In Defense of 'Thoughts And Prayers'
Calgary's Muslim community gathers for a prayer service on March 15, 2019 at the Abu Bakr Islamic Centre.
One of my 10-year-old son's best friends, Ben, moved to Europe last summer.
They still send emails to each other, generally about their teachers or the sports they're playing.
But in his last email to my boy, Ben said his younger brother had hurt himself, falling down and knocking out his two front teeth.
He asked my son to pray for him.
So, my son did.
Did God hear his prayer? Will He do anything about it? Is there even a God?
I don't know.
None of us really do, despite what many claim.
What I do know is that someone close to our family asked that we put in a word with God on their behalf.
And that's what we did.
These days, sending "thoughts and prayers" is assumed to be nothing more than lip service, a gesture meant to imply action without actually offering any.
In the wake of the New Zealand massacre, as all other mass shootings, people are demanding change, not just kind thoughts.
It's not an unreasonable demand.
Many say it's infuriating to hear lawmakers offering only prayers for victims of terrorist acts when they could be doing so much more.
At the same time, religion has been politicized and weaponized.
When political leaders are attempting to woo the "religious right," it's easy to see why many people dismiss the sincerity of offered prayers.
One of the most remarkable things I recently read involved the disbursement of the $15-million raised to help families and victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
One parent told the committee charged with handing out the cash, "What we need is prayers, not money."
I've attended various churches most of my life, and most of those churches included a congregational prayer at the end of each Sunday service.
The minister stands and - essentially - asks God for help.
The congregation bows their heads and responds together after each request, "Lord, hear our prayer.”
"God, please comfort the Brauns who recently lost their mother."
"Lord, hear our prayer."
"God, please protect those living on the streets in this bitter cold."
"Lord, hear our prayer.”
And so on.
It's a collective effort.
Hundreds of people, focused on the same thing, at the same time, asking for the same thing - help.
Every mass shooting rattles us, often because of where it happened.
Elementary schools are a place of innocence. Office buildings are home to the reliable mundanity of work.
Churches, temples, synagogues and mosques are holy places where people gather to pray.
Prayer means hope.
It means you hope there is more than what we know and what we see.
People pray for peace, families and passage for the souls lost.
Hours after the New Zealand murders, a Muslim colleague tweeted a saying, "When someone dies: ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’"
So when a child falls and knocks out his teeth.
When 16 people are killed in a bus crash on a cold prairie night.
Or, when 50 people are shot to death in New Zealand mosques.
Spare them a thought. And Lord, hear our prayer.