Everyone falls on hard times now and then. Every single person, from the guy on the corner to the rich in high lofts, can fall on hard times and need a helping hand. When this happens, most people will look for sympathy, support, and generally good company. Some go to friends, others family, sometimes to solace of strangers online. However, there is always one thing in common when a religious person is in this situation. They always ask for prayers.
This is nothing new to anyone who knows a religious person. Prayers are common place in religion. However, they are not common place in Atheism. It is very rare for an Atheist to pray. When they do, it is in general, hoping some magical force they never knew about will hear them. To an Atheist, praying is irrational. So, what happens when they see one of these requests?
"How does an Atheist respond to a request for prayers?
Well, most don't. It's quite simple. This person is asking for prayers, and the Atheist can give none so they leave it up to the religious community to handle it. However, sometimes it is a friend or close family member who is asking for the religious act, and it seems serious. One cannot just ignore such a thing, it would be the same as turning your back on them. What do you do?
In most situations, when a prayer is requested, it is for something small like luck. This person is hoping to see someone, catch something, win something. In most of these situations it is okay to ignore, but you can also respond by saying you have your fingers crossed. However, when it is a serious situation, like a cancerous family member or a friend in an accident, something so simple is not good enough, and you definitely cannot ignore the request.
When serious prayer is asked for, and that prayer is for a miracle, you need to step in. However, an Atheist cannot say that they will be praying for them. That is flat out lying. Instead, they need to offer comfort and help where they can. If the person lives close by you can visit them, if not you can chat with them, offering comfort where you can.
It is rather hard to work around a tough situation, where spiritual support is requested. Whenever possible, though, give emotional and physical support, and let the religious people provide the spiritual assistance. Sometimes, that's better than prayer. After all, if everyone is praying, who will be there with the person to give them real-time help when they need it?
So, next time a friend or family member asks for a prayer, don't let them down by ignoring the request. Instead, give what you can and let them know you care. It can go a long way in allowing them to understand you as a person and an Atheist.