Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
Thoughts and Prayers... again...
Updated: May 25, 2022
When COVID landed on us a little over two years ago, the staff and I began posting daily content for our members and friends. This weekly Wednesday prayer post became a part of our routine. Later, we also started including a printout of the weekly prayers as an insert in the weekly Sunday bulletin. We know some do not have email, some prefer a printed copy, and some who get the email never open it. This weekly email plus the printed list Sunday put prayers in our hands in hopes they go through our eyes into our hearts and minds.
Why do we do this?
Well, prayer isn't the goal but a beginning. When something happens in our lives or the lives of a friend or neighbor, in our church, community, or world, we pray about it. Prayer pauses us before we react. Prayer lifts the concern before God, and asks, "Hey God, see that? What could we do to help you turn that so it looks more like what you want?"
After recent shootings in Buffalo NY, Laguna Woods CA, and now Uvalde TX, I am seeing desperate people unsure what to do or say posting things like, "my prayers are with Buffalo," or "our thoughts and prayers are with those injured during the shooting" or we are "fervently lifting up in prayer" the families and victims.
I'm glad they paused rather than quickly react. Our gut reaction may choose to attack back in revenge or hide away in fear. Some politicians and cable hosts are repeating the shooter's fearful justification of the violence, that our country is allowing too many new and different people to enter and soon they will outnumber "legacy" Americans.
Before we attack or hide or justify, I appreciate the pause to pray. We pray not to impose our will upon God but to open ourselves to God's will. We pray hoping God's will invades and overrules our will. We pray as a starting point, so we will know what to do, and then have the courage to do it God's will inspires us into risky action that looks like Jesus.
But thoughts and prayers cannot be the only thing we offer. Thoughts and prayers, if truly prayed to the God we know in Jesus the Christ, move us to put our bodies and resources into use to heal any harm done and to prevent any future harm. If someone says "Thoughts and prayers" and then does nothing, they use the Lord's name in vain. Prayer to this God becomes faithful action that heals, reconciles, and brings peace.
How about this? If you see someone offer thoughts and prayers, great! Tell them, "Thank you! Prayer is a great place to start." Then set a reminder for a few days or weeks later. Follow up with that person and ask, "What did you hear in your prayer? What did God suggest we do? When do we start?"
And, if you are the person offering "thoughts and prayers," actually sit down in prayer. Offer the concern to God. Listen for any idea God might give you. Then do it.
Blessing, Laughter, and Loving be yours,
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert