Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers

I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. . . Now I was cupbearer to the king.  Nehemiah 1:4,11

I don’t usually refer to current events in this blog, but one aspect of a recent tragedy has stuck with me. As the horrific details of multiple killings emerged on the news, several public figures expressed thoughts and prayers. That phrase – thoughts and prayers – became the butt of late night talk show jokes and internet memes, as it became synonymous with, I feel bad, but I’m going to do nothing.

I do this. When a friend tells me of some difficulty, I don’t know what to do or say, so I tell him I’ll pray. It’s easier to pray, than to actually offer any help. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do, but often, it’s that I just don’t want to know. I’d rather not take on the burden of other people’s problems.

This was not the case with Nehemiah. A conquered Israelite and cupbearer to the king of Persia, Nehemiah received news about the exiles who had returned to rebuild Jerusalem. When he discovered that they were in distress, with their wall broken and their gates burned, he prayed for days. He did not stop there though. I was cupbearer to the king. Nehemiah went to the king, petitioning him to help the exiles. Nehemiah then, personally went back and oversaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

This isn’t the model I usually follow. When I see a need, I usually try to ignore it or I use prayer to mask my impotence and apathy. I’m absolutely not suggesting that prayer is unimportant. It’s the first thing Nehemiah did. I’m saying that when I use prayer as an anesthetic to numb my conscience and to promote my inaction, then I’m simply abusing prayer to hide my continued addiction to self.

If I truly want to love God and others as I was made to, I must see the need around me and I must pray, asking God to show me how I can help. Then, I must do what I can. Thoughts and prayers are a good thing – unless I use them to protect my selfishness and apathy.

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