Some thoughts and prayers on “Thoughts and Prayers.”
“Thoughts and Prayers” has been in the public eye, and under public scrutiny, quite a bit lately.
First things first.
I’ve talked with countless people who shared how blessed they felt to know others were praying for them.
Thoughts and prayers can be powerful.
To hold someone in your mind and in your heart is a beautiful thing.
To focus on the needs of someone other than yourself is to follow the way of Jesus.
Remember, even on the cross, Jesus prayed for others — “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
He also blessed a criminal — “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
That all sounds wonderful, right? How could anyone have a problem with that?
All too often, the phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” is said without any real belief.
The person saying it may have a vague sense that it’s something nice “you’re supposed to say” during a challenging time, but there’s no feeling of depth or authenticity behind it.
Think about a time when someone said, “I’m sorry” to you, and meant it. How did that feel?
Now think of a time when someone said, “I’m sorry,” but only because they were “supposed to” (or forced to). And not only that, but their continued behavior suggested they really weren’t the least bit sorry. How did that feel?
When people treat “Thoughts and Prayers” that way, it can make the phrase feel pretty empty.
Then again, even when someone says, “My thoughts and prayers are with you” and really means it, there are still those who will argue that what is most needed isn’t more thoughts and prayers, but action. I suggest that is doesn’t have to be either prayer or action.
“Prayer and action must always be profoundly united.” — Pope Francis
I remember when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area. The kids and I prayed. We prayed hard! A lot of us wanted to act immediately, but in those first hours and days, there just wasn’t much else a children’s minister and a bunch of kids could physically do to help.
But there were others who could — paramedics, firefighters, people with fishing boats-turned-rescue vehicles, truckers with supplies — all rushing in. They were God’s answer to our prayers. They were most certainly God’s answer to the prayers of countless people in the Houston area.
So, is that how this all works? There are some people who “just sit around” and pray while others act? Not at all!
God has a very important mission for us. God wants each one of us to keep our eyes open, our ears open, our minds open, and our hearts open. At any moment, something we have the ability to do or say could be the answer to someone else’s prayers! There will come a time when the only thing someone else might be able to do is pray. God will listen, as God always does, with a loving heart. And then God will call on someone to act, to be an answer to that prayer. That someone could be you.
For those who are weary of the phrase “Thoughts and Prayers,” let’s be understanding and kind. They’ve seen it modeled poorly time and again by those who treat prayer as a passive exercise. But for those of us of the Faith, prayer is quite active.
Let’s close with one of my favorite prayers, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.
Notice how many ways this cherished prayer calls for action.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Director of Children’s Ministries