23167753_1814540448574988_228631237868895880_n-1-640x520.jpgOK, it’s time to say it: I’m giving up saying “my thoughts and prayers” are with victims of unimaginable suffering and loss.  I’m done.  And I will no longer encourage people to “send thoughts and prayers” or “keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”  In light of the incomprehensible school shooting yesterday in Florida, and the other 12 or so school shooting since the beginning of 2018 alone, it needs to be said that thoughts and prayers are not enough.

Now, let me clarify: I am a firm believer in saying prayers for those who suffer; and I’m all for keeping people in mind as they go through those struggles.  It’s only natural to have compassion for another human being who is going through some unbelievable pain.  Praying for their comfort in times of pain, for their peace of mind when the bottom of their world has just fallen away, for strength to get through it all…is a good thing.  How many times have we asked someone to pray for us as we face some challenge?  Or how often have we mumbled a prayer – as feeble as it may seem – for someone, even if we don’t believe in praying?  It is not that we are praying that the monster they face will just disappear; it is simply asking God to give them strength to face it.

Praying for such things is what people who have compassion do.

It is also compassionate to keep people in our thoughts as they face their pain and broken hearts.  Keeping them in our thoughts is simply remembering them as they face whatever it is they have to face.  It’s not expecting the pain or suffering to just go away or to pretend it doesn’t exist.  Keeping someone in our thoughts and prayers is a way of honoring them, respecting the suffering they face, and remembering our own inability to avoid pain, loss, and suffering.  When we keep someone in our thoughts and prayers, we are made aware that we are not alone in this world; that when one suffers, we all suffer; that pain is contagious and that we are willing to experience that pain with another person because we are human, too, and pain multiplied becomes – in the long run – pain halved.

So, it’s not that I’m against “thoughts and prayers.”  What I’m sick and tired of is using our thoughts and prayers as excuses for not doing anything else.  We make ourselves feel better by repeating the words and convincing ourselves that we have done something.

What we forget is that prayer is useless without action.  We pray that something will be done, but forget that we are often that very “something”…that the God to whom we pray expects us to act on our own prayers.   It’s a cop-out to say we prayed and then sit on our high horses and wait for God to do whatever God is going to do.  It’s pathetic and, to be blunt, just not very Christian.  Prayer involves not just speaking it, but taking responsibility to act on it.

We are often the answer to our own prayers.

It’s past time to stop sending “thoughts and prayers” and start praying for and pondering how we can be the answer we pray for.