Recently, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, and Paris, I’m sure you’ve been seeing the phrase “You’re In My Thoughts And Prayers” used quite a lot around the Internet and in the media as people struggle to respond to these tragedies. You may have even found yourself using this expression as well.
Those words have become so prevalent, in fact, that even the phrase itself has come under attack. The backlash comes in statements like “I don’t need your empty thoughts, do something meaningful about it, and keep your superstitious prayers to yourself.” Or, “You need to stop sitting around with your head bowed down doing nothing and start doing something.”
A recent edition of The New York Daily News featured the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The story attacked politicians who had been offering their “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of these recent tragedies. The article claimed politicians were just offering “meaningless platitudes” instead of taking meaningful action.
Stephen Colbert To The Defense
The Late Show host Stephen Colbert took up the topic recently defending the use of this expression. “As someone who occasionally thinks and prays,” Colbert explained, “The reason you keep people in your thoughts and prayers is admittedly not to fix the problem, but to find some small way to share the burden of grief.”
Thoughts And Prayers Translated
I thought about the times I myself have used that phrase and what was on my heart when those words come out. As a Christian, here’s my personal translation of the phrase…
“You’re in my thoughts and prayers. I’m struggling right now with what to tell you. My heart needs to offer some sort of comfort, but the situation is so big, and you are so hurt, and I really don’t have any answers to offer. I don’t have the right words right now and whatever words I would come up with are going to be too small. But I care. I don’t know what the solutions are right now. Offering to keep you in my thoughts is what I got until I can sort this out and, like you, try to cope with what has happened.
“But, more than that, telling you I’ll keep you in my prayers is where the power starts. It’s how I can begin to do something meaningful. It’s my way of saying that although I may be too small to help, I know someone who’s big enough to handle it. It’s my way of acknowledging that this situation needs a whole lot of God behind it.
“I may not know what the answers are or what actions to take, but I know about this. Prayer is the FIRST action I can take. It’s the beginning of any solution that’s bigger than me. And, in reality, all situations are bigger than me and they all require God first. So here you go. I’m calling upon the Architect of the Universe to embrace you, to bring understanding and peace to all this, and to do whatever needs to be done. You’re in my prayers. I got you the best way I know how.”
So if all you have to offer someone in times of grief, if all you have to say in response to tragedy is “You’re in my thoughts and prayers”, I say, go ahead and say it. If that’s the bridge that fills the gap between sorrow and action, go ahead and say it. Say it with firmness and conviction. Say it with strength. Say it on your knees. Let the phrase become your prayer as you acknowledge that this situation needs so much more than any of us.
It needs God.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews (4:16)