A ‘thoughts and prayers’ backlash
What good is prayer if we do nothing when it is within our power to do something?
I write this in the aftermath of the latest tragic mass-shooting in America. People, as always, have flocked online to express their ‘thoughts and prayers’. Remarkably, this has triggered a stream of ferocious responses. A negative reaction to prayerful sentiment is now a growing trend. Mia Farrow’s reply to Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, was telling: ‘Prayers and thoughts don’t seem to be working. We NEED reasonable gun laws. Do your job.’
I have sympathy for both those who find prayer comforting, and those who want people to spend less time praying and more time doing. Someone in Ryan’s position should be spending time off his knees doing something. His prayers lack authenticity when he doesn’t use his position to bring about change.
For others, though, prayer is a real and tangible expression of compassion, faith, and hope. It’s sad that many people’s impression of prayer is that it is all about asking God to do stuff. Prayer is far deeper and more profound than asking God to behave as a spiritual Santa Claus. The scientific benefits of prayer and meditation are undeniable. Shutting down something that helps humans in meaningful and tangible ways seems unwise.
That said, a healthy prayer life should always have a healthy real world impact. A strong prayer life isn’t about the amount of time spent in prayer. Nor is it shown through telling people of our prayerfulness. We see it in the kind of life people live in the light of their prayer life. What good is prayer if we do nothing when it is within our power to do something?