Q: #284. What is the meaning of: "Our thoughts and prayers are with you?"
A: Apparently, this phrase has been around for a while, but it has certainly become much more popular in the last decade or two (early 2000’s). Of course, I think we all know what the “prayers” part of this phrase means, but the “thoughts” part is a bit more mystifying.
I did a little research on this since I am not exactly sure what people mean when they say they “My thoughts are with you.” Here are a few of the things I found. First and foremost, it is the “politically correct” thing to say today. In saying this, one can appeal to those who believe in prayer, as well as those who don’t. The hope is that no one is offended (other examples: a “moment of silence” rather than prayer or saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”). Secondly, it is supposed to be a way to show your concern for a person. If you are “thinking about them,” it means you are concerned. You are telling them that they aren’t alone. Thirdly, there are those who believe that if you think “positive thoughts” about someone, that it is actually going to help them in some way (those thoughts can somehow be transmitted to those who are hurting).
There are other reasons why people use this term, but these are three of the more common ones. As a Christian, I am obviously a little bias, but I just don’t see how a grieving person is comforted at all by someone “thinking about them.” If we tell a person we are praying for them, this means we are making intercession to God on their behalf. We are praying for God to help them in specific ways in regards to their situation. Going to God is the BEST solution to any problem. Knowing people are praying should be a comfort to anyone struggling with pain and suffering (even those who don’t believe in the God of the Bible usually believe in some “higher power”).
P.S. If you tell someone you are going to “pray for them,” you better do it! And, it might be best to do it right then and there.
We can and should also take steps to “physically” and “tangibly” help those who are hurting in whatever way we can (financially, medically, feeding, clothing, housing, doing errands, just listening, etc…). As Christians, we are called to do this. Non-Christians and those who don’t believe in any God at all can and should do this as well. This can also be a great comfort to those struggling with pain and suffering. But, telling someone, “I will think about you,” and then going home and doing that… How does that accomplish anything?