Greetings in Christ,
"Thoughts and prayers" have become a target in recent days. It is a phrase that is quite common in the wake of a tragedy, a disaster, an unexpected illness or nearly any other life-altering event. If it is a sincerely stated conviction of what you are planning to do in response to the crisis that has presented itself, then, by all means, offer them. When we hold someone in our hearts and prayer, we are doing a positive thing for them in the midst of a difficult time.
If, however, 'thoughts and prayers' are mere window dressing, a phrase we use to discharge a social obligation, then it is less than helpful. Offering an empty phrase does little to ease the suffering of others. Indeed, the lack of sincerity can add to their burden.
Prayer in the Christian life is intended to accomplish several things as we grow in Christ. We pray to get to know the Father as He knows us. We pray to comprehend the deep mysteries of God so that we might better witness to His love. We pray for and on behalf of others so that they may know the love of Christ as we lift them before the Lord.
We also pray as Jesus often did, to prepare us to act. In many places in the Gospels, Jesus withdraws to pray just before critical moments in His journey to the cross. He prays for the strength, the courage and the wisdom to act in the Father's Name.
Prayer in the Christian life is to lead us deeper into the love and mercy of God so that we might live out that love and mercy in the world around us. As we offer our prayers for those who are suffering, let us remember that our offer of prayer is not an exemption from an action, but the first step in God's calling to us to be His love at work in the world.