note: i wrote these words back in 2017, after a series of tragedies. you can see the original post here. i have adapted these words to deal with the unthinkable gun violence perpetrated against people of color and children in our country in the last couple of weeks. i share them here as a way to move us, as people of faith, to something more than just words, cynicism, or empty religious platitudes.
It has been a season of terrible tragedy. And once again I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers. It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way. People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is often only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement. The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer. We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all (Micah 6:8). But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an empty ritual. Prayer connects us with God and, when we pray for others in ways that are honest and intentional, it gives us the space to move beyond the quick statement, and into a place where we can truly feel another’s pain, and imagine new ways of meeting people in the midst of that pain. It gives us a way to begin to experience, and then offer, hope. Prayer is neither a magic wand we wave to try and fix something, nor a kind of spiritual medication we take to make ourselves feel better. It is a connection with the living God, who calls us to acknowledge our pain, our questions, our anxieties, and our helplessness, while also recognizing God’s love, power, and invitation to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. And so we do more than simply offer #thoughtsandprayers, as some might do: we actually pause to pray; to suffer with; to lift another up; to ask how we might be a part of the healing. So let us pray: