A Christian’s Guide to “Thoughts and Prayers”

When my dad passed away two months ago today, my Facebook wall became filled with messages from friends, assuring me that they were “sorry for my loss”and that I was  “in their thoughts and prayers.” I type the same messages to friends who suffer family tragedies, all the while thinking how empty the words are compared to my feelings.

As Christians, it is our natural response to pray for others. And because we are close to them, we hold them in our thoughts. “Thoughts and prayers” are tweeted after every national or international incident, and the two mass shootings just hours apart — one in Texas and one in Ohio — were no exception.

As Christians, is it okay to tell others they are in our thoughts and prayers? Yes, of course, but we must back that with prayers that mean more than asking God to “be with” the victims. Of course He will.

Pray for this:

  • Pray for the physical healing of the victims’ injuries. Pray for their pain management, their surgeries, their medical bills, and their recovery.
  • Pray for their families, whose lives have been turned upside down. Pray that they feel God beside them as they spend long hours in hospital waiting rooms.
  • Pray for the first responders. Give thanks for the  way they react so quickly and expertly. Thank God for their knowledge and skill.
  • Pray for the hospital staff. Give thanks for the long hours they work, and the care with which they tend to their patients.
  • Pray for their clergy and those involved in youth and outreach ministries,  that they may take this tragedy and make it work for the glory of God.
  • Pray for the victims who did not survive. Pray for their souls, and for comfort for their families. Pray for their funeral costs.
  • Pray for the psychological healing of the victims — their “invisible wounds.” Pray that they are able to process what has happened and that God will protect them from the effects of PTSD. Pray that they are able to form a strong support system, even to the point of someday helping other victims get through what they have survived.
  • Pray that they feel God’s support during the legalities of bringing the perpetrator to justice. Pray that they are strong when they have to face their attacker in court. Pray that they get closure.
  • Pray for the community, as they are brought together in shock and grief. Pray that laws can be changed to prevent the same tragedies happening again and again.
  • And — most difficult — pray for the shooter, the bomber, the attacker. Pray that they will realize what they have done, that they will be genuinely sorry, and that they give their hearts to Jesus. Pray for the family of the attacker, who might be under a different kind of attack from the press.

Then, and only then, can you tell a survivor they are in your thoughts and prayers.

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