Thursday, December 3, 2015

Prayer shamed

One of the first things I figured out when I started exploring the world of a special needs parent was that I disagree with everyone.

Not really. I already knew that. 

Before I was immersed, I guess I imagined a cohesive voice. Anytime I read a blog or an article, it was a voice of authority. But it is just like any other community. We are diverse. We don't agree about everything. We argue about all kinds of things. We argue about treatments. We argue about priorities. We argue about language. 

One disagreement took me by surprise. I read a blog post that complained about prayer. Every time she told the world that something bad was happening, people responded by telling her that they would pray. I have since read the same post in several voices from several places. Don't just pray!

Once, I was scolded for telling people to pray for their friends in one of my more popular posts . Not everyone prays. Not everyone believes in God. Maybe people should just offer good wishes? 

Now in the wake of yet another gun tragedy people want answers. People want action. People are angry. "Don't just pray!" 

Just. There it is. That little word. 

When Sarah was born the prognosis was bad. Really bad. We had met with all kinds of specialists prenatally and we'd gotten all kinds of imaging, but when she was born it was worse than we'd anticipated. She didn't breathe. Her heart was enlarged. Her blood pressure was too high. Her brain was under pressure. I forget why, but in the first days, they were worried about billiary atresia. Heart. Lungs. Kidneys. Liver. Brain. She needed surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, which was already damaged, but the ICU team was not confident she would make it to the OR. So I cried. And I prayed. My husband and I begged everyone we knew and a lot of people we didn't know for prayer. We didn't know what to do. 

The NICU team advised us to let her go peacefully. She was on a vent and being fed through a tube and it seemed she would get worse not better. We decided that we would not turn off the vent, but we wouldn't intervene further either. We cried more. We prayed. We had her baptized. 

There was a miscommunication and a neurosurgeon got the message that we were ready to go ahead with surgery. They surgery she needed but wouldn't survive. I'll never forget his face when he came into the room. He could do this surgery. He would do this surgery. It was a huge deal, but he could do it. And just like that, we made the choice. And just like that, we experienced an inexplicable peace. We felt God. It was a long surgery. We sat all day in that waiting room. And we felt peace. We felt the comfort of God's presence. We felt the warm embrace of community. We felt the power of prayer. 

When I ask for prayer it is because I believe in a loving, listening, powerful God. I am grateful for good wishes and good thoughts and warm messages from people who don't pray. That helps too. When things are hard, it is good to feel the embrace of community. But I ask for prayer. 

On the one hand, scripture is pretty clear on the subject of living faith. We can't sit on our hands when there is work to be done. We are supposed to let God work through us. There is just enough truth in the cry to make it sting. "Don't just pray!"

On the other hand, it is entirely bizarre. Don't just consult with the all-knowing Lord. Don't just ask the almighty King of Kings for help. Don't just go to the Father for comfort. Don't just beg the Prince of Peace for peace and consolation. Don't just speak to the Word Incarnate. Don't just. 

"For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
May your mercy, Lord, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you." Psalms 33:21-22

 Prayer is not impotent. Prayer is not the religious equivalent of thinking positive thoughts. Prayer is action. Sometimes it is the only thing we know how to do. (God listens and helps with that.) When we pray we are talking to the Creator, the King, the Shepherd. We are talking to our Father, who knows our hearts and our difficulties. Prayer is the most important thing we do each day. Prayer is powerful action.

Whatever else I do, I am going to pray first to God, who listens and answers in love.

Tonight I am praying. Just praying. 


  1. It's amazing that wash of peace that comes over you when you've prayed and prayed and then prayed some more...then you make a decision...and you know in your heart that you've made the right one...because there is no more worry...just peace...knowing God is with you and has led you down the path you are meant to be on. May peace always be with you Beth! Prayer, sometimes, is all we have.