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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Moving mountains

Prayer does not move mountains. Prayer does not save lives. Prayer does not heal sick people.

A religious radio station overpowered my satellite radio for just a moment today while I was driving in my car with my kids. Just long enough for me to hear some loud, passionate preacher announce that. Was it a sign? No. It was static.

It is sort of ironic that I heard those few words on the radio today. Network Administrator Friend was here with her family over the long weekend. All five of them. It was her, her husband, and their three boys. She was telling me about a book that she just read called Letter to a Christian Nation. She told me that it is a book about responding to ridiculous religious people who want to convince you that prayer works, that religion is the way, that prayer can move mountains. And one example she shared with me was about how no amputee has ever had her prayer answered. No matter how much she prayed. No matter how many people pray for her. It just doesn't happen. Does that mean that God hates amputees? Does that mean she didn't pray enough? Or that enough people weren't praying?

And what about sick kids? What about Preschooler in Chief? What did he do to deserve his heart defect? People all around the country were praying for him? Even if Father in Chief and I aren't religious, PIC has a lot of religious people in his family praying to a God that can't or won't heal our boy--or thousands of others like him. It doesn't happen.

Prayer does not fix people. Prayer does not heal people. The only thing prayer does is help the people praying feel better. It is a way for helpless people to feel like they are doing something. Prayer does not move mountains. And it makes me angry to have people out there preaching that praying is going to do something or heal someone. If you pray hard enough, God will hear you. God will help you. Prayer will move mountains.

I don't thank God that my son is alive. I thank the doctors and scientists and technology and research. I thank the thousands of others who came before us, whose children died as the doctors were learning how to help kids like my kid live a little bit longer and a little bit better. I thank the people who donate their blood so that my kid could get transfusions, and plasma, and albumen. I thank the families who donate their dying kids' organs so that other sick kids might live. Those are the people that need thanking.

So if you really want to move a mountain, you better get to work and you better be ready to sweat. Because no amount of prayer is going to make it happen.


  1. You just spoke to something I have been feeling for a long time and I absolutely agree with you - though I sometimes am afraid to say it out loud - bad karma and all:)

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  3. Hello, I just wanted to say great post. Although I believe in the power of prayer I believe in doctors and nurses so, so much. They save lives and they are just simply amazing. We had to stay in the children's hospital for almost 2 weeks when my son was under 3 months old and again for 4 days when he was 6 months old, and he's had to go through many procedures that would have been so much worse if not for the caring and patient nurses and doctors.

  4. The larger question you raise for people of faith is what is the purpose of prayer? I agree that if a person thinks it is barter with God or get wishes granted they are in for a disappointment.

    I think it has many functions. To your point it can help you feel better by lending strength of spirit or emotional acceptance. I also believe it can help motivate the hearts and minds of others.

    An interesting book on the subject of suffering and religion is "Why bad things happen to good people"

  5. Although I'm hesitant to label myself as one of those ridiculous religous people, I guess that's where I fall. I do believe in prayer, but I have struggled with it a lot, especially because of my son's health issues. If you don't believe in God I can't give you any reasons to pray, but for people that do one reason we pray is because God asks us to. He doesn't promise us that we will get what we ask for. I wish it was as simple as asking for someone to be healed and that was it. I can't explain anymore than that because I myself don't understand it.

    If you don't like the phrase "I'm praying for you" I think you could replace it with "I'm hoping for the best," or "I wish things were better," or "I care about you." Because I think that is really what people are trying to convey when they say that they are praying for you.

  6. I can't say I know exactly how you feel, but I've had a glimpse or two.

    I applaud your guts to put it in those words. It takes more work, sweat, and tears than anyone can imagine.

  7. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I have to admit - I have prayed for your son and your family. A dear friend shared Riley's blog with me a while ago and I find myself checking daily for updates. I am a mother of a 2.5-year-old-son, and it pains me to think of the unimaginable suffering your family has had to endure.

    No, I don't think my prayers will move mountains. I tend to pray that during these difficult times, your family will find the strength and perseverance to get through it all. And I do pray for Riley to be well - if that means he's healed by some miracle of unknown origin, or that the doctors, through the power of medicine and science, are able to help him, then I feel like someone up there is listening.

    I'm not some psycho religious fanatic. I'm a pro-choice, moderate democrat, originally from California, who loves to drink cold beer and can cuss like the best truck driver out there. I guess I feel like defending myself and my comments - I'm not one of "them" - not one of those religious fanatics who's gonna sit here and tell you that if you pray hard enough, God will listen. I wish it were that simple. If that were the case, I would've won the lottery a long time ago. But I have personally experienced the power of prayer and the peace that comes with my faith. I will continue to pray for you and your family. I figure it can't hurt. And maybe, just maybe, somebody up there is listening.

  8. You and I have talked about this - how it feels kind of awkward to say "I'm praying" for whoever - you, your family, Riley. Because I don't think I really know what it means to pray.
    I do find Sugardaddy's comments persuasive because when I think about them, I remember that I believe it is true: prayer does not work as a barter with God or like having a genie with a magic lamp. And I agree - prayer doesn't move mountains, save lives, or heal the sick. But I think doctors choosing to work in a field that tries to heal children and improve their lives, people donating blood, sad families donating organs so that other may live, are all examples of whatever God is - in action. And the people that are so busy fanatically promoting the power of prayer are probably so consumed with THAT, they don't do anything tangible . . .

    I don't know if this makes any sense and I know you know that I am not even religious, nevermind a religious fanatic. I don't know. Maybe I've been living in Georgia too long?? ;^)But thank you for posting your feelings on a thought-provoking topic.

  9. Every time I see a news reporter introduce a "medical miracle", I want to scream. Every time someone stands next to her unblemished house while the one next to hers was demolished by a hurricane or tornado and says, "It's a miracle", I want to scream. I don't know whether or not God exists, but I know that a God who would answer certain people's prayers and not others is either not omnibenevolent, not omnipotent, or not omniscient, and I can't imagine praying to a God who wasn't all those things. Kudos to you for expressing your thoughts on this.

  10. Yes Prayer doesnt move mountains. God moves them. Prayer is an appeal, a medium to put your petition for God , a method of communication between you and God. I believe for every Christian, prayer is needed everyday in order to build up the personal relationship we already share with our Lord Jesus Christ.
    True enough sometimes God doesnt anwser our prayer straight away. But His ways are much higher than our ways and he works in his own timing.He may reply Yes, No or even Wait.God has big plans for us.Plans not to harm us but to prosper us.Therefore if we do not get a answer,we should wait patiently on him in hope.
    Lastly,God makes use of Doctors to do his healing though the Mighty healer can heal even without the need for doctors.