Lists are compiled every year of worn-out words. Would you add “thoughts and prayers” to the list?
Is It Cliché to Say Cliché?
Why say something worn out when you can say something fresh?
I’m ASKING FOR A FRIEND. (Phrases in ALL CAPS are words from the list of misused and overused Banished Words for 2022.)
I can tell you one reason why we stick with clichés:
Because clichés are easy.
It’s hard to think of new ways to say things.
What About “Thoughts and Prayers”?
Let’s take a DEEP DIVE into the current controversy over the phrase “thoughts and prayers.”
Should “thoughts and prayers” be on the banished words list, too?
For many people, sending “thoughts and prayers” is sending a gift of attention and faith so God will work wonders.
It’s their gift of NO WORRIES to the recipient.
THAT BEING SAID, to many other people, hearing “thoughts and prayers” means the person praying is done, with no plans to actually help in person themself.
To the receiver, “thoughts and prayers” sounds like a shortcut, a cop-out, a sidestepping of responsibility. They want to scream, “YOU’RE ON MUTE.”
WAIT, WHAT? So am I suggesting we should stop sending “thoughts and prayers“?
A Deeper Dive
Let’s look at it from both sides.
As a believer myself, I trust God listens to my prayers.
God wants me to share my heart’s desires and needs. I ask God for help. My prayers naturally include my concern for others. I want my friends to receive help, too.
The Other Side:
But also as a Christian, even I tire of hearing myself say and hearing others tell me “I’m praying for you.”
Especially if what someone (and myself) really needs is an answer to prayer: a human being in the flesh sent by God to offer a helping hand or a listening ear or a shared meal.
In other words, we often need for someone to be the embodied answer to the prayer.
But does it have to be either/or? Either pray or else do something?
Can it be both/and? Both pray and do something?
Maybe we can keep the SUPPLY CHAIN from breaking if we combine “thoughts and prayers” with words and deeds.
If possible, can we allow our actions to speak louder than our clichés?
Our New Normal
Maybe our NEW NORMAL might be to not only say, “I’m sending thoughts and prayers,” but also do this: back up those thoughts and prayers, when possible, with something tangible.
- Maybe that’s a hug.
- Or a word of encouragement.
- Or an offer to babysit.
- Or a call to a legislator.
- Or a closer listen.
- Or a donation to the cause.
When I commit to pray for someone, optimally I also commit myself to be the embodied answer to that prayer, in whatever way God shows me.
“God, show me what I can do to help you help my friend.”
I don’t want to toss all the work on God when God intends us to work together.
Partnering with God is invaluable.
Maybe we can’t cure our neighbor’s cancer or stop the war in Ukraine with our thoughts and prayers, but we can ask God to move us—to use us—to check in on our neighbor’s family or be kinder to an immigrant struggling with English in our line at the grocery store.
So to CIRCLE BACK, instead of only sending thoughts and prayers, let’s think of new phrases to say and actions to do alongside “I’ll be praying for you,” such as:
- I’ll check on you again tomorrow to see what you need.
- This is hard, so I won’t leave you alone in this.
- Let’s talk together to sort things out.
- I’ll watch with you for God to show us the next step.
- Tell me again so I can better understand how you feel.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, thoughts and prayers themselves can’t be used too often.
But saying only “I’m sending thoughts and prayers” can be overdone.
I’m not ready to add “thoughts and prayers” to the banished words list.
Maybe we can use more thoughts and prayers to hear fresh ideas from God.
Then use more words and deeds to spread God’s love to others.
What word or phrase do you think is overused? Share your thoughts in the comments.
More to Think About:
- Is Prayer Enough?
They needed help. I said, “I’ll be praying for you.” The problem seemed too big.
- 9 Prayer Practices for Each Enneagram Number
Discover a unique prayer practice according to your Enneagram number.
- I’ll Be Praying for You. But…
My friend was in a tough situation. Why didn’t my response help?
- You Can Keep It Short – And It Still Matters
- When You Become a Different Person