“We send our thoughts and prayers to ___________ in the wake of ___________” Those words used to mean something at first. It used to mean that we cared about what happened. People would even change their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter to show their support. But then something happened. The thoughts and prayers started to sound like a rote response to tragic events. To the hearers of these words, they began to come up empty and then began to be received with disdain. I don’t tend to get political on this blog. This is where spirituality meets reality. But there’s something spiritual going on right now that as a follower of Jesus Christ, as the church (the body of Christ here on earth) we need to address.
Thoughts and prayers.
What does that mean? Thoughts and prayers. Some see it as sending warm good vibes towards someone in need. Recently actor Chris Pratt (Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy) posted on Twitter that he was sending thoughts and prayers to Kevin Smith who had a massive heart attack earlier this week. And there was a big backlash towards that. James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy stood up to defend Pratt, tweeting that he appreciates it that people would send good vibes in their own way towards someone in pain. But he also tweeted that there was something more needed in the wake of tragic events. Gunn gave a call to action to go along with thoughts and prayers (you can read more about this here including his tweets).
This got me to thinking. How often do we offer thoughts and prayers to many situations and don’t allow ourselves to be used to answer the same said prayers. Prayer should lead to action. And this isn’t just from me.
In the book of Isaiah, God becomes angry with the people of Israel for how they treat the poor and yet still worship Him. The people would fast and pray to God and yet to nothing that God has called them to do. He tells them:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
Jesus even speaks about being the answer to our prayers with the parable of the sheep and the goats in the Gospel of Matthew.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36
In the parable, when the people ask when they did all of this, the reply is simple:
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, my job isn’t just to give thoughts and prayers, my job is to be active in my faith, to move forward in my faith, to not only be a voice for those who have no voice (Proverbs 31:1-9). Faith by itself is empty if it isn’t followed by action.
James says in his letter:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?…Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:14-16, 26
In other words, thoughts and prayers are nice, but if they are not followed by actual action of living out of your faith, then they are merely empty words.
As I’ve been following things in the news and things on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve noticed that as Christians, we have a spiritual problem. There’s something going on in the church today that needs to be addressed. Are we as followers of Jesus Christ truly living out what Jesus calls us to do or are we merely wishing people well in the face of tragedy.
What can you as a Christian, what can we as the church (the body of Christ itself here on earth) do during this time in our nation’s history? We are to act. We are to live out our thoughts and prayers, to be more than passive bystanders but active in our faith. Faith is a verb and should be lived out. Allow yourself to be the answer to your prayers.