Thoughts and Prayers…

After every mass shooting, the phrase “thoughts and prayers” is said by politicians, leaders, regular people, and more. Every single time. And it has me wondering.

What are the actual thoughts and prayers that people are saying? I’m honestly and genuinely curious. What are people thinking about and praying to God about when they say “thoughts and prayers.”

Or is it just an empty throw away line that people assume they are supposed to say, but then never actually think about or pray about the situation?

I’d like to ask the politicians to expand on what is meant by “thoughts and prayers.” What are the actual thoughts? What are the words of the prayers? And who are they praying to, because I’m not sure we are all praying to the same deity any more.

Is a thought about a tragedy, a crime, a horrible incident worth anything if it doesn’t lead to some kind of congruent action?

Do the supposed prayers actually matter if they don’t convict the person praying about such a terrible situation to faithful action?

In other words, I’m curious what the actual thoughts and words are that people are thinking and praying when they say “thoughts and prayers.” Action follow belief after all. We are wired to be congruent and consistent with our actual core beliefs – not our stated beliefs. The two could be the same, but often aren’t.

It leaves me wondering if the “thoughts and prayers” is actually nothing. Because that would be congruent and consistent with the action that takes place after the thoughts and prayers. Literally nothing.

If indeed we are actually thinking and praying about these things, then are we lying to ourselves? Are we lying to God? Do we think we can fool ourselves, God, and others with an empty statement that we have no intention of actually throwing ourselves into with any seriousness?  Is “thoughts and prayers” actually no intention at all to seriously think or pray, but in fact to do the exact opposite of those things?  Why are we as a society continually saying one thing and then doing the exact opposite?  No wonder we have problems – we are societally schizophrenic. 

We have poverty of morals and ethics.  A poverty of truthfulness. We have poverty of faith.  This is a self-induced poverty.  A self-delusion.  Talking about poverty is dangerous because we end up assuming things – that people are lazy, or not motivated, etc. But we forget the systemic nature of poverty thinking that it is all individualized. But poverty of any type is more than just an individual experience. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about economic poverty of any of the poverties I listed above.

Maybe the people who are offering “thoughts and prayers” are sincere – I’d really like to believe that. Maybe they just don’t know what or how to think about these situations. Maybe they don’t know how to prayer about these situations.

Maybe this is all just a wish to make something unpleasant to go away and be someone else’s problem because we don’t have the courage to deal with it.  And so we say “thoughts and prayers” but mean “take this horror away from me.”

Maybe we are scared out of our minds about what any change or action might cost us. Maybe we are so scared that we can’t see that continued mass shootings are literally costing people’s lives. 

So let me offer a suggestion of what to think about and what to pray about. Things that would require action to be consistent with the thoughts and prayers.

Think about the families who have lost loved ones – either the victims of the shootings, or the families of the shooter. They each lose someone they love, but in different ways. These are all people after all. Think of the emotion and the grief. Think of the communities that suffer. Think of people.

And think about what the core issues around such shootings are – leave the spin and the tweets and bumper sticker arguments behind. They aren’t helpful. Really think about what’s going on that leads to these shootings. Think about who is doing them. Think about who the targets are. Think about what is used primarily and why. Think about those things for a bit.

Think about why these shootings persist. Again, not the spin, but actual reasons that can be supported with data and facts and information. And think about how all of that can be used for something good and helpful.

Then pray.

Pray to God for wisdom. For courage. For congruency – to take what it is that is at the core of our beliefs about people and to live into those beliefs. Pray that our stated beliefs which may conflict with our core beliefs may be put aside so that we will be congruent in our action. Pray for mercy and grace, forgiveness and love, courage and care. Pray that we may gain a deeper understanding of what these terms are and how we are to live them out faithfully. Pray that we would be convicted to live faithfully to our call to follow Jesus, to love our neighbor, to care for the outcast. Pray that we would be convicted to love our enemy too. Pray that we would be convicted to act for justice and with mercy. Pray that our actions would show the world what it is that we actually believe and value – without any words being needed. Pray that you would empower us to act to live faithfully, to care about others, to love, to show grace and mercy. Pray that we would have strength to keep going in these actions, that you would give us the wisdom to speak the words that need to be spoken to a world that doesn’t want to hear. Pray that the right people and the right resources come together to do the work that needs to be done – that the Good News that sets us free can be proclaimed and lived into. Pray that such shootings end and that God gives us what we need and shows us the way to stop these horrors.

Think and pray. And let your actions be congruent with your thoughts and prayers.


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