A former high school classmate and a current company colleague both face the frightening uncertainty of cancer, which, once in remission, has now recurred.

We’ve been in touch, one by email, the other by Facebook messenger. In both cases, they have asked me to keep them in my prayers.

My response to each has been, of course I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts and prayers.

It’s still the right thing to say, I guess. If you actually do keep people in your thoughts and prayers, it can still have meaning.

I believe in the power of prayer. I don’t think we’ve ever needed prayers more than we do now.

These days, though, the words “thoughts and prayers” feel like they mean less and less, particularly when they come from an elected official or a community leader or the President of the United States after another senseless killing.

As you know, a man with a long-standing vendetta against the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md., fired a shotgun through the Gazette’s glass doors on Thursday and went on to kill five and injure two. Police identified Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel as the shooter. Reports said he’d lost a defamation suit against the Gazette and had posted numerous threatening comments on social media over the years.

Soon after, comments about thoughts and prayers began.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted, in part: “Praying for those at the scene and for our community.”

President Donald Trump tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.”

Many of you may have already heard or read about what surviving Gazette reporter Selene San Felice later said about that to CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “I’ve heard that President Trump sent his prayers,” she said. “I’m not trying to make this political, right? But we need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was [hiding] under that desk. I want your prayers but I want something else.

“I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because our whole lives have been shattered,” she added. “Thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a (expletive) about them if there’s nothing else.”

The comments could have been edited. But CNN let San Felice’s raw emotional words air uncensored. The word she used is not one we would print. But I suspect you can guess what it was if you haven’t heard.

Profanity aside, she is right.

I read an article the other day on the online newsite Vox.com that said offering thoughts and prayers after a tragedy has become “a model for performative sympathy and inaction.”

The phrase has been used so often it has become a cliche, and it is repeatedly mocked.

I’m not inclined to judge someone who says they are offering thoughts and prayers.

But I am inclined to think, like San Felice, that we need much more.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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