I’m a fan of the Star Wars movies. It was a precondition for marriage that my wife agree to watch all the ones she hadn’t previously seen. And I’m proud to report that over the last several years, I’ve been slowly converting her into a fan of sci-fi.
One of the classic lines from the films is, “May the Force be with you!” And it’s actually funny that the characters say it so often. As presented in the films, the Force surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the universe together. With a description like that, it doesn’t seem like the Force could ever not be with you–it was everywhere!
I was on the phone with a friend the other day and told her that my wife and I were praying for her. She responded with, “And our thoughts are with you guys too!”
Your thoughts? Really? That’s what you’re offering?
In gift-giving, it is often the thought that counts, but in matters of life, I don’t really see thoughts as being especially effective. I don’t believe that we send out positive vibes or achieve good karma through our thoughts. Someone saying that they’re thinking of us, that their thoughts are with us, is kind of boggling to me. What does it feel like when someone’s thoughts are with me? What happens when I’m surrounded by the thoughts of others? Nothing. “Thinking of you” sounds nice on a greeting card, but has no power in eternity.
Now if they’re praying for us, that’s a different story. Asking God on our behalf for blessing, favor, protection, provision, etc. is something that does make a difference in life.
Often times, I hear this language of “our thoughts are with you” from Christians, people who should certainly have prayer as a component of their lives. So, why do they say ‘thoughts’? Do they mean ‘prayer’? Or does ‘prayer’ sound kind of spooky, so they say ‘thoughts’ instead (as if sending out my thoughts wasn’t somehow at least as spooky, if not more so)?
Perhaps people don’t want to commit to praying for someone, or they don’t really believe there is any difference in whether they pray or not, so they just make a polite expression of well-wishing and concern and leave it at that.
I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I don’t think there’s anything magical about the 4th digit in the year code increasing by one; if we need to change our habits or behaviors, let’s not wait until the calendar somehow makes it feel more convenient.
But one of the behaviors I’ve been intentionally trying to change in recent months is my commitment to prayer for others. Frequently in the past, someone has asked me to pray about something on their behalf, or I’ve said (all too off-handedly), “Well, I’ll pray for you” and then not followed through. I now want to make sure that I’m being intentional to ensure that I do pray when I commit myself to doing so or when someone asks me to. Believe it or not, I use an iPhone app to help me remember these commitments.
I do this because I believe that thoughts and prayer are not the same. It’s not equally effective for me to just be cognitively aware of a need, having been informed of someone’s predicament. And it’s dishonest of me to tell someone I’m going to do something and then not to do it.
I don’t want to leave someone merely with the notion that my thoughts are with them–especially when those thoughts likely linger for a very short amount of time. But to actually pray, to dialogue with God about the situations faced by those whose lives intersect my own…now we’re really offering something of substance, a service, a realm of care that actually matters. It’s not just mindfulness, it’s ministry.
I’m sure someone in the future will say to me, “Our thoughts are with you!” I’ll smile to myself, accept their pleasant sentiment for what it is, and then wonder how the universe is doing when there’s so much of the Force intermixed with people’s thoughts flying around.
But as for me, I want to stay committed to prayer. My thoughts don’t accomplish much; but my thoughts which yield action–intercession–is a real way for me to pour out blessing to others.