Our thoughts and prayers are with …

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I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m feeling the flow. When people say “Our thoughts and prayers are with …” whoever, what does that mean?

Do people genuinely believe that positive thoughts and prayers will travel from, say, San Diego to Orlando and help cure a cancer-stricken patient? Is the fact that you’re praying for someone supposed to make that person feel better? Like, man, I’m pretty upset about this heart attack, but now that Joe’s thoughts and prayers are with me I’m all pepped up?

I’m being serious. If one Googles the phrase “Our thoughts and prayers are with …” he gets, literally, 12,100,000 hits. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McDonnell Family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the F-22 pilot. Our thoughts and prayers are with the senator and his family. So many thoughts and prayers, so many outcomes that don’t reward those thoughts and prayers. You think, you pray—dude dies. Happens all the time.

I don’t mean this to sound quite as cynical as it probably does. I mean it mostly in a literal sense. When politicians say “Our thoughts and prayers are with …” I’m pretty certain that, oh, 90 percent of the time their thoughts and prayers are not with; that the speech writer getting paid $26,000 threw that in there as a nice little touch. And even if the politician does mean it, can he truly speak for all of us? How does Barack Obama know “our” thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so? I don’t mean to be a dickus, but if, say, Dick Cheney is hit by a bus, my thoughts and prayers almost certainly won’t be with him. That doesn’t mean I want him to die—I certainly don’t. But will I send my valuable thoughts and prayers his way? No way. Not when I want the new XBox.

I just think we, as humans, accept lazy linguistic uses because it’s easier than being original. Instead of sending my thoughts and prayers to a suffering pilot, why can’t I send caramels (to steal from Good Will Hunting) and merry tidings? Instead of wishing thoughts and prayers upon the Mahopac High School Class of 2011, I wish strong travels and few farts.

Now I must get back to my book. It’s due in a month.

Please think and pray for me …

11 thoughts on “Our thoughts and prayers are with …”

  1. I think one of our primal fears is that we will suffer, and perhaps die, and the world will go on as before, just like your suffering is merely a blip on the world’s radar.

    Of course, it really is that way – people suffer terribly and people die every day, and the world, for the most part, continues on without a hitch.

    The “Our thoughts and prayers…” trope, I think, is a way for us to show that at least for a few moments or hours or days, we are using this person’s suffering as a way for us to reflect on our own lives and our own mortality – in effect, we are saying to them that at least temporarily, we are not forgetting about them, and that their suffering has at least made some impact on our daily lives.

    I’m also not the religious/spiritual type, so I don’t take this “prayer” thing literally. I don’t think my thoughts or prayers will materially alleviate suffering. But it certainly doesn’t make things worse.

    But I also think it is a valuable tool to help us reflect on suffering and death. Even if politicians say this kind of thing in a superficial way, and they really don’t mean it, it certainly helps the suffering and their friends and family feel a whole lot better.

  2. There is a possibility that prayer can help.
    Or maybe not.

    As someone that does have faith I believe prayer can help, but it is not a guarantee of help.
    God is the factor.

    God does not hear everyone’s prayer.
    Isaiah 1:15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
    I agree. Those that say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with …”, when their heart is not right (about 99.9999999% of those politicians), their prayers fall on deaf ears.

  3. I wrote a blog piece about this when my grandmother died.

    I think it’s complete horseshit and ultimately selfish. People say that someone is “in their thoughts and prayers” because it’s the laziest possible thing that they can do other than not saying anything at all. I mean really: how useful are thoughts and prayers? If a god exists and it has a grand plan for the universe, will it change its otherwise immutable plan for all of mankind just because some random person thinks or prays about something? It’s ludicrous on its face.

    You want to actually do something for someone who is sick or who has died? Don’t pray. Visit them while they’re sick. Donate to a charity for the illness they either died from or are currently fighting. Help the family out by doing some chores, running errands, cooking food, or doing otherwise worthwhile things during their time of hardship. If you offer to do something, really fucking mean it. How often do people say, “If you need anything, let me know,” but they don’t really mean it? Mean it. Do something.

    Prayers? Even if you get around to it, it’s incredibly fucking lazy. How long does it take to think or pray? And does the duration of the prayer count in its effectiveness? It’s nonsense.

    And I say it’s selfish because ultimately when someone says they will pray for someone else they do it in part to make themselves seem caring and emotional. To seem like they are in some way trying to sympathize and empathize. If you’re really going to pray or think of someone, do you even need to say it? Do you need to remind people of how much pain their loved one is in by saying you’ll pray for them? No. Just pray and think.

    My take is, unless you’re a person who’s actually going to do something useful, keep your fucking mouth shut while the family tries to get through some hard times.

  4. I agree with what JMW stated above. Unless you know the God of the Bible, prayers will not be heard. There is a True God, and not all ways lead to heaven. When I tell someone that my thoughts and prayers are with them, I am telling them that what they are going through, is weighing on my mind, that I care, and that yes, I am lifting up their circumstance to the the Lord God of the universe – for help, for comfort, for whatever the need. And, when someone says “let me know if I can do anything”, people need to speak up and say what they need. Don’t be prideful and say “nothing” or expect them to read your mind…. Tell those folks what you need… I am betting they will do it for you…

  5. This sums up exactly what I’ve been thinking. The “thoughts and prayers” statement is SOOOOO overused and cliched. Whenever a tragedy is on the news and a politician is commenting on it, I’m like, “Oh, here comes the ‘thoughts and prayers’ nonsense…” Can’t people come up with anything original? Do they really believe people are going home and thinking and praying for them? It’s so lame.

  6. our thoughts and prayers are with you, sending you thoughts and prayers, you are in our thoughts and prayers. SOUNDS LIKE A BROKEN RECORD TO ME!! This is what I would call an empty condolence. what happened to expressing sympathy from the heart and not your thought?? What happened to if you need a friend to talk to, dont hesitate to call?? What happened to he or she no longer has to suffer the pain of this world?? Or, he or she is in a better place. my personal favorite, its not the years that were lived that matters, its how good those years were. At least thats more comforting than the usual empty and so very repeated sympathy.

  7. TOTALLY agree.
    you see a lot of this on twitter, as if the families of the latest shooting will give a shit what CorvetteGuy69 says.

  8. As a man of faith and a minister, you make amockery of true faith. Your assumption may be correct that many use this glibly, but persons who have found the glory of God to be real and to have seen miracles of healing in practice, then if this kind of faith believers say this phrase, then that is exactly what we mean. Do I think prayers sent from across the country have an effect? Yes I do. As it says in

    Philippians 4:6


    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and
    supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

    So is this a bad thing to pray for others? No…at least not if it is meant in the real world of Christian belief, not as many uise it. Making prayer trite is not a good thing I agree.

    …also, just because Cd1515 has not experienced the completeness of God in his life, then his comment holds no real authority. Just like those who say my thoughts and prayers are with the victims families of the shooting, who make the statement in an ignorant manner. The truth is since I do not know the heart of anyone who wishes such a request, then I cannot determine, or judge, their authority.

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