The following are a couple of messages that appeared on the ex-Mormon mailing list regarding prayer. The first was in response to several people who discussed how they had been ‘forced’ or asked to pray when they didn’t want to.
It seems like many of us have some subtle and not so subtle coercion from orthodox Mormon relatives to pray on our way out, or after we have left. I laughed at the post about praying to Tori Amos and empathized with the author and everyone else as you all struggled for your own freedom of speech.
There certainly isn’t a pat answer either. Situations are different. My suggestions:
1) Plan ahead. If you think you might be asked to pray, go to the person who might make that call and let them know in advance that you would not like to pray.
If they ask you anyway, go to step 2.
2) Have a back up. Stand next to someone you know. If you are asked to pray, arrange in advance for that person to pray for you. “John will you please pray”. John closes his eyes, bows his head and of course everyone else does too .Then his buddy Rick, who is standing next to him, pops off the prayer.
If you have no friends or back up in the room, go to step 3.
3) Give ’em a Protestant prayer. “Dear Jesus, we are just so happy to be here today to worship you, in this just wonderful place. And we know that you are lord and we are just so happy to be a family. We are so glad to have this food god, and you just made it for us and we just thank you for it and your blessings. Praise the Lord. Amen” That’s usually the last time they will ask you to pray.
If they ask you again go to step 4.
4) Start praying in tongues and writhing on the floor. This freaks out everyone and also will be the last time you will be asked to pray. Practice tongues in advanced, because if you don’t, you might get tongue tied, cat got your tongue, stupor of tongues, or just bite your tongue. Then you have to say “Ah canh pway cud mah hung id nahd woakin hooday”.
5) Give them a prayer that lasts a minimum of 15 minutes. You will never be called on again, guaranteed.
6) When all else fails, spin your head completely around and throw up. Everyone will break out in prayer for you.
someone else responded:
The more one thinks about various aspects of prayer, the weirder it gets. Why are you supposed to close your eyes? Why fold your arms? Why is the ‘true order of prayer’ only used in the temple, instead of whenever one prays (and, by implication, uses the ‘false order of prayer’)? If God knows what is in our hearts, why do we have to pray out loud? If we are supposed to ‘bless’ our food by prayer, is it a sin to eat or drink ANYTHING without ‘blessing’ it (like a candy bar at the movies, or a drink of water at any time, or a swallow of our own saliva)? Should we say a blessing over an aspirin tablet? It gets weirder and weirder. But I’ll stop now. I know, I think too much, and that’s a sin.
O flaky Goddess of Fortune, we beseech Thee:
in the random thrust of Thy fluky favor, vector
the luminous lasers of Thy shifty eyes
down upon these, Thy needy & oh-so-deserving
petitioners. Bend down to us the sexy
curve of Thine indifferent ear, and hear
our passionate invocation: let Thy lovely,
lying lips murmur to us the news
of all our true-false guesses A-OK,
our firm & final offers come up rainbows,
our hangnails & hangups & hangovers suddenly zapped,
reverends & rabbis & born-agains all on the run —
and then, O Goddess, give us your slippery word.
that the faithless Lady Luck will hang around
in our faithful love, friendships less fickle than youth,
and a steady view of our world in its barefoot truth.
— Philip Appleman New and Selected Poems 1956-1996