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Thoughts and Prayers

What does it mean to say someone is in our thoughts and prayers?

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” (Psalm 91:14, NKJV)

It’s a sentiment we hear all the time: “in our thoughts and prayers.” We hear it from a public official in the wake of some natural disaster or horrific shooting spree. We read it in social media comment threads when someone posts of family tragedy. 

What does it mean to say someone is in our thoughts and prayers? Likely it is simply an expression of care and concern, something to say when any words seem inadequate. By the phrase we communicate we see them and their pain; they are on our mind. They are not alone, not unnoticed. In addition, we purpose to intercede on their behalf with the God who is able in the face of our own inability, or at least recognize the need for intervention from one greater than ourselves. 

To be sure, there is a spiritual complexity to these things. Thoughts and prayers may well mean something quite different for one as opposed to another. For some, it may simply be just something to say. For others, it may carry great religious compassion. For yet others, it could convey an understanding of the power of prayer in the design of God and the scepter that is extended by Him in Christ as we would approach the throne of grace for help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). 

Thoughts and prayers are a natural tandem for the Christian. With the compassion of Christ we are sensitive to the distress of others. Just as Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, so we weep in the face of the ravages of sin in this world. Prayer is natural for us because it is the voice of faith and a means the sovereign God has placed at our disposal to cast our cares, to seek His grace, and to serve His purposes. 

We can reach out to our God for whatever may befall us. The psalmist writes of the Most High God: “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence” (Psa. 91:3). The snare of the fowler addresses affliction at the hands of man. Pestilence has to do with whatever natural disaster we encounter. God is our hope and help in whatever we face. 

There are times, however, when thoughts and prayers can be inappropriate and even blasphemous. I’m not talking about prayer in the hands of unbelievers or even the well-intentioned casual expression of the agnostic at a loss for words. I am referring to professing Christians who seem to have comingled truth and error, syncretizing the Christian faith with paganism. 

A Christian leader and writer sent out a social media request for his wife who has cancer. After giving an update, he said, “We invite your prayers and positive thoughts.” 

To say “please keep us in your thoughts and prayers” is one thing, but to include thoughts and prayers together as equivalents for aid is something quite different. Bringing positive thoughts to bear on a situation is more in keeping with Eastern mysticism, a connecting with the universe and channeling positive energy that can somehow influence an outcome. One connects with the Creator, the other tries to connect to the creation. 

Thanking God for keeping you from harm while knocking on wood as you express that thanks sends a mixed message. More seriously, it expresses a divided heart. Faith, genuine faith, can have only one object (Jas. 1:6-8; 4:8). 


Use Psalm 91 as a template for prayer for your own burdens and in your intercession for others. For more information on faith and prayer, see A Living Faith (Stanley D. Gale, Reformation Heritage Books, 112 pages).

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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