The Problem With Crediting Prayer



I’ve told you all about Dr. Y. before. 


She was an absolutely horrible pediatrician whom we saw when we first moved to Indiana. I used to dread well-child check-ups because she was such a bad fit for us. Anyway, one of the “perks”, if you will, of having given birth four months early is that an excellent, high-demand doctor in our community opened up a spot on his patient list for our family– having a very special needs baby meant we were given preferential treatment and bypassed a massive wait-list.




Dr. Z. (and, yes, I realize it’s funny we went from Y to Z) was fantastic. I absolutely loved him. One of the things I’ve always said I loved most about him was how, when he first met C., he just shook his head in awe and said, “Twenty-four weeks, huh? This little girl must have had a whole lot of people praying for her.”


At the time, I absolutely loved how a DOCTOR gave glory to God and not just, well, science. Don’t get me wrong– he was very much a medical doctor who used science and medications on a daily basis. But I loved that he didn’t consider that the be all and end all.


Over the years, many more people have echoed those sentiments. “That’s the power of prayer!” “She’s an answered prayer!” “She had so many people praying for her!” And so forth…


Honestly, I’ve always nodded and smiled. “Yep,” I thought, “all true. She really DID have a lot of people praying for her and we believe whole-heartedly that God had and has a plan for our little C.”


But, lately, it’s started to bother me a bit.


My heart feels a little funny when I hear those remarks.


Because, you see, while there may not be anything at all wrong with what people say about C’s case, the implied flip-side is incredibly upsetting.


I think back to Nathaniel and I realize why it just doesn’t fit–


While the glory should, indeed, go to God, we can’t establish a direct correlation that states:

Lots of Prayer = Saved Baby


That’s just not how it works. It’s not that simple.


Would C. be here with us had she not had so many people lifting her in prayer? I’ll never know.


But I know for a fact that there are babies who don’t make it who had just as many prayers being said in their names.


There is a greater plan– this I know.


God doesn’t make mistakes– I know this, too.


But I’ve also learned that our words are important and we need to realize how, even when what we say isn’t hurtful–


what we imply could devastate another.

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4 comments to The Problem With Crediting Prayer

  • Sarah

    THANK YOU for saying this. Our family has been on the flip side several times and had devastating results in spite of many people praying. You’re right that the “standard” answers that people say often hurt (unintentionally). I so appreciate your caring perspective.

  • earleyml

    I’ve thought about this a lot lately too b/c we know two little boys who have died of cancer that were prayed over continuously. God does answer every prayer but just not in the way we always want them to be answered. Both of these boys have Christian parents who are amazing in how they still stand in their faith and believe that God worked in their situations Believing that while their prayers for earthly healing weren’t met, that their boys are in fact healed in Heaven. I’m trying to be more sensitive in how I talk with people about prayers and healing as well. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Meghan

    This post brought me to tears. i’ve struggled with this a lot during my daughter’s cancer treatment. Why is one family’s prayer for their child’s life answered over another? Thank you for talking about this.

  • Beth

    I’m a transient reader, popping in from time to time. I think this post is touching and an important message. I read a recent post by Simcha Fisher that expressed similar sentiments about why she no longer (typically) uses the word “Blessed.” As she puts it, while technically all gifts are blessings from God, the common use of the word is complicated, as you described. Thanks for posting!

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