Thoughts and Prayers

Sophie plays rugby. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Susan and I drove to Poughkeepsie, New York, to watch her play in the American Collegiate Rugby Association semi-finals. She didn’t start, but she played, and I’m beyond proud that she’s playing collegiate rugby at this level.

She had a rough season. Early on, she sprained her thumb. She’s a fly-half. It’s a running and passing position, less physical contact than many, but they all tackle and get tackled. She caught her thumb in a player’s shorts. Sitting at work, I received a text. “I think I might have broken my thumb.” She included a picture of her hand. A bruise covered about half of it. I palmed my face and shook my head.

Emily passed by my office in the hallway. “Jeff, are you OK?”

“I think my daughter broke her thumb playing rugby.”

“On, no. I’ll pray for her.”

“Uh, thanks?”


My step-mother, and by extension my father, are struggling right now. Donna’s in the hospital. She’s having trouble eating. A few nights ago, my father admitted her—malnourished and dehydrated. I got word, a text from my brother, late at night. Too late to call, I sent an email, “Dad, I’ll keep you guys in my thoughts.”

Keep you in my thoughts, what does that even mean?

I don’t pray. I used to. Until about twenty years ago, I generally identified as Christian. Susan and I went to church. I believed in God, I asked for intervention when things got dicey. I never believed that my prayers would be answered, I was essentially covering my bases, you know, just in case.

Over time, I decided there was zero chance of an involved god pulling the strings in our world. Billions of years ago, an intelligent designer set the universe in motion with all the necessary ingredients to create life on earth and a million of other planets. Then they checked out. Possibly they peek in periodically on the galaxies and solar systems to see what’s changed. Maybe they tinker, but certainly not with individual people. Our creator doesn’t care about my hopes and dreams.

So what good is it to keep Donna and my father in my thoughts? I used to say “I’ll send you positive energy” but to me that sounds hippy-dippy. I can’t imagine what my father would think of my positive energy. Maybe hearing that he was ‘in my thoughts’ made him feel less alone. That’s probably the most I can hope for.

When someone tells me they’ll pray for me, it makes me uncomfortable. If I don’t believe in God, do I deserve divine intervention? If I was God, I’d probably act just to spite the unbeliever. “Ha, I cured your cancer, take that.”

As a society, Americans love to send thoughts and prayers. Just this week after a school shooting in Michigan, Facebook was littered with #ThoughtsAndPrayers for Oxford messages. An outpouring of support; it’s the least we can do.

Literally. It’s the least we can do, yet it’s all we do.

The shooter’s father bought his kid a gun at a Black Friday sale. Can you imagine a more American string of events: (1) Buy a gun on (2) Black Friday (3) Shoot children at school and (4) Initiate an outpouring of thoughts and prayers. I wonder what people are praying for. Hopefully gun control, but it won’t do any good. I don’t think there’s anyone to answer that prayer, and America will never control guns.

37 thoughts on “Thoughts and Prayers

      • Oh nothing like that sort of thinking!! I think a lot of “in my thoughts” and “I’ll pray for you” tend to be habitual pieces of speech dolled out when we don’t know what to say but want the person to know that we are thinking of them. Words are just not enough in many situations but we try to make something up to suit regardless lest we appear cold. I actually love the topic and the way you have bought it up and framed it – I’m enjoying thinking on it simply to come up with something more relevant to the situation – still haven’t found it.


  1. If I get started about guns and rights and 🤐
    Yeah, I’ll just say “hippy dippy” or not, I believe our thoughts have power. Maybe not curing cancer, but every little bit helps. I have people that I “send positive energy” to. If they believe it helps, then it does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “thoughts and prayers” is short hand for I intend to do nothing about this, if nothing changes it is because enough of you are not praying.

    It’s the ultimate cop out.

    There are too many guns in this country, in 2017 there was an estimated 120 guns per 100 people and that was just the registered ones, thats more than 1 gun per person, go figure. I can only imagine that has increased.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I usually will say we’re thinking of you, or if I’m in a position to help I’ll offer or try to find something to do. I get irked by people uttering about thoughts and prayers it they’re the same ones who rail against any kind of real solutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bravo to your daughter for her rugby accomplishments.

    My husband passed away earlier in the year. Sometimes people really don’t know what to say and “thoughts and prayers” is the best they can do in the moment. Coming back to work after his death, I was grateful for those who acknowledged his passing in the best way that they could. It meant a lot to me—their words were better than silence.

    But yeah saying “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of the shooting –we need to be doing so much more. The chain of events that lead to the shooting is mortifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry about your husband. I simply can’t imagine what that loss feels like. I’m sure my father appreciated my ‘keeping him in my thoughts’ but from my end it feels so weak. Some of my siblings and step-siblings have done so much more–there are differences in proximity and availability. These things have constrained my ability to help and I feel inadequate. I’ve hit the point of realization that we’re more likely to arm the student body than introduce any gun control legislation in this country. Seems like all I can do is complain.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I often say, “You’re in my heart,” when bad circumstances come up. The upside is it feels warmer and also something that maintains whether you are actively thinking or praying at the moment. The downside is that it also hits the “eye roll, hippy dippy” mark. So I reserve my heart for people who are open to a little hippy dippiness.

    That is one impressive bruise. I hope it didn’t feel as awful as it looks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, it still hurts months later. It seriously derailed her season. I was shocked that it wasn’t broken. It’s hard to watch my little girl run in and tackle people 30 pounds heavier than her. Hippy dippy clearly has it’s place. I’m glad you have a crowd that can accept it.


  6. I used to use the phrase thoughts and prayers, now I tend to use just thoughts. I think it is a simple way of letting the person know you are thinking about them and hoping they get better.

    But I am also tired of all the thoughts and prayers that go out after a shooting, with no action to accompany it.

    Gun control is one of my hot button issues, and if I ran the world, there would be no guns. zero.

    I try to vote for people who are in favor of some form of gun control, but the NRA is a tough lobby to fight…

    Good luck to Sophie and her rugby team; sounds like she has recovered from her early season injury…


      • Thanks Jim. Things seem to be on the up-swing. This event has convinced them it’s time to move into an assisted living facility and my siblings & I can barely keep pace with how fast they’re making that happen. Bonus: My dad will only be an hour away from me rather than 5. I’m in the zero gun camp as well. Gun violence is just another on a long list of things that need to be fixed in America, but they all seem impossible to address.

        Liked by 1 person

        • that’s good that your dad will be much closer. Other than college, I never lived further than 15 minutes from my parents.

          it is amazing how different American attitudes are towards guns compared to the rest of the world…

          Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m thinking about you is what I say, and it’s true, and perhaps kind. I love your breakdown at the end of the 4-step process, sad but true. That’s who we are, “like it or leave it.” Hard for me to swallow that. So desensitized now to that. I had just arrived in Germany when Sandy Hook happened and it was something, seeing ourselves through the eyes of Europeans and how crazy they thought we were (and how hard that is to argue).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed your post. I’m not religious, so I only give my “Thoughts” to people that I know. I offer help if I know there is something I can do. I know people mean well when they offer their thoughts and prayers because it may be the only thing they can offer. When my dad passed I accepted all of the thoughts and prayers that everyone sent me because it was what they had to offer.
    I’m sure people mean well when they share their thought and prayers during a tragedy, but I often think it is a social media thing. It feels a bit fake. I tend to take it all in, find the horror in what has happened and I do think about it. Probably too much and for too long, but I never jump online and start sending my thoughts and prayers out to people that will never know me. Maybe that comes across as cold, but that is the only way I can put it.
    Gun control, what a tough topic for me. There are too many guns out there for sure and definitely too many in the wrong hands. I’ve been around guns my entire life. My dad hunted, his entire family did. I was raised to appreciate a gun. How to handle it, how deadly it can be. Treat every one like it is loaded even if you are sure it is not. I don’t know if there is a way to completely get rid of them. There has to be a better way to control them, I just don’t know what it is. I think it is something people will argue about for years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comment. I agree it’s impossible to seem sincere when your thoughts and prayers are simply a meme on facebook. Everyone wants to end mass shootings but they refuse to do what’s necessary. The message I’ve gotten is that murder and death are simply the price we pay for our increasingly unfettered access to guns.


  9. America is failing its children. They can’t go to school and feel safe any more. Global warming is a real threat to their future, as is the assault on voting and democracy. Cooperation is a sin for many in Congress. I try to live a good life, but that isn’t enough, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • All that plus national debt, measured in money owed and decaying infrastructure. The saddest part is that none of these issues are new. Twenty years ago we faced the exact same problems on all fronts and nothing’s been done. I’m sure we’ll say the same thing twenty years hence.


  10. I am Christian. I believe in God and Jesus. I believe in prayer. I think Christians and prayer get a bad rap these days, and I’m not sure why that is (?) … maybe the press in the US has had something to do with it (as I certainly can’t remember when the last time I’ve read anything positive about being Christian or going to church)? Anyway, it’s as if being Christian is now the un-cool thing to be. I’m certainly not afraid to be un-cool or to embrace my faith. As to prayer, sometimes praying is the least we can do while at other times it is the MOST and only thing we can do. Prayer can be a very powerful thing, a very loving thing, a positive thing. I’m okay with non-believers (it’s all good!). If you don’t want or like prayers offered up on your behalf, that’s cool too (ignore them!). But do we really have to find fault and/or criticize Christians and prayer-givers simply because they offered up a prayer in kindness? Signed, Cool with being Christian P.S. remember to run towards joy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Linnie, Thanks for commenting. I just read my post again and I don’t see where I criticize anyone for praying. I say I don’t think it does any good, and I imply that I’d like us to do something more meaningful (in my eyes) like gun control. I have lots of Christian friends. It’s a belief system (that you believe), I simply believe something else. Are you the Linnie I know?


  11. hi jeff, and thanks for responding! i guess i view “I don’t think it does any good” as criticism. btw, i’m all FOR gun control. i don’t know jeff cann personally, so i don’t think i’m your linnie. i am, however, very fond of your blog. thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Good on you Jeff. You’ve sailed a perilous course even penning this post. As I get older I wonder at the sheer enormity of the denial religion requires. The future of the race relies, I think, on civilisation moving beyond unsupportable medieval hocus pocus of every kind. That’s what *I* pray for (irony intended).

    Liked by 1 person

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