We had another round of layoffs at my small Christian workplace this past week. Everyone was gobsmacked, feeling the sadness and stress of more jobs being vacated and our friends having to leave so suddenly.
Even though I’m an outspoken atheist, I like the people I work for and do well at my job. I don’t want to stay forever, but I’m so happy to still have a place here–no matter how much I disagree with the central mission of the company. It’s my job and I appreciate it.
After every instance of mass layoffs the entire company meets for a word from the CEO and a time of extended prayer. I usually try to make a discreet exit to the loo in order to avoid uncomfortable–even hypocritical–situations. I certainly don’t want to pray, and I even moreso don’t want to be a liar or a fake any more than I already may be as a closeted unbeliever.
This time I couldn’t avoid it. I was stuck.
Usually during public prayer I just sit quietly, not even bowing my head, but always being respectful. This time each person was told to pray aloud for the coworker sitting to his or her right. My boss sat on mine. I had to scramble for a workable solution. I’ve never been put on the spot like this when I didn’t feel comfortable saying “no thanks.” This was for someone specific–right beside that person. I decided to take part, but I also refused to pray to an imaginary being.
How did this work? I listened to his request and then I phrased my prayer in such a way as to not be a prayer to God, but a hope and a wishful thought for my boss and the troubles our company was facing. So instead of “God, I want to lift up ____” it was more like “With all of this stress and extra work, I hope we all will find peace and clarity so we can do our very best…”
One benefit of the faux prayer was forcing me to be creative and not fall into the typical clichés like:
“Please give us thisthisthisandthis–but your will be done”
Lord/Jesus/God (every other word, just in case he forgot you were addressing him)
Bonus points for using “just” and/or “really” in every sentence.
Quoting the Bible back to God, telling him what he used to do and what he said.
As far as I know, my audience would only have noticed my lack of trite phrasing, but it was at least genuinely stated. I made it through without outing myself, offending anyone, or faking.
What would you have done in my situation? And as a bonus, what are your favorite prayer clichés?