When I write, I try my best to leave religion and words that carry some divine connotation out of it. I recently stumbled upon the phrase in one of my texts:

[...] but pray it never happens.

I am wondering how to rewrite it, removing the connection with deities but keeping the same effect/meaning. Any ideas?

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    You can use hope – Jim Sep 4 '14 at 23:26
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    What do you mean it doesn't carry the same strength? I don't see any difference in strength. Of course you could say, I was hoping like hell but that might be back to having religious undertones, eh? – Jim Sep 5 '14 at 0:52
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    You better hope against hope it never happens. fervently hope, have confidence – Jim Sep 5 '14 at 0:57
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    Are you seeking the intervention of some force to bring about your preference? If not, isn't it just hope, wish, yearn, worry, fret, desire or some other affect term rather than an influence term? – bib Sep 5 '14 at 2:58
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    Any other word, esp., one without a religious connotation, cannot mean 'pray' as in the given context. In the OP's sentence, the word pray implies appealing to the almighty God, and nothing less. – Kris Sep 5 '14 at 6:08

Probably your best word is hope:

Hope: to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment; the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out well.

You can also wish well for someone:

Wish: A desire, longing, or strong inclination for a specific thing.

From the Free Dictionary.

  • Not going to beat hope/wish here. – Mou某 Sep 5 '14 at 7:22
  • I guess it will have to do, hope is kind of a boring word though... Sometimes the english language can be disappointing... – user47765 Sep 6 '14 at 17:50

Depending on the context you could swap it around and find a negative phrase instead: "I dread the day it happens", "the prospect terrifies me", or similar. It might be easier to find intense negative words than positive ones.


While this is not actually a response to your question, I'd suggest that you are being excessively deity-phobic. "Pray" has, in our secular society, taken on a non-religious meaning as well as its original.

: to speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something

: to hope or wish very much for something to happen

: to seriously ask (someone) to do something


It's hard to see even a tinge of religious sentiment in a question like, "And what, pray tell, do you think you're doing?"

In trying to avoid "pray" in your original example, you make your sentence more complex and less pithy. If the phrase were "but pray to God that it never happens", I'd just suggest leaving out "to God", but the phrase as it stands has no religious connotation that I can detect.


Or simply, "May it never happen."

This implies the entreaty to someone or something greater than ourselves without raising the question of to whom the entreaty is addressed.


In the sense that a prayer is a begging request (Dictionary.com),

1) to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to (God or an object of worship)
4) to make earnest petition to (a person)
5) to make petition or entreaty for; crave

you could use plead (Dictionary.com):

1) to appeal or entreat earnestly

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    You better plead it never happens?? I don't think it quite fits. – Jim Sep 5 '14 at 4:03
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    -1 Plead with whom? – Kris Sep 5 '14 at 6:09