There is no question that social media has this amazing way of evoking our very best and our very worst.
But sometimes, our widespread immersion in social media can even make the most innocuous and otherwise unnoticed idle chatter turn into a massive tsunami of worthless throw-aways, just by its sheer volume.
In other words, when each of us has the ability to see, in real time, the social media responses of hundreds of thousands of people to tragedy after tragedy after tragedy, a certain pattern emerges and becomes evident, that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or undetected if we were not so connected to everyone.
And this is certainly the case with the perpetual inundation of “thoughts and prayers” that find their way scattered under news stories, across timelines, and in comment sections every day for every single triviality or real tragedy.
What may have never reached critical mass (or critical irritation), and then may have never become the focal point of impending death by the masses, had it never met the worldwide web, “thoughts and prayers” have now become the figurative thorn in our collective social media side.
“Thoughts and prayers” is the 21st century equivalent to its 20th century predecessor of “God bless you.”
It is empty and throwaway language that means nothing.
Empty and throwaway language that makes us feel good that we are “doing something,” but neither elicits nor requires action.
Empty and throwaway language that appears as a nice gesture to all but demands no participation and no change.
And in my opinion, that’s why we need to be done with “thoughts and prayers.”
One may wonder why there is such a harsh and critical backlash against such a perceived nicety. And, of course, there may be myriad reasons, but the most evocative response comes from a growing movement of individuals who are done with empty talk and throwaway language that has a good and virtuous appearance, but does nothing for real world impact and that simply perpetuates the problem by verbally agreeing that something needs to change but negates the words through inaction.
“Thoughts and prayers” are devoid of meaning, of value, of consequence, of participation, of action, of change.
That’s why I believe prayer has largely been misunderstood, because it was ever meant to be merely a mental assent or vocal exercise.
Prayer is not exclusively to be understood as thoughts or words, but as alignment.
And to that end, our “thoughts and prayers” have failed, because we have made them empty gestures devoid of embodiment.
Prayer, properly understood, is to be an alignment with God and the embodiment of God’s kingdom that is to be lived out in the world through our lives.
When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray he said, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
That line alone is the key to unlocking prayer — God’s Kingdom coming to earth and God’s will being done on earth requires people embodying this prayer.
Again, prayer is an alignment with God and the embodiment of God’s kingdom that is to be lived out in the world through our lives.
We have mistakenly repeated the Lord’s Prayer as if it is a request being made to God to magically make something happen on earth while we passively sit around and wait for it to happen.
But that was never the intention of the Lord’s Prayer.
When Jesus says “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” it is a prayer declaring our alignment and partnership with God to bring heaven and earth together as one through our lives. God’s will is that his Kingdom will extend into all the earth and the only way that happens is through us.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are agreeing and aligning ourselves with God to be the embodiment of transformation and forgiveness and reconciliation and healing in the world.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are taking an active position in the world to extend God’s kingdom of love and peace and hope to individuals, families and communities.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are those who do not just passively send our “thoughts and prayers” in tragedy, but become the prayer in the ways we nurture and care for the hurting, in the ways we sit in solidarity with those who are grieving, and in the ways we give sacrificially of ourselves on their behalf.
Please don’t miss this: Prayer is not simply a verbal request that is made to God that then waits around for God to do something.
Prayer is a transformative, heart, body, mind and soul alignment with God in which we literally become the prayer. We become the means through which God is working in the world. We become the point where God meets people in their place of pain. Prayer is our “Here am I, send me” moment.
Goodbye, thoughts and prayers.
Brandon Andress of Columbus is a former local church leader, a current iTunes podcast speaker and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website at brandon andress.com.
Brandon Andress of Columbus is a former local church leader, a current iTunes podcast speaker and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website at brandonandress.com.