If you come from non-religious background (like mine), you will probably be startled by this question the first time you hear it. It might make you feel uncomfortable or even downright angry, especially if you are an adamant atheist or a sceptical agnostic.
And there is a very good reason for your reaction.
When someone asks you how they could be praying for you, what they are really asking of you is to confess your innermost struggles and desires. They are asking you to admit that you are not in control of your life and that no matter how hard-working or kind-hearted you are, not all of your dreams have been fulfilled. This is the height of vulnerability, the kind of vulnerability that a “How are you?” or “How can I help you?” rarely elicits.
Moreover, when someone asks you how they could be praying for you, they are admitting that there might be nothing that they can do (or even say) to help you. Thus, they are giving you permission to complain (i.e. unburden your heart and mind as we all need to do from time to time in order to remain healthy and sane) in a positivity-obsessed world without the fear of being a burden; you can be certain that your confidant will not worry excessively about your woes as they will off-load them to a deity.
Vulnerability breeds meaningful relationships.
There is no question that evokes vulnerability more effectively than “How can I be praying for you?”.
And so, if there is even a drop of faith in your heart, I would like to encourage you to ask this question of the people that matter most to you.
And if you are an adamant atheist, then I implore you to recognise the dire need for a secular alternative to “How can I be praying for you?”.