You have heard the phase many times. Just this week, once again I heard the time weary phrase, "our thoughts and prayers are with" you. The concept is not the issue; there are a couple of related issues strike me as disingenuous.
The first issue is the apparent equating of one’s thoughts with one’s prayers. Would it not be enough to simply say "my prayers are with you"? What difference does it make in the current situation where or not someone it "thinking" about me and my situation? The trouble with our "political correctness" speech is that it is totally useless. When I hear these words I quickly know that the speaker will do neither thinking nor praying.
The second issue is that this phrase reveals the struggle of attempting to keep God out of our society. When unimaginable, unspeakable tragedies or horrors happen, mankind is at a loss. There is nothing that can be said that can help people understand the evil or to put the events in some type of context. It is only in the context of an unchangeable, benevolent, gracious, all-powerful, never-ending God that evil finds its limitations. Nothing else will do at times like that!
All of this has me contemplating the Christian society’s substitution for this phrase. Sure, it sounds a little better. We don’t need to water the phrase down with the "my thoughts" part, we easily rattle off our own canned phrase "I will pray for you". In my own life there is a great gap between the statement and the action. How easy it is to glibly say, "I will pray for you" or "I will pray about that" and go on my way.
As I read the gospels I cannot find a single instance where Jesus told someone "I will pray for you".
As the disciples were walking toward the temple, one day, they were spoken to by a crippled man. How easy it would have been to simply look at him and deliver the phrase and go on with their plans.
I believe that it is time for us to return to the reality of prayer. If some person or some situation is brought to our attention it is for the purpose of us, as people who pray, to pray; not to simply dismiss it and move on.
Challenge yourself, in faith, to offer immediate prayer for these situations. You will be enormously surprised at the response and at the blessing of these appointments.
Please believe me, that the risk you feel you will be taking will be rewarded many, many times and ways.