Why We Need Thoughts and Prayers
There is a growing trend on social media that takes place after a tragedy. From hurricanes to mass shootings, the hashtags all follow the same form #prayfor___. Today I woke up to the news of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, next-door to my hometown of Newbury Park.
It didn’t take long to see #PrayForThousandOaks. Sadly, as has been the trend lately, scoffers immediately began standing on the sidelines saying, “This shooting is the fruit of your thoughts and prayers. Now its times for legislation and action”. Prayer is not the antithesis of action, prayer is holy-in-action.
What a grim reality it must be for those who don’t know prayer.
While there are plenty of books on the subject, I want to highlight the Exodus narrative briefly. The slaves, in the midst of their incredible injustice, cry out in prayer to God (Exodus 2.24) and God was concerned about them (Exodus 2.25). The next chapter we meet Moses, and most of us know the story from there. (SPOILER: If you haven’t checked it out, the whole ‘let my people go,’ God destroying a nation on behalf of the chosen people thing is good to be aware of).
Not all faith traditions, or even all Christians, believe that prayer does something. My faith tradition and reading of Scripture show that when we pray, God hears. When we pray, God remembers the covenant. When we pray, God moves.
God has also granted us the gift of Lament. The honest and raw prayer where we acknowledge and give voice to the pain and suffering we see and contribute to. Lament is a declaration of hope. It calls upon God’s covenant promise with humanity. “[Lament] is the desperate plea for God’s intervention…that reveals a flickering glimpse of hope.” 
Lord, Have Mercy.
Christ, Have Mercy.
The thing I love about prayer is that prayer works. Not in the sense of certainty, but in the sense of building trust. We don’t always know if the prayer will be answered, but we trust God who hears and listens to our prayers.
So pray. While the skeptics and onlookers say, ‘prayer is pointless’, pray without ceasing. While there is the hope for an ideal society and community where love and grace and support abound for all, we won’t get there tomorrow.
Change needs to take place. Gun ownership, legislation, and safety are all very real conversations and things that must change. We must review and renew our vision, our laws, our practices. Our prayers should shape our action, in the same way they petition the movement of God.
So while we wait for the change, let us not fail to act, let us not fail to love mercy, do justice, and in the balance between now-and-not-yet, let us pray.