A&M Professor and Local Faith Leaders Discuss the Phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” | Local News
The phrase “thoughts and prayers” is often heard in response to tragic times, such as the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that claimed the lives of 21 people, including 19 children.
The use of the phrase, often used by public figures and politicians, has been met with mixed opinions.
Nathan Crick, a professor in the communications department at Texas A&M, noted that while the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has the basic meaning of feeling someone’s pain, the words have different meanings.
Crick said our immediate impulse is to empathize with others when we encounter their pain. He added that people tell others about their suffering because they want to feel that they are not alone.
“When I say, ‘My thoughts are with you,’ it means that I am actively thinking about your situation, dwelling on what you are going through, that you are on my mind. When I say, ‘My prayers are with you,’ we imply seeking help for you from a higher power or from God,” Crick said.
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Matt Morton, teaching pastor at the Creekside campus of Grace Bible Church in College Station, said that although the phrase “thoughts and prayers” does not appear in the Bible, its scriptures say a number of things about prayer. Morton added that he does not personally tell people, “I send thoughts and prayers,” but rather prays for specific requests, such as for God to bring comfort or wisdom to individuals or to end violence.
“I really believe it’s important that we don’t just say we pray, but actually pray,” Morton said. “I think it’s really easy to say those words, ‘I pray,’ and then not do it. But if we believe — and we believe — that prayer is powerful and God hears and answers, then we we’ll be motivated to actually pray, and then as we pray, I think we’re going to be motivated to act, to obey God, and to be part of what He wants to do in the world.
College Station Police Department police chaplain and Texas A&M Hillel Foundation rabbi emeritus Peter Tarlow said he believes “thoughts” are a mental process, while “prayers” are a mental process. asset.
“From the Jewish perspective, if we just say a lot of words, but don’t think about how we can fix the problem, then we’ve let God down,” Tarlow said. “When I say, ‘You are in my thoughts and prayers,’ it means I am aware and I am ready to start offering concrete actions that may solve this problem. … I would have to be mentally aware of what happened and that my faith compels me to act so that the tragedy does not happen again.
“I can’t take away what happened, unfortunately. What I can do, however, is judge myself or collectively, our community can judge itself. That, to me, is prayer. And how to make the world a better place? How do we try to prevent this from happening again? »
Crick noted that the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has become a source of mockery, satire and even ridicule, especially when used by public figures.
“There’s a difference between an individual who has no power and an individual in a position of power saying that phrase, and I think that’s a very clear distinction to make,” Crick said. “When we look at political leaders who are responsible for making decisions, the reason they are in power, the reason they were elected is not a gesture of sympathy or empathy. enacting policies for the safety, protection and well-being of their constituents is their job.
“Thoughts and prayers” can serve a “social function”, he said, when it comes to politicians expressing sympathy and “goodwill” towards a community.
“When you use a social gesture that’s only meant to show you my emotional allegiance, it feels totally inadequate as a response to a systemic problem that demands a systemic solution,” Crick continued. “It is the inadequacy or inadequacy of the gesture at this moment that is the problem, not the gesture itself, which is entirely appropriate in a social situation that demands an empathetic response.”
Morton said people of the Christian faith act in response to tragedies, such as the Uvalde shooting, based on their sphere of influence, gifts and proximity to the situation.
“Perhaps it is in the community that we are drawn to give money, that we are drawn to physically intervene and meet the needs of people when they are suffering, whether it is to provide food or clothing or whatever a person needs,” Morton said. “Maybe it’s for some Christians that they’re politically involved and helping to think about how our nation can move forward. forward to prevent acts of violence like this.”