Machashavah: Debunking “Thoughts and Prayers” (Part 1).

Thoughts: Machashavah מַחֲשָׁבָה (Strong’s 4284) [Sounds like: m’kha-shavah]

Root: חָשַׁב (chashav) which means “to consider”. [Sounds like: kha-shav]

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” has come to reflect a quick phrase you can pull off the shelf when a tragedy occurs. And certainly there have been a great many tragedies of late: bus accidents, school shootings, bombings, forest fires and tsunami’s… all producing the tagline, “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”.

But what does the Hebrew word for thoughts actually mean?

Machashavah has a variety of translations, including: thoughts, plans, inventions, plots, designs, purpose, schemes.

What draws those words together, though, is that they are preparations for ACTION. When you plan, plot, scheme, invent it is thinking things through to the next stage of action. They are not “idle thoughts”… rather they always lead to activity.

So when you say, you’re in my thoughts and prayers… in the Hebrew context you are really saying, I’m coming up with a plan of how I can help and I will pray about it. That is how it is meant to be. That is how thoughts and prayers would be helpful.

What’s the point of saying you’re in my thoughts & prayers if it means nothing and goes nowhere?

We may have the best of intentions and think we know what’s best for our lives, but God knows better:

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts (machashavot-ay) are not your thoughts (machashavot-ekem),

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares YHWH.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.”


Around the time of the Babylonian attack, in the 6th Century BCE, YHWH gives the Hebrew people hope by expressing what His plans/thoughts are for their future:

Jeremiah 29:11-14

‘For I know the plans (ha-machashavot) that I have for you,’ declares YHWH, ‘plans (ha-machashavot) for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares YHWH, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares YHWH, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Clearly God’s thoughts/plans lead to action. If so, then another important aspect is the intent of the thoughts. Is the intent to actually carry through with your thoughts/plans? Or do you merely have the thoughts but do nothing? Scripture tells us that God watches to see the intent of your thoughts. King David warns his son Solomon of this:

1 Chronicles 28:9-10

David to Solomon: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for YHWH searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts (machashav-ot). If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. Consider now, for YHWH has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.

David warns his son that God seeks and knows if each individual intends to follow through with their thoughts and take action. With this in mind David encourages his son to be courageous and act!

Even the very first use of the word in the Old Testament emphasizes that God seeks out the intent of the thoughts:

Genesis 6:5-6

Then YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts (mach’shev-ot) of his heart was only evil continually. YHWH was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

You see, for us, we think our thoughts are only heard by our own brain and they can remain hidden. But God knows them and hears them, and when our thoughts are not good He grieves them in His heart.

How humbling it is to know that YHWH’s thoughts are focused on us! His thoughts are not idle towards us, rather they are active plans for us:

Psalm 40:5

O YHWH my God, many are the wonders which You have done,

And many are Your thoughts toward us;

There is none to compare with You.

If I would declare and speak of them they would be too numerous to count.

Be as Godly as you can be. Don’t have idle, useless, thoughts but turn those thoughts into plans… plans that better the wellness of others!

Yeshua (Jesus) tells the story of the conversation that will be had between himself, the Messiah King, and the righteous who follow Him, when He sits on the throne of glory:

Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Where does Jesus sayI was hurting and you thought of me?”

Nowhere. God wants us to take action. We are His advocates on this planet. Feeding, clothing, hosting, caring, and visiting are what we are called to do. Next time you want to say, “You’re in my thoughts and prayers” take a deeper leap and turn those thoughts into plans…plans that express God’s love in action.

Next week: Prayers

8 thoughts on “Machashavah: Debunking “Thoughts and Prayers” (Part 1).”

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