Giving “Thoughts and Prayers” a Break

praying in distressWhen tragedy occurs we naturally want to reach out with words of comfort. Lately, so many tragedies—some human created and others of nature—have been met with well-meaning online messages sending “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their loved ones.

When these condolences come from elected officials who could create laws to curb violence or provide adequate help to clean up after storms, a number of us rise up in righteous indignation. We say:

Don’t just tweet your “thoughts and prayers,” DO SOMETHING!

I know I’ve been guilty of tossing out “my thoughts and prayers are with __________.” But it’s time to let that go.

What does help?

Yes, our positive thoughts help victims of tragedy if those thoughts lead to action.

Yes, our prayers help in a variety of ways. But they help most when they move us to action.

But “thoughts and prayers” have become a cliche. What is needed is national movement toward solutions that eliminate or at least lower gun violence and hate crimes.

What is helpful is a government that swiftly takes action to help communities ravaged by storms, fires and other natural disasters. And once quick relief is provided, it would be helpful for our government to embrace what 99.9% of scientists tell us about our own culpability in climate change.

As a spiritual director from the progressive Christian faith tradition, I’m dedicated to thoughts and prayers. Prayer is the first action I take when I see or hear news of tragedy. I’ll keep sending positive, life-affirming thoughts and many prayers wherever and whenever possible.

What I will no longer do is post online or say to someone “my thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Instead, I will say:

My heart breaks for you. I am praying for the wisdom and courage to do what I can to prevent further tragedies like this.

I will also pray that the people we elect to help our nation prevent or mitigate further tragedies will turn their “thoughts and prayers” into real action.

Photo credit: Funky64 ( via / CC BY-NC-ND

Want to try spiritual direction? I have openings in my schedule for new directees—regardless of where you live. I can work by phone, Skype or if you live in the Phoenix metro area we can meet in person. Contact me at  or visit  Also visit my website for the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction.

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