When prayer doesn't work

I prayed with and for Frankie. He was at the hospital. He was a friend and a mentor, though he downplayed that part. Each time I visited, I prayed.

It happened each time others visited. And there were many visits. There were many prayers.

My friend died.

Which means, of course, that prayer doesn’t work.  If “working” means that bodies broken by years of illness and hard work are somehow divinely kept working indefinitely. But bodies wear down and then wear out.

We know from early in our lives that we will arrive at “some day.” But over and over in my hospital room conversations, I hear an awareness that “some day” is always surprising when it is today.

People want prayer. And we pray. And death still comes.

May I tell you a secret? I sometimes don’t pray that a person will be restored to health. In my conversations with God, that’s not always the most important thing to ask for.

I do almost always ask that doctors will be given wisdom beyond their training. I ask that we will be given compassion beyond our own hearts. I ask that families be given a peace that makes no sense, so that God’s presence will be recognized. I ask that a person be aware of God’s conversation in the way that God knows they recognize. I ask for relationships to be restored.

And I thank. I thank God for life. I thank God that I am getting to know this person. I thank God for the breath so far, the wisdom so far, the hope so far.

And I thank God that as much as we may love him, we are loved by him even more.

Frankie died. I’m pretty sure that prayer doesn’t “work”, not in the way a formula or spell works.  But I’m just as sure that God talks with me in those rooms.  And with those people.

And with you.


Before You Walk In Copyright © 2021 by Jon Charles Swanson. All Rights Reserved.

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