So let's just say that you are out amongst friends, and someone announces that their father will be undergoing open heart surgery or their sister-in-law has terminal cancer. Everyone else in the group says the usual "I will keep you in my prayers!" or "I'll have to add you to our prayer list at church." or "My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family." And I go: "Gee, I hope everything turns out okay. I'll be thinking of you." It always seems to fall flat.
I'd love to hear how others handle these type of situations. All suggestions are greatly appreciated.
The problem is that they believe prayer really works, and instead of seeing a refusal to pray as a refusal to be disingenuous, they see a refusal to pray as a refusal to help out. And if they believe it really helps, then it doesn't matter that you think it doesn't; as far as they're concerned, it does help, and you're just refusing to pitch in and do your part. It's hard to know what to say to someone who sees things that way. "Prayer doesn't work and therefore I'm not going to help" won't cut it. All you can do is explain your position, and if they hold it against you, too bad. (I suppose it's even possible that they'll see an offer to help in other ways as a way of saying, "I won't *really* help [i.e., by praying], but I'll offer you this trivial everyday help that won't help the sick person one iota instead.")
Sometimes there just seems to be no good way of dealing with people whose worldviews differ significantly from your own--even though yours is the rational one and theirs isn't.
I would comment that I do know of people who underwent the procedure and saw immediate positive results. I'd emphasize the fact that while the procedure is very invasive, it is very common and routine for cardiologists. You might also mention that people like Larry King , Regis Philbin underwentthe procedure at advanced ages and did well.
This is your chance to put in a plug for science without bashing or referencing imaginary friends.
Perhaps "If you need anything in this troubling time, I'll be more than glad to help."
There are plenty of ways to give an emotion-filled,honest statement without referring to empty nothings. "I'll pray for you" basically equals "Oh, that sucks." At least you can offer actual help :]