I believe in prayer. However public prayer tends to make me anxious, yes even during mass. Yes, me a budding Catholic theologian has issues with prayer (there’s a reason why I’m a “practicing” Catholic).
I’m pretty sure anyone with a disability, particularly a visible one, has had at least one uncomfortable public prayer experience that they’ll never forget, although they’d really really really like to.
Every time I hear or read about an awkward prayer encounter (much like the one below) I cringe, like Pavlov’s dog and that stupid bell.
There are a few issues here. If someone says they don’t need help, they don’t need help so BACK OFF. It does not matter how well-meaning you are.
Now, to the actual issue I’d like to address here: Praying for people you don’t know in public. The sentiment is nice, and appreciated, but no (at least as a general rule).
If you feel the need to pray for someone out loud and in a public area, which I have no idea why you would do so, but anyway, ask the person you want to pray for if they wouldn’t mind.
Do not ask anyone else, even if the person cannot speak they can communicate, and will make their wishes known. If they say “no” respect that.
Not everyone shares the same faith and may find it offensive if you just go up to them and start praying for them (I am one of those people, just for the record).
If they say “yes” ask them if there’s anything they’d like your prayers for. I can almost guarantee that you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting. Most people feel the need to pray for the full healing of a person with a disability. However it isn’t what we always want, especially if that person was born with their disability (like myself).
We are not broken. If you believe in God then why is it so unbelievable that God would create people “fearfully and wonderfully made” just as He made you?
So if you really feel compelled to pray for someone try to find some common ground.
But as a general rule I’m still going to say that you should not approach someone in public and pray for them, and keep your hands to yourself. You never know what potential damage you could be doing to another person, either physically, mentally, or both.
Please don’t pray for me but if you really have to, do it in private. I do not need to know you’re praying for me or why. I’m just going about my day, just like you are.