Linda Thunstrom and Shiri Noy, two researchers at the University of Wyoming, noticed that after every public "thoughts and prayers" declaration by a public figure, criticism flared up.
"There always seems to be this backlash after major disasters of people criticising these gestures and saying that they are meaningless," Dr Thunstrom says.
She could see that these gestures had a different value for different people, depending on religious observance.
So she decided to measure it, recruiting 482 survivors of Hurricane Florence, which hit North Carolina in 2018, causing catastrophic flooding and killing dozens of people.
"We gave all the subjects $5 in support of recent hardship," the economics academic says.
Each participant was then given the option to keep the money, give some up in exchange for a prayer from a Christian stranger, or give some up for thoughts from non-religious strangers.
They found that on average, Christian research subjects valued prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36.
By contrast, non-religious participants were willing to pay $3.54 for a Christian person not to pray for them. ...
More seriously ...
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-23/ ... 6/11532206Reflecting on Dr Thunstrom's study, Pastor Yeomans says when politicians offer thoughts and prayers, it needs to be authentic.
"If you don't actually believe, forget the sentiment, and just say, 'Look, we're going to send some practical help, and this is what we're doing.'"
He says there's no need to arbitrarily separate practical help — like clearing away debris or providing shelter and meals [after a cyclone] — from prayer, what he calls "this nebulous, spiritual thing".
"It's the partnership of those two things collectively that is actually a powerful tool."
Personally, I don't mind the "thoughts and prayers" of others except when that's all they offer - e.g. Trump after every school shooting.