Hurricanes. Wildfires. Mass shootings. The possibility of nuclear annihilation.
Is it any surprise that we regularly hear the call to extend “thoughts and prayers” to others? As predictable as that phrase may be at times like this, equally predictable is the scornful reply from many an atheist. That reply typically amounts to “Thoughts and prayers? How about actually doing something?”
I sympathize. Too often the promissory note to send one’s thoughts and prayers is an empty phrase. It’s slacktivism of the worst sort.
Of course, we should also concede that there is more than enough blame to go around. How many of us, atheists included, thought we were doing our part by tweeting #bringourgirlshome, as if that did one single thing to help children terrorized by Boko Haram?
But back to thoughts and prayers. I think we can concede that thoughts and prayers without action in the world is of little value. As we read in James 2,
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
And so if I had to choose between sending thoughts and prayers or doing something, I’d choose to do something … and let that be my prayer.
Of course, we don’t need to choose. On the contrary, we can think, pray, and do. And so my thought and prayer is that we will.