Why I Am Done With Thoughts and Prayers

There is no question that social media has this amazing way of evoking our very best and our very worst.

But sometimes, our widespread immersion in social media can even make the most innocuous and otherwise unnoticed idle chatter turn into a massive tsunami of worthless throw aways, just by their sheer volume.

In other words, when each of us has the ability to see, in real time, the social media responses of hundreds of thousands of people to tragedy after tragedy after tragedy, a certain pattern emerges and becomes evident, that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or undetected if we were not so connected to everyone.

And this is certainly the case with the perpetual inundation of “thoughts and prayers,” that find their way scattered under news stories, across timelines, and in comment sections every day for every single triviality or real tragedy.

What may have never reached critical mass (or critical irritation), and then may have never become the focal point of impending death by the masses, had it never met the World Wide Web, “thoughts and prayers” have now become the figurative thorn in our collective social media side.

‪”Thoughts and prayers” is the 21st century equivalent to its 20th century “God bless you” predecessor.‬

‪It is empty and throwaway language that means nothing. Empty and throwaway language that makes us feel good that we “doing something,” but neither elicits nor requires action. Empty and throwaway language that appears as a nice gesture to all but demands no participation and no change.‬

‪And in my opinion, that’s why we need to be done with “thoughts and prayers.”‬

One may wonder why there is such a harsh and critical backlash against such a perceived nicety. And, of course, there may be myriad reasons, but the most evocative response comes from a growing movement of individuals who are done with empty talk and throwaway language that has a good and virtuous appearance, but does nothing for real world impact and that simply perpetuates the problem by verbally agreeing that something needs to change but negates the words through inaction.

“Thoughts and prayers” are devoid of meaning, of value, of consequence, of participation, of action, of change.

That’s why I believe prayer has largely been misunderstood, because it was never meant to be merely a mental assent or vocal exercise.

Prayer is not exclusively to be understood as thoughts or words, but as alignment. 

And to that end, our “thoughts and prayers” have failed, because we have made them empty gestures devoid of embodiment.

Prayer, properly understood, is to be an alignment with God and the embodiment of God’s kingdom that is to be lived out in the world through our lives.

When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray he said, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That line alone is the key to unlocking prayer- God’s Kingdom coming to earth and God’s will being done on earth requires people embodying this prayer.

Again, prayer is an alignment with God and the embodiment of God’s kingdom that is to be lived out in the world through our lives.

We have mistakenly repeated the Lord’s Prayer as if it is a request being made to God to magically make something happen on earth while we passively sit around and wait for it to happen.

But that was never the intention of the Lord’s Prayer.

When Jesus says, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” it is a prayer declaring our alignment and partnership with God to bring heaven and earth together as one through our lives. God’s will is that his Kingdom will extend into all the earth and the only way that happens is through us.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are agreeing and aligning ourselves with God to be the embodiment of transformation and forgiveness and reconciliation and healing in the world.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are taking an active position in the world to extend the God’s kingdom of love and peace and hope to individuals, families, and communities.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are those who, do not just passively send our “thoughts and prayers” in tragedy, but become the prayer in the ways we nurture and care for the hurting, in the ways we sit in solidarity with those who are grieving, and in the ways we give sacrificially of ourselves on their behalf.

Please don’t miss this- prayer is not simply a verbal request that is made to God that then waits around for God to do something.

Prayer is a transformative, heart, body, mind, and soul alignment with God in which we literally become the prayer. We become the means through which God is working in the world. We become the point where God meets people in their place of pain. Prayer is our, “Here am I, send me” moment.

Goodbye, thoughts and prayers!

SELF-CHECK: What does it look like for me to move from being a “thoughts and prayers” person to actually becoming the embodiment of prayer in a situation? To this person? To these people? To this community?

Peace and love…

Brandon

9 thoughts on “Why I Am Done With Thoughts and Prayers

  1. So true. I read a post just today about the emptiness of those words by someone who doesn’t believe in God. I’m afraid the attitude that so often accompanies these words is a bane on the Body of Christ.

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    1. While I agree that there are those who throw out this phrase in a chavalier manner there are also those who take that reply seriously. Brandon you seem to assume those who post such things do not, in fact, pray sincerely. I would thank God for anyone who sent me such a reply. You also seem to assume that thoughts and prayers are meant be be seen as a unit. I see them as two separate things. I don’t know if I have ever posted such a reply but I I do I will certainly follow up on it. It is interesting that just yesterday somebody said to me, I don’t believe in prayer but I would appreciate good thoughts for me”

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  2. Wow! I have written and said these words, not knowing what else to do when others hurt or grieve. I must re-think how I respond to others when they are truly in need of understanding, love, an ear, or help of some kind. Thank you.

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  3. Hi Brandon,
    I think you are being too narrow in your definition of prayer, or too “ultimate” for lack of a better phrase. There is plenty of encouragement in the New Testament to present actual requests to God, not the least of which would be Jesus’ parable of Luke 18 in which He encourages bold, persistent prayer when approaching God with our own situations.

    At times we pray over circumstances in which we can play no part in the resolution, and this includes personal tragedies that occur at distant locations. You seem to advocate that by “becoming the prayer” we ourselves are “the answer” to the prayers we pray, and if we are not able to follow through with some personal action, then our prayers are ineffective and superfluous.

    I agree that there are times when action on our part is called for, e.g. we pray over someone’s particular difficulty and the Spirit nudges us to “do something” about it ourselves. I would not characterize this as the universal or even the most common result of prayer. God is ever moving in the minds, bodies, and circumstances of those who pray and those who are prayed for. The ways in which He answers those prayers is as varied and wonderful as any other aspect of God’s being.

    It’s certainly true that phrases such as “God bless you” or “sending thoughts and prayers” can be meaningless and are often tossed out there without conviction, so it is easy to make broad assumptions regarding the sincerity of those words. In my case, if I tell someone, “I’ll be praying for you” you can be sure that I will intercede for their situation, and I believe there is great value in that whether or not I can do anything more.
    Don

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    1. Thanks Don for reading and the response. I want to be clear that prayer is holistic in the sense that in full communion with God our prayers are thanksgiving, petitions, confessions, praises expressed heart, mind, body, and soul (read my previous post https://brandonandress.com/2017/07/19/my-struggle-with-prayer/). My critique is of the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” and how we can easily become people who view prayer as solely a “just leave it up to God” request, rather than a holistic endeavor that is also embodied.

      It is my hope that I can help expand people’s understanding and practice of prayer, because we have been in this disembodied, only wait for God mode for too long.

      Peace…

      Brandon

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  4. Wow! Brandon, this was a great read but more of a call to action. Our faith must produce works! Very well stated! I love your word choice when defining prayer! Truly, this has given me momentum to continue my study on prayer! God is waiting on us! Thank you so much for sharing!

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