Thoughts and Prayers

These days, the term “Thoughts and Prayers” are tossed around like penny candy on a parade route.

At their best, thoughts and prayers are a compassionate display of empathy with spirits in turmoil. At their worst, they can convince us we are doing something when we are in fact, doing nothing.

Thoughts and prayers can spur action. The exercise of praying can center us before we enter battle.

Prayers can distill our hopes and fears into bite size pieces, reminding us why the ideas behind them are important. Armed with a clear articulation of the outcome we seek and why the outcome is important; meaningful progress is possible.

Thoughts precede words and deeds, giving us a time for reflection on how our behavior will impact others. Every action creates unintended consequences. Taking the time to think about how both friends and adversaries may respond can strengthen resolve, modify the approach, and prepare for the unexpected.

We can pray for troubled souls but there is no change without engagement.

We can focus our thoughts, hoping others will come around to our point of view. But nothing will happen unless we can understand how they developed their belief systems and came to hold an opposing opinion.

We can pray for divine intervention. And yet, the work is still ours to do. Each of us is charged with modeling the tenants of faith, one of the ten most important being, “Love thy neighbor.”

To believers, divine intervention is in reality God acting through human beings to mitigate suffering. To thinkers, life centers on purpose. Rewarding work lies in its pursuit.

Growing up in a churched atmosphere, I learned we didn’t face life’s challenges alone. Whatever your belief system, this is true. At least one friend exists out there who will listen, give thoughtful feedback, and help think through the tough decisions.

Some of the most productive conversations involve a person articulating an issue of concern with an active listener asking clarifying questions without judgement. In the end, all decisions, including the decision to do nothing, are ours. Each come with consequences. Thoughtful contemplation and the prayerful desire to “do the right thing,” can give us the courage to endure. We can overcome “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and make a positive difference in the process.

When thoughts and prayers become boxes we check without any further action, they can fool us into absolving ourselves from being the change we hope for in the world. Too often, an Instagram, “like” or a Facebook rant, seduces us into believing us we are doing something, when we have, in reality, done nothing.

Hatred and inequality still exist in the world. The lust for power is weakening the underpinnings of America’s fragile democratic experiment. Many around the world are being seduced to sacrifice hard won freedoms to the will of tyrants. Autocrats promise preservation of a false comfort zone, ultimately leading to discomfort and subjugation for everyone.

Like it or not, we are living in some of the most uncertain and dangerous times in human history. We can’t escape responsibility for influencing its course.

In proper context, thoughts and prayers become the engine for enlightenment and abundance. As empty platitudes, they echo Shakespeare, “… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”