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Prayers don't work that way

After my son Chad died, a million things happened and a million things changed. My concept of death as being far and years away was shattered. Death became real, palpable, and powerful. It was, in fact, a true possibility. Which made it a true possibility that others I love could die, others near and dear. Others like maybe my surviving son Nick. (Don’t think that didn’t throw me for a loop.)

My whole concept of prayer certainly changed. I had spent years praying for both of my sons, as most mothers do. And in the last couple of years before Chad’s death, I was absolutely convinced I had prayed him through the hard times. I had prayed him (and his brother) through the horrific experience of their father’s death by suicide when they were in their late teens. I had prayed them through the tumultuous rabbit hole we all fell into afterwards. I prayed them through an unnecessary prescription for Adderall (which they loved and I hated) and, after that, I prayed them through drinking too much. That led to me praying them through rehabs. Then I prayed them through college and new jobs. And finally, I prayed them through adolescence and into adulthood.

Boy did I pray. For Chad to “get his act together”. For him to stay safe. To get a good job. To find a girlfriend he could marry. To “figure it out”. I seriously prayed a zillion prayers for him to figure it out. And my prayers were working.

And I thought my efforts had everything to do with getting the right results.

We were out of the woods. It was smooth sailing from here on out. Me and my prayers kept everyone sober and everyone safe. And yes, my prayers had been answered.

But then, tragically, Chad died.

"Really, God?

What about the prayers?"

It's not about you directing them.

(I was shocked to the bone.)

15 months later, I finally had my "come to Jesus talk". I was in a chapel, all alone, at a beautiful retreat center in Northern California, and I wasn’t very happy with how all this had gone down. Chad dying and all. I was pretty aggravated with God and it was coming out sideways and had been for a long time. I knew this talk was coming, and I had been beating around the bush about it. I wasn’t sure I could swallow the mystery of it all. I wasn't sure how I was going to accept it and grow through it and I wasn't sure I wanted to. And so the talk went a little like this:

"So much for the prayers", I said. "The prayers didn’t work you know."


"I begged you to keep him safe."

He is safe. Better than ever.

"Maybe so, but I'm not the least bit happy with you."

I can take it.

"But I PRAYED. I did my best to do everything right. I said all the right prayers. I did all the right things." (I went on and on - telling him about everything I did.)

It was good to pray. But you went a little overboard on your attachment to the outcomes.

Silence (on my part).

Chad's with me. Here. In heaven. He's great. It’s all going to be okay.

(I imagined Chad, playing the drums up there. Incredibly happy. So, so happy.)

"Ok then. So help me."

I am.

(And that was just about that.)


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My concept of prayer changed to after Matt died. Like you prayer had been a part of our life and I prayed daily for the safety and health and holiness of my family. Id asked each day guardian Angels surround and protect my children and husband. I did all God had asked of me as a mother in raising my children for God. And then my 25 year old had a cancer rarely seen in that age group. Where did that come from. What happened to all my prayers? I had no answer. I still don’t. There were thousands of prayers said while he fought this disease but he still died. What about. ’ when two or more of yo…

Oct 20, 2021
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You have come to the right place Irene. Welcome. :-)

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