Thoughts And Prayers – What it should mean, what it doesn’t

I came across a tweet on my way to work this morning that I’ve seen way too much over the las year, or so. It was from someone I know, not that well, but well enough. Basically they were saying that “whoever” could take their thoughts and prayers and shove them. And hey, that seems to be the trend lately, and in light of all the tragedies America has suffered the last few years with public shootings, it’s easy to understand from a non-believer’s point of view why someone would be compelled to say that.

And before we go any further, let me make one thing clear…the purpose of this article is NOT to talk about gun regulations, gun laws, what has to be done, or what hasn’t been done. That’s a subject for a different debate, and one I have strong feelings on. So, in the interest of keeping the subject on one thing, I will refrain from anything in regards to the whole gun debate.

What I want to talk about, is praying.

Yes, praying.

If you notice, any time anything tragic happens, most people’s first inclination is to say, “Thoughts and prayers are with the families”, or something to that affect. And this goes for anybody, people who subscribe to a religious faith, and even some people who don’t.

There’s only one problem.

Most people (and I’m gonna venture to say more than half, so let’s say 6 out of 10), when they say “thoughts and prayers”, don’t even pray. They just say it, and pretty much move on, not even giving one thought to what that actually means. And then they go about their day, get into their thoughts on gun laws, or whatever else. They put no thought whatsoever behind the phrase “thoughts and prayers”. And then when people go off on them and tell them that their thoughts and prayers don’t help, or mean anything, they wonder why.

Newsflash: Those people are kinda right…in some ways, at least.

Let me clarify what I mean by that. First of all, if you are not even really praying, that’s a problem. And it is my personal opinion that no one should EVER say “thoughts and prayers” for anything, be it a public shooting, or the death of a loved one, or a tragic accident, or whatever, if you’re not really praying. Then it doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t help, and is (for all intents and purposes) just mindless dribble. Now I can only speak for myself, and I am no way trying to put myself up on some pedestal, but let me assure all of you, ANY TIME I offer any situation thoughts and prayers for ANY REASON, I actually take the time to do it, and actually put some thought into it. I don’t just say it, and then go about my day. I pray to God, and I pray earnestly for a number of things involved with whatever the current situation is. As a Christian, that is my duty when I am praying. Anything less than that is a slap in the face to the victims, to the families, to the situation, and most importantly, to God.

Secondly, and this is (respectfully) to all those who bash people that offer “thoughts and prayers”, you need to have any understanding of what we’re actually praying for. We’re not praying for some “magic man in the clouds” to come down and save us, and stop the madness. That’s not how prayer works. To quote a tweet I once saw by former and writer, Billy Hallowell on the matter, “You pray for comfort for those afflicted. You pray for the first responders. You pray for the families. You pray for our culture to come to its senses.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you are honestly and earnestly praying for a tragic situation, such as a school or public shooting, we absolutely should be praying for all of those things. Of course we also pray for a resolution, but just because one doesn’t come along doesn’t mean that prayer is useless, or that “God has failed”, as I’ve seen many people say. God didn’t fail. We, as a society, have failed. And that’s part of the problem. This is a sick, evil, BROKEN world. I think anyone, believers or not, would agree on that.

For those who believe in God, such as myself, I know things are going to get a lot worse before they ever get better. Jesus said it plainly in John 16:33 when He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I DO take heart in those words. And that is why I have placed my faith and trust in Jesus that one day He will put an end to ALL suffering. Public shootings, rape, tragedies, natural disasters, ALL of it will one day come to an end. In Revelation 21:4 it says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain”. This is the hope we have in the Christ Jesus. This is why we pray. THIS is why we believe.

Now, does that mean I blow horrible situations like this off when they happen? Of course not, I pray for many of the things I quoted above, and in addition, I also pray for people to wake up, and understand that we live in a broken world, and that all the regulations in the world will not take away from the fact that evil exists, and will continue to exist. And I also pray that if anything good comes out of horrible situation like the shooting Thursday afternoon at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, or even the recent tragic Paramus school bus accident about a month ago, that people will come to faith in Jesus Christ. And put their trust in the one sure thing beyond this temporary world. I pray that for the people affected, and even any person in general who isn’t affected. THAT is what a Christian means (or at least they should) when we say “thoughts and prayers for the victims and families”. Anything less, and you might as well not even say anything.

Being a Christian (or becoming one), doesn’t make life perfect. Earnestly praying for people affected in a tragic situation isn’t going to magically make everything better. What it DOES do is offer hope, and an eternal solution to a lost world.

What do you think?

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Written by Tony Grater

Radio Producer and Engineer for iHeartMedia in New York City. Lover of God, Family, Music and THAT order. Married with 2 children, lives in New Jersey. Life verse is John 14:6

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