There was a day when telling someone you were thinking of them and praying for them was met with thanks and appreciation. While it is still possible and even likely to get that response today, a distinct and loud minority would have us do away with the phrase, the sentiment, and the action. They see such words as useless platitudes used by people who are not willing to do what is necessary. Are they right?
Although the phrase itself seems weighted toward the idea of prayer, I would like to digress for just a moment to look at the idea of reason and thought in society today. Unfortunately, we see the exaltation of feelings over intellect and actions over thought in our day and age. While feelings and actions can be good, without thought to back them up they lead to simplistic and often wrong responses. Certain branches of philosophy have long taught that thinking is important, with thinkers like Socrates proclaiming, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and Descartes theorizing, “I think therefore I am.” Although philosophy can be good, we have to remember that God’s Word remains our standard. We would do well to remember God’s declaration in Isaiah 1:18, “Come let us reason together.” Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We continually find Paul reasoning in synagogues (Acts 17:2. 17; 18:4). And Luke 14:28 records Jesus saying, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” We are taught in the Bible that thinking is a good and necessary part of life!
We are also taught that thinking about and praying for others is good and necessary as well. 1 Timothy 2:1 reminds us that intercessory prayer is an important part of our Christian life: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” When we pray for others we should always recognize the sovereignty of God as we pray (“Not as I will, but as you will” – Matthew 26:39), but we should also remember that prayer can change things. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18). God’s graciousness in commanding prayer is also for our benefit. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And perhaps that is the greatest danger that comes from “thoughts and prayers.” Some people just cannot believe that we are not in control. That there is a God. That He can help. That He is all powerful and all knowing. That there is a way to take away the hate and hurt that resides in our souls. That there is a way to be at peace. Pray for them.