Bad things happen, and often at inopportune times. People seem naturally sympathetic to suffering, especially of friends and relatives; they are usually quick to offer their condolences. Our modern day society has begun to abandon the traditional (Christian) expressions of sympathy in favor of more secularized statements.
I noticed recently that, whereas the laudable expression "I am praying for you" was called for, most people have begun to say "I am thinking of you" instead. This unscientific observation of comments on the Facebook really disturbs me.
What does someone really mean when they say they are "thinking of you"? The average materialist does not believe in such things as prayer, or universal life force energy or the other things that could be considered intercessory. So, then, what might a non-believer be doing or indicating if he or she is thinking of someone else? Except for empty sympathy, the only thing I can think of is the offer of "misery loves company". You hurt, so I will share in your hurt so we can commiserate. If, however, at least the person being "thought of" is a believer, then he will understand that the person's thoughts, even if not made in faith, can still be heard by the Almighty, and carried to His throne by, say, one of their guardian angels, or the like. On the other hand if that person is not a believer I can't imagine why they would want anyone to "think of them" in non-practical ways (such as thinking of bringing them soup, for instance), except for the "misery loves company" theory, though I wouldn't think a truly compassionate person would want to burden someone else with their sufferings like that.
And so, I hope that anyone reading this will think twice about telling someone they are "thinking of them", and instead make it clear that you are "praying for them". And then do it! My personal favorite prayer for any intention at any time is the Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy answer me. Amen