If you've heard this once, you've heard it a hundred times. Someone is sick, in trouble, dead, struggling with some real or perceived problem...you know the drill; and some well-wisher informs you that their personal, family, club, organization or social-circle's "thoughts and prayers" are with you. You see this frequently in news articles, on social media sites, and from friends and relatives in personal conversation. You listen politely, for you are the epitome of social correctness, and thank them for their kindness. Yet, does anyone ever wonder how these thoughts and prayers might do anything for you?
Thinking about something, without putting the results of those thoughts into action, is a pointless make-work gesture. In fact, merely thinking about some person/situation is probably the least effective thing you can do for them. I know this is supposed to give one the impression that they're not alone, but what could be more unimpressive and isolating than people who are aware of an unfortunate situation, and choose to do nothing to ameliorate it?
Praying for people, if this is something you actually do, defers responsibility for the situational outcome to a "higher" power. You have the illusion of accomplishment, but not the surety for the outcome. If the outcome is positive it can be deemed the success of divine intervention; if negative, it is the will of the omnipresent deity of your choosing. It's like appealing to a larger guy to help your buddy in a fist fight -- except the larger guy is a fiction of your imagination. When your friend goes down in a hail of boots and fists, you can rest easy that you made the best effort you could to assist.
Hollow platitudes fatigue me. They say nothing, mean nothing, and their purpose, in most cases, is to make the appropriately comforting noises to extricate yourself from a situation as quickly as possible. If you genuinely care about people in a disadvantageous situation you could spend some time actually talking to them, bring them some food or money, clean their house, put up flyers, take care of their children or pets, knit them a sweater....whatever your resources or the occasion allows. There is virtually no situation where even the smallest gesture would not demonstrably exceed the effectiveness of even the most massive thinking and praying bonanza -- or so I've observed.
If you care about the people with whom you're communicating in any measurable way, why not put those thoughts into action? If you don't, the polite thing to do is to express your condolences. At least then people know they're on their own, and are not under any illusions they can rely on false hope.
Not convinced that "thinking and praying" is largely useless? Still convinced that these two activities, combined or in isolation, can affect real world change? Fair enough.
Anyone who decides to "think and pray" for me for any reason, will henceforth be required to deliver certain information that I might judge the effectiveness of this activity. I'll need to know who specifically will be thinking, praying, or thinking and praying, and the time and duration of this activity. Think carefully about the commitment you will be making, and factor in any other goals and requirements that might interfere with your uninterrupted thinking and praying on my behalf. Record the duration of your virtual efforts, noting the tangible benefits I experience (excluding those achieved by me or anyone else actually doing something). At such time as we have an outcome, we need to compare your thinking/praying efforts against any positive and negative results I may have achieved on my own.
Know too, that if you choose the thinking/praying route to assist me with a real-world problem, I'll take that as your endorsement that if you are ever in difficulty, that is the preferred way in which I should devote my efforts to your well-being. You can rest assured that if you ever need money, a solution, or any other assistance, my thoughts and prayers will be with you.