“You (they) will be in my thoughts and prayers!” How often do we hear this phrase? When disaster struck in the shootings in California recently, how many congressmen did you hear say this? When the school shootings in New Jersey took place, how many in our government said this. And its not just group disasters. Those who have lost a loved one for any reason are hurting. For example, when we see the son or daughter whose mother has just died, aren’t these the words that we often say? “You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers”. It is usually said very sincerely, I’m sure (although with my cynical nature I often question that). It is usually said very piously as though we have a special line to God—this is especially true of many clergy persons.
I’m sure that most people when they say these words really think that they will do that. My question today is—-how many of us feel guilty because we don’t follow through? How many of us get busy with life and never take time for prayer and communication with God? How many of us really have a prayer life? How much do we think about what happened? If we pray, what do we pray for?
My wife has a practice that she has taught me—instead of saying the words “You will be in my thoughts and prayers, she says—-“would you like for me to pray with you now?” And she puts her arms around the person and prays for them—-for strength to bear the burdens they have, for courage, for God ‘s strength and love for them. In other words—she DOES SOMETHING
How many of our Congressmen and Senators said after the school disaster in New Jersey to the parents of children and spouses of those who died—-“my thoughts and prayers are with you” —-and then went to work the next day and voted down proposed changes to gun laws that President Obama put forward because of his obviously being touched by the massacre and the meeting with parents and spouses directly after the event?. What the President put forward might have helped avoid a future disaster. He tried to do something. It’s just “empty words” if you don”t try to do something. Those children and teachers were not in the thoughts of Republicans who voted down a change in gun laws in obedience to their masters in the NRA—-and certainly not in their prayers. These Senators and Congressmen may have a connection to God, but its only in their heads and obviously not in their hearts.
My suggestion as a pastor? Don’t say these words unless you have an active prayer life and prayer journal. It’s better to say—“Can we pray together now? It’s better to do something for the support of those who are wounded and hurting— determine what they need and just do it!
When my first wife died after a fall and being in a coma for a week—-I had a pastor friend who just sent me a booklet “Trust in God” that was written for those who had lost loved ones. He wrote a note saying, ” this helped me in the recent loss of my wife and I hope it will help you”. I went through that booklet twice- over a two month period—-and give it often to those who have lost loved ones. Those who are grieving don’t need pious promises that “I’ll pray for you.” They need prayer now. They are hurting now. They need hugs now. They need your presence with them now. They need help with their daily burdens they shared with their loved one that have now become theirs alone, now. Find out what they need and do it—now!! Please don’t ask those who are grieving what you ccan do for them—-find what need to be done yourself—and then DO IT!
God doesn’t need to hear from you! God knows what has happened! Be God’s servant and do something that will help the person and reassure the person that God is very present with them in their pain and working through you.
I don’t mean to be unkind! I know people mean well when they say “you will be in my thoughts and prayers” and that they often don’t know what else to say in the face of tragedy and death. But I would suggest that your presence and a hug and a prayer with them and doing what is needed to be done right now will always mean more than the words “you will be in my hearts and prayers.”.