The following is an except from a conversation I was having with my old friend Jon which speaks to something of the nature of prayer, or when we should act instead:
"Thoughts and prayers" is a very common response from many individuals who often respond with those words as a result of some difficult event - from a loss of a relative, to a mass shooting, to sickness. I suppose those words mean different things to different folks.
People are at all levels of awareness and practice when it comes to prayer. While prayer is definitionally a noun, there is implied activity on behalf of (at least) the pray-er. I would never question someone's sincerity when it comes to prayer. However, having said that, and while trying to continue to believe in people, there is a time for prayer - and instead, a time for action. A good example of this would be Moses in Exodus 14 as the people were fleeing the army and came up to the Red Sea. Moses started to basically admonish the people to "pray, and be still to watch what the Lord would do!". It's kind of humorous to me that God basically said, "now's not the time for that Moses....part the Red Sea and go forth! Get the people moving!" (my gross paraphrase). There's a time for prayer and a time for action.
I'm also reminded of the beauty of the words that the Byrds put to song in Ecclesiastes 3 noting there is a time and a place for many, many purposes. Here's the thing: whenever I'm in a difficult situation and vague about how to respond to something, an old mentor of mine gave me some very good advice - to ask myself the question, "what would love ask or require of me?" That usually helps provide some clarification or guidance with respect to my responses to a whole variety of events which present themselves on the doorstep in my life.
While most people are sincere, there is also a whole bunch of insincerity in life. People's words are not often backed by their actions. Actions are a vital part of life. We all know that colloquial saying, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good". Prayer is a good thing. However, more of us need to act and not leave important responsibilities to others - particularly when we can make a difference going forward to correct evil, or directly influence a friend's troubles for good by what we do. Sometimes we need to pray. Sometimes we need to act and get our butts in gear, and sometimes we need to engage with both prayer and action. Partnering with God and each other to "solve" problems is not negotiable. To do so is actually a privilege we need to take to heart. How we do that is very difficult to determine in a world where there are so many opposing views, vagaries and especially busyness. If we ignore inequality, someone in peril, or heartache from loss, we do so at our own - and other's - peril. Thoughts and prayer are important. Oft time action is also warranted. Don't know if this helps Jon, but it is my 2 cents. Whaddya think?