“My / our thoughts and prayers are with you…..”
Any time we see tragedy or hardship breaking out or being shared on social media, we are sure to see this very common reply pop up in response. It’s a nice sentiment, and seems to be today’s catch-all when one feels compelled to leave a comment but doesn’t quite know what to say, or perhaps doesn’t have anything more intimate to offer in consolation. But does mere sentiment count? Does it even matter that one would offer this (either casually or with real sincerity) for words of consolation?
After the most recent school-shooting in Parkland, Florida (at the time of this writing), this response (either in its written form on social media, or spoken by officials and commentators) has come under fierce fire. As quickly as “my / our thoughts and prayers….” can be uttered or typed, we find and hear in angry retort how utterly meaningless those “thoughts and prayers” are, how they don’t do anything to alleviate suffering, nor offer any real solutions to the problems at hand (or their root causes). So much of the disdain seems ill-placed or misdirected, being a product of a growing disregard of God and distaste for his following. But, I don’t think all of the criticism is improperly stated or rooted in the falling-away. Frankly, I think a good bit of it is actually well-deserved.
Why? Well, because far too often, writing or saying “my / our thoughts and prayers….” is nothing but a knee-jerk response of empty rhetoric. While it could be suggested that sending some “feel good vibes” counts for at least something, I would disagree. Most see it for what it (sadly) often is: the “empty rhetoric” I’ve just mentioned. What would make a difference is if the recipient were assured that someone actually did have them in their “thoughts and prayers”. He or she would know that they didn’t have to bear through hardship or tragedy alone, that folks had him / her in their thoughts, were praying to God for them, and were indeed walking along with them through the shadows…for however long or short of a time.
Let folks know you are thinking of them. Let them know they aren’t alone, and that you are praying for them. But, don’t put off the thought or prayer. Take a moment after you are done typing out your reply to truly say prayer, however small. Think of God’s grace filling them, think of Him offering comfort and strength…think of that person in their suffering, and perhaps offer up an additional prayer that their pain be given to God. Turn your sentiment into action- make it a point to do so every time, and it soon becomes second nature. Following the response with an actual prayer / reflection will be incorporated into your thought patterns, and become a reflexive action, not mere words.
Speaking of actions, I would agree (at least in part) with those who are critical of “sending thoughts and prayers”, where they cite a lack of / need for action in particular circumstances. Is there something to which we can set our hand in assistance or in impacting some change of course or policy? Is there something we can do that lightens the burden of our Brothers and Sisters, that helps to build toward a better society, or for those positive changes that set a course away from darkness and chaos, and toward light and peace?
Sometimes, we need to be willing to take the opportunity to not only pray and reflect, but to act. In other times, all we can do is pray and reflect (and that itself, is an act when carried through, beyond the sharing of empty words and “feel good vibes”). Do thoughts and prayers really matter? Yes, as an action, they most certainly do.