Whenever a terrible event occurs it’s common for people who are not closely tied to the event to convey their sympathy by saying their thoughts and prayers are with the victims of whatever happened. In recent times this expression has come under increased criticism. Particularly online, I’ve seen more and more people becoming upset whenever “thoughts and prayers” is used and raging about how useless thoughts and prayers are. I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon and in my mind it makes complete sense. Our society is becoming increasingly secular and materialistic, so its no wonder people are putting less and less stock in thoughts and prayers. If the material universe really is all that there is, then thoughts and prayers truly are worthless. All you are doing is bouncing around electrical impulses in your brain or speaking words that disappear into the air. You’re doing nothing to help the victims of the tragedy—perhaps even less than nothing. In that light, the rage against “thoughts and prayers” is completely understandable.

Personally I would disagree with the people trashing “thoughts and prayers.” Even if the secular materialistic assumption of the nature of the universe is true, thinking and praying about a tragic event can help people focus their minds on that event and it may spur them on to find ways to help, and might even be the catalyst to coming up with ways to prevent future tragedies. On top of that, if the secular materialist assumption of the universe is false, then thoughts and prayers could have massive potential. Indeed, if a person is not able to aid another person in trouble, then thoughts and prayers might be the best thing they can do for them.

In thinking about the fuss over “thoughts and prayers” I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago about prayer and the existence of God. We both agreed that if God does not exist then prayer is possibly the stupidest thing we do, but if God does exist then prayer is possibly the most powerful thing we do. We are either wasting our breath, or we are talking to the divine sovereign of the universe.

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