Whenever there's a tragedy in the news, your social media will be filled with "thoughts and prayers," and, those who would ridicule the sentiment, suggesting it's entirely meaningless. Do some people submit posts of support for their own public attention? Probably. But the sincerity of others' kindness is not for me to determine.
Without getting too ethereal and talking about faith or even that energy you put out into the universe, I would suggest thoughts and prayers matter for a couple of reasons. First, the slightest kindness can often be greatly underrated. One word in passing, one thought of support verbalized, can mean so much to someone who's struggling.
When I graduated high school, I received a single card of congratulations. As you can imagine, this person probably reasonably assumed hers would be one of many. But it was the only one. And that single thought meant the world to me, the words of encouragement carrying much more weight than the giver ever thought possible. It was the revelation that at least one person saw potential in me and my future.
That card was nothing more than "thoughts and prayers" for a young man venturing off into the wide world and trying to find his way, but it had true, measurable impact.
Knowing someone cares matters.
The second manner in which it makes a difference - it's an exercise in the very critical habit of taking our eyes off ourselves and looking at others empathetically. It could be argued that the more we do this, the kinder we become.
Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. -Og Mandino