude and disrespectful to you for that person to say such a thing.

Obviously the people who noticed were busier being self-righteous than they were praying.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Only if when they are over at your house, they all abstain from praying in respect for your beliefs.

mattbrowne's avatar

This one person of the party members expecting this of you was disrespectful. Not you.

Meltd's avatar

As was pointed out before, why wasn’t his eyes closed in prayer? What harm did you do by not joining in? So nice to know christians really have their priorities in the right places!

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