The words “I will pray for you” are often sincere, thoughtful and kind. It’s a way for people who care about us to let us know we are in their thoughts and they wish us well. Even if they can’t fix the problem, they offer us their good hopes for us.
But people who want to win an argument–as narcissists always must–will often use those very same words to insult us. And honestly, sometimes it is infuriating the way they slap those words across your face. “I will pray for you,” said oh so smugly and sickly sweetly, when you know darn well they don’t mean anything good for you. Why do people do this? Why do they bring out “I will pray for you as their closing words in an argument they are usually losing?
1. It gives them a moral high ground. They are insinuating that they they are spiritually superior, they are good holy people and they have God on their side because they have the inside word on what God thinks is good. They use the phrase in a patronizing way, and you KNOW they really mean “Oh you silly sinner. I’m right and you are wrong. God is against your side. You’d better mend your ways.” If you are religious and believe in prayer, it’s a smack across your face because they’ve basically just told you you are a bad person in need of their prayer. If you aren’t religious, it’s a smack across your face because, if they know you aren’t religious, they are purposely disrespecting your beliefs. Not only are they insinuating that you are morally wrong, but they are also given you the big flashy hint that they think you are godless and need to change before you go to hell. Oh they might not SAY it, but you can read between the lines. If someone tells you “I will pray for you” and they are saying it to win an argument, they definitely aren’t saying it in love!
2. The person who says “I will pray for you” wants to get the last word. They are closing the conversation. They aren’t going to listen to what you have to say anymore. They are shutting you down and letting you know that they don’t respect what you are trying to say. You are just sooo wrong, that they aren’t even going to waste their time listening to you anymore. It is a form of stonewalling–a tactic that many abusers or dysfunctional people use to distract you from the real topic. Wikipedia says that stonewalling is “The use of deflection in a conversation in order to render a conversation to be pointless and insignificant.” Oh, you were standing up for yourself or trying to make a point? Too bad! I’m going to change the topic, “pray” for you and walk away! This tactic is common with narcissist because they have no time for what other people think or feel.
3. This person wants to appear non-confrontational to others by saying “I will pray for you.” In a way, they are gas lighting you. The casual observer looks on and says “oh see, isn’t that nice. Even though they disagree, that party is going to step down…and even offer prayer to the other party. How big and mature of them.” On the other side, you are thinking “wait, I don’t need prayer for this” or “wait, I didn’t even get to defend myself or make my point!” You feel like you were never heard, you feel like the other person was patronizing to you, and you feel like they are judging your morality, but how do you express this? If you point out that you were just cut off, the other person still gets to flaunt the high moral ground, and anyone watching is going to think you are petty for being upset that someone said “I will pray for you.”
4. If you aren’t in a conversation and the person is reaching out to you specifically to tell you how wrong you are and they say “I will pray for you,” they are shaming you. This is a famous trick for narcissist mothers. If you are no contact with them, they will send you letters, cards, gifts, etc…, and they often end the note with “I will pray for you.” They want you to feel guilty and like you are wrong for holding a boundary and keeping them out of your life. If you are dealing with a narcissistic person and they say it, they are really just trying to make your feel guilty. Gosh, you are just so mean to your mother…that she has to pray for your soul!
Again, these words are often very sincere and come with love from people who care about us, but sadly, they are high jacked by people who want to use them against us. It isn’t always a narcissist who does it. Sometimes it’s a normal person and you are in the middle of a normal argument. Even non-narcs argue sometimes! It isn’t a great way to converse, but no one is perfect. However, when a narcissist uses “I will pray for you,” it somehow seems offensive.