Thoughts and prayers — I can just about guarantee you have heard that phrase in the last few weeks. Though there might be real disagreement about what it means.
Sheriff Lou Falgoust, of Hot Springs County, Wyoming, called me last week. He wanted us to know that our community was in theirs.
“Your community must be incredibly strong.” I assured him it was.
“How much can one community take?” He asked.
Both of us didn’t know, but figured, hopefully, we have been tested enough.
Sheriff Falgoust is a big man, shaved head, and grey ‘Hulk Hogan’ mustache. His efforts to console were sincere.
How many of your friends and relatives have checked in with you and ended the conversation that way? How many briefings from firefighting leadership, official sources, and media have ended with that advisement?
But Joan Smith, British commentator of the international Independent, reminds us that the phrase can lose meaning.
“The conventional formula that the victims and their families are ‘in our thoughts and prayers’ exhausted its meaning a long time ago, so much so that, however well-intended, it sounds thoughtless and insincere. It's become an empty ritual, especially in a country where millions of people never attend a church, mosque or synagogue.”
“It's a testament to the human spirit that people perform these acts of heroism, and quite proper that their efforts are acknowledged. But a flat phrase such as ‘thoughts and prayers’ is not an adequate response. It invokes a nation that no longer exists, united in agreement about the role of religion both in social life and as the principal source of comfort in hard times, whereas many of us now find that comfort in the company of family and friends,” wrote Smith.
But back here in Colorado, and especially in our own community, disagreement.
"Like all good things, prayer requires some discipline. Yet I believe that life with God should seem more like friendship than duty. Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation. In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter," wrote Philip Yancey. Yancey, of course, has climbed all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-plus-feet peaks.
Many of us have experienced our own version of peaks and valleys in the last few weeks. Only we know what those ‘thoughts and prayers’ mean to us.