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As a non-HC sort, I would say that prayer is not actually much about asking for stuff, but more about listening.

:) You really are an amzing woman you know! Really!

You've just managed, in your own totally unique style, to put some stuff across that very few people could. The irony of it for me, is how you've actually totally poked holes in most of common theology. But let's not go there.

I have a the view that sadly, religions make God in their own image. From the desire to understand the concept of "God" and make it all work, many go about building a set of beliefs that make sense from a very limited and specific world view. This tends to fall far short of truth, which is why there are so many variations on the theme. Views on prayer and heaven and who gets in and who doesn't etc. fall so far short of common sense that the average thinking person, INCLUDING the believers, are for the most part - really confused. If C.S. Lewis and the likes of minds like him, struggled to get it - how is it that masses of average-Joe's trundle along to "church" and profess to have it all worked out. And so we're told by some, that faith is blind and requires you to just TRUST. My brain says, "what if I'm trusting the wrong stuff." What if what I think I must trust, is totally the opposite of what is "real."

This brings me back to the place of saying, YOU will know. Not you in your head. You in your innermost being. Most religions don't want you to doubt and question. Since ancient times, those in charge have wanted to be the final authority, because it works in their favour. But at the end of the day, those authorities are NOT the ones who will pick up the broken pieces when your life falls apart. So who will? Only you. Not even your hubby or your parents are guarenteed to be there forever for you. And they certainly won't be going with you after your body conks in.

So my view is, go within. Go sit somewhere alone and really look at what you know to be true - and then work outward from there, searching and asking until you find TRUTH that is real for you. And I'm sorry to have to say that I don't believe the happy-clapper version that says you ask and if you really ask properly or you fast and deny yourself good things or if you really, REALLY believe - maybe you might get lucky with God. NO.WAY!

(I'm so sorry it got so long! Didn't mean that and now I can't take it back and make it shorter..)

I know that personally, I use prayer as tool... for my own mind. Say I have something that I'm worrying about, completely out of my control. It drives me batty. So I pray, and I have faith God will hear my prayer and may or may not grant me what I'm praying for. I feel like I have done something, like I have done what I could to remedy the situation. Do you know what I mean? I'm not that good at portraying my feelings to words ;) Just basically, putting it in God's hands is easier than fretting over the fact that I can't do anything about it.

I am agnostic and don't believe in the power of prayer but do appreciate the sentiment from those that do believe and have faith. I don't believe collective prayer changes outcomes. I think the point of church is community. but I don't think believing in God will help one get what they want in life. But that's just my point of view.

I have a silly, useless prayer story. Big and brave I took the boys to Rantanga Junction and lept onto the first rollercoaster. Cricky after the ride we all had wobbly legs and wide eyes so I said "oh look there's the log" thats calm and fun. As we start climbing up that friggen steep thing Matt whispers "mom i don't want to do this anymore, can we ask them to stop it". Shucks, i lambaste myself for being a useless mother. Brad then said "i'm getting scared too." In a calm controlled voice i say: "right boys what we are going to do is keep breathing, close our eyes and say 'lord thank you that we are safe and that this will soon be over, thank you that no one has ever died doing this and we will be fine' ". We boom this all the way down. And it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe prayer is keeping your mind busy so you don't feel so alone - not changing the outcome but a mechanism to get you through it.

As a person who has suffered many losses as yourself. Held a baby that should not have passed while everyone stood around praying. I can understand your thought process.

For me, a self-proclaimed HC, prayers was always helpful to me. I could give the worries I had up to God. To find comfort in the fact that no matter how sour things went that this was His plan for me. That this was no accident. That for some reason or another this is how it had to be. I didn't feel alone on those dark days.

Answered or non-answered prayers are just those things that we as HC accept. It is the faith in miracles that keeps us going, at least me. Knowing that if anyone would be able to change what most likely would happen it would be Him. Knowing that miracles exist and that we could receive one keeps the faith. When God doesn't give us that miracle we know that He has other plans for us.

IMO people pray for the same reasons that they continue to try to have a baby in their womb . . . because sometimes a miracle happens. :)

Tertia ever heard people say "God does not close a door without opening a window"? I feel you have used plenty of those windows not only for yourself but for others too. You used your window to let other infertile women know that they are not alone and that there is somebody that understands how they feel, you should be proud.

I do beleive in God although I must tell you that when I felt I had prayed and prayed and still had so many miscarriages it was very difficult to keep that faith, because I always needed something or someone to blame.

But after the 15th miscarriage I decided that God would let us know when he was ready to make us parents and that a healthy pregnancy would be, but on his terms not ours. After a year our daughter was born, so God was just waiting for us to be ready for parenthood. And hell it was a long wait, worth it, but long.

I feel I have to pray and thank God for everything that we do have to be gratefull for instead of what we do not have. You WILL be fine and your little natural gift from God WILL also be fine.

Harvard Prayer Experiment

This experiment (on heart patients following surgery) showed that people who knew they were being prayed for were worse off following surgery than those who didn´t know, or were told they weren´t being prayed for. Draw your own conclusions, but for me it looks like mind over matter with no supernatural intervention.

I share your sentiment but was brought up a Catholic and sadly the male formulated doctrine makes me unwelcome. I say sadly because I'm still so deeply moved by Jesus' story and respect the humility of his teachings BUT I've gone too far down the "other" path to now be accepted or to be accepting of the institution (and I don't want to be "forgiven" for things that I'm not sorry for). My mother (who remains a "good catholic" but who worked as a family planning nurse for years ... yeh go figure!) is sad that I won't set foot inside a church but that's my own form of superstition now. My mother has prayed for us with so much belief and hope - I think it works for her and gives her some sense of control but since I accepted the random and chaotic nature of this world I've been a much much happier person. Nature rocks.

We can all have different notions of God. God is love. God is all good things. God is a vending machine in the sky. God is the universe. God is energy. But we all have to agree that God is bigger than any idea we humans can fit into our heads. We call God he or she not because he is a man or a woman but because we think about God in human terms, even though we understand (s)he is so much more than that.
So, why try to understand why prayers do or don't get answered? That would be way too simplistic. And if we lived in a world where all prayers got answered ... well, of course that's not feasible for a number of reasons.
I'm not opposed to organized religion but I also like this new agey writer Wayne Dyer who has an interesting explanation of God as the source of all things good. The closer we can get to that source, the more good comes into our lives. Which doesn't necessarily mean that we have to be clapping our hands in church, but leading our lives in a loving and joyful way.

Hi Tertia
I was raised a catholic, so have a christian upbringing, but not lordy or happy clappy! However - I questioned my faith to the end of the earth when my dad died of cancer when I was at university. I prayed all night to God , and he died the next morning! Man - was I pissed off! It took me years to get over that betrayal, but then I met a very wise priest, who didn't preach, he just listened.
At the end of my rant, he quietly said: Faith is unique to an individual, and take from it what you will. If nothing else, it gives you something to turn to, and a glimmer of hope when all else fails.
We have progressed to far to believe that a higher power has control over us, or our fate is pre determined. But, sometimes, when this mad world gets too much - it helps to have something to cling to in your darkest hours. That is one of the reasons why I will bring my children up as christians.
Good luck with your prayer quest.

Sorry - forgot to add the most important crux of "mr quiet priests" advice.
He said that prayers are not answered or unanswered. God has no power over what happens on earth, however, God's role comes in when some one is grieving, ill,needs support. He is there to help carry you through the difficuilt time. And I know in this world, when we have science to explain everything, that is hard to acknowledge, but somehow knowing that someone is helping you can help you get through a tough time.
K x

although hands are a little raw from the happy clapping they've done recently (mental note to self: get tambourine back from partridge family), i'm going to try these theologically back breaking questions on. i don't want to start a theological war, these are just my random thoughts, not Christianity's. ok?

1) if it's all predestined why bother praying?

we pray because although God knows what we are thinking, he likes us to talk with him and through prayer HE TALKS TO US. Prayer and Bible reading comprise two of the most powerful forms of two way communication with the Lord and keeping the relationship active. prayer gives perspective. mother Theresa thought that prayer was more about listening thantelling God what to do: "God will overrule us all".

just as parents we want our kids to talk to us even when we think we know what is bothering them, so God wants to hear our petitions and praises!

communication aside, we don't just pray to ask for things. a good way to structure prayers:

1) praise - after addressing God by a few of His holy names, (ie: Father God, King of Kings) thank God for answered prayers, or something that was not prayed for but happened unexpectedly (insert pregnancy here).

2) confession - confessing sins not only removes distance between you and God but also gives you insight into why you do them, and how to prevent it from recurring. asking for forgiveness and knowing it is given, is a wonderful feeling. goodbye guilt.

3) requests - personal/intercessory. prayer requests for ourselves, family, loved ones, world leaders, world situations.

asking is just part of prayer. prayer is conversation, about keeping my relationship with God alive, hearing his direction. sometimes i don't talk to God very much, and during those times i will say, "oh God feels so far away" and then i will realise i haven't called him over to me lately, although He never left my side.

but why a loving, living God allows bad things to happen to good people (or good things to happen to bad people) is not something i will understand this side of heaven. but for myself, it isn't enough to turn me away from my faith in my Redeemer's almighty love and power. and i also know, because i have felt it, that during those dark points of life, whether self induced or circumstantial, God never left my side.

Tertia, you have really put a spoke in the works here. I too wanted the answered, so who did I go to for guidance and wisdom? Why, Saint Google, of course! This is what he had to say:

Question: "Why pray? What is the point of prayer when God knows the future and is already in control of everything. If we cannot change God's mind, why should we pray?"

Answer: Why pray? Why pray when God is already in perfect control of everything? Why pray when God knows what we are going to ask before we ask it?

(1) Prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38). We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7).

(2) Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also.

(3) God intends for prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations:

a) Preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13)

b) Overcoming demonic barriers in lives (Matthew 17:14-21)

c) The gathering of workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2)

d) The gaining of strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41)

e) The means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19)

(4) We have God's promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we don't receive specifically what we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27).

(5) He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15).

Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God's will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.

Hope that helps??

I agree with a couple of posters above that said that prayer is meant to be a mechanism that helps get you through the darkest times.

However, it's an even better feeling when you realize you can depend on YOURSELF to get you through too and the outcome will be that you're a much stronger person.

I think prayer is an invention that was created in order to give hope where there was none; or maybe to give comfort in a chaotic world. I'm a little envious of those who believe in it but I think it doesn't affect the final outcome of things. It gives confort, undoubtedly, but what will be will be......

Wow, right below a very happy clapper! (just teasing, I very much respect you)

For those of us who perhaps don't believe in a "God" so much as a "higher power"... And even for those who believe in God, actually, prayer is being on a different level in your mind - focused, sending out the "energies" of what you want.

Some people of the non-happy-clapper type believe that it's ALL about energies. And putting out the positive energies of what you want along with focusing your mind on the positives of what you really want, that is a prayer. A sort of what goes around comes around type of belief.

I believe in God. I believe there is only one God, whatever name we humans around the globe give him (her, it, whatever). I don't know what form that God takes, and I feel hypocrital when I attend any form of organised worship (I can't sign up to and get over some of the silly, human-inserted dogma which seems to be in all religions that my intellect takes perverse satisfaction in identifying: "Aha! But that just doesn't make sense/is unbelievably sexist/paternalistic/arbitrary"). (BTW, do you know the story of the Ashram's cat?)

I *wish* I could find a place of worship (other than occasionally being struck by the beauty of the world - usually outdoors, or with my one-year old son) that I - and more importantly - that I could bring my son to.

My background is christian - Church of England - but I struggle with the concept of sin.

Sometimes I think I'm being really self-indulgent, self-absorbed and neurotic, and that I should just get over my whiney 'but I have intelleeeeeeectual reservations' shit and get my arse to church every sunday and just see what happens.

I pray, fairly often. Mainly I give thanks for the wonderful things I have been given in this life - sorry if it sounds pious but I really do believe in counting one's blessings. It hasn't always been plain sailing, either.

I share your inability to pray for 'things that I want'. The closest I get is to pray for the strength to cope with whatever is in store for me. This is of course made ridiculous when I think back to my son, at 5 days old, being hauled back into NICU for lumbar punctures for suspected meningitis and septacaemia. I wept and prayed solidly for 48 hours, and it's 9.30am and I'm sitting here with tears coursing down my face as I think of you and Marko and Ben who were not as lucky as my husband and I and my son were.

I don't know what prayer is. Maybe it is acknowledging without gloss or embellishment the hopes and fears of our current situation. Looking honestly at our feelings and behaviour, and setting them in the context of a greater picture, something we believe to be the ultimate source of goodness.

I don't know, darling T, but I do know that I am praying for you and for your baby.

It is my personal belief that God (whatever "God" is) doesn't choose to let one baby live and another baby die, or let one person's house burn to the ground and let another person win the lottery. I believe we all have free will, that the world operates on scientific principles (sometimes you get sick, sometimes your house burns, sometimes things really do work out, etc). I believe God is there to help you deal with things that happen. Like that story "Footprints" He's there to carry you when you can't walk. If something bad happens to me or I'm worried about something I pray to God to help me deal with whatever does happen. To give me strength.

A pray often to feel peace in certain situations. When I was bleeding in my first pregnancy of course I prayed for it to stop, but I also prayed for strength to go on if it didn't stop.

I just can't imagine God sitting up there (wherever he sits) saying "yes, this baby will live, this baby will die, etc). I just think it's nature, it's out of anyone's hands.

What are you supposed to tell someone whose baby doens't make it? (You didn't pray hard enough? Everything happens for a reason (my personal favorite-NOT), God wanted him/her with him, etc.) I just don't like that idea.

So, after all that rambling, I believe prayer is all about asking for support, comfort, strength.

I wish all that for you, and I have a great feeling about your little couch potato!

Just recently started reading your blog...
It looks like you might be doubting the whole faith and the power of prayer thing - just wanted to say that for what it's worth I'll pray for you and your baby too.

Happy Clapper here.

Tertia, God loves questions like yours. I'm not going to be very good at answering but here goes...

There are all types of prayer:

Praise - praising God for who He is (our creator); Thanksgiving - praising God for what He's done; Confession (self explanatory); and Supplication which includes the type of prayers you wrote about: petition - where you ask God for something you want or need and intercession - where you ask God for something for someone else.

I believe very strongly that the point of prayer is so you can talk to God on an intimate level. Prayer doesn't have to be formal or follow rules or come at certain times. Prayer is about talking to a friend; Your BEST friend and connecting with Him on that level. There is no right or wrong way to pray, though only sticking to one type of prayer will limit your relationship with God in the same way only talking about yourself will limit your relationship with people. Prayer can involve sitting down, kneeling, lying down, walking, exercising, diapering your kids, showering, making love with your husband, even sleeping. Everything can be and should be a prayer.

One of the most important parts of prayer is listening. This is the part with which I have the most trouble and I wrote two articles about it for my church and our blogs: here (http://carip.blogspot.com/2006/10/listening-newsletter-for-this-month.html) and here (http://carip.blogspot.com/2006/10/listening-part-2-newsletter-for-next.html) if you care to check them out sometime when you are bored. God always answers. Always. Sometimes we are so busy talking we don't stop to hear the answer. Sometiems it doesn't come when we expect it or in a way that we expect and we aren't paying attention and we'll miss it. And sometimes, He answers in a way that pisses us off or hurts so deeply that we don't want to beleive that is REALLY the answer.

I don't have an answer about Ben except to say that sometimes prayer is not answered the way we want. Sometimes God answers with a "no" or a "not yet." I believe, with every fiber of my being, that there is a reason for everything and every "no" is part of God's perfect plan for me and for my life. The hard part comes when I can't figure out what that reason is or what God's plan is and the answer just SUCKS. Then I have to fall back on my faith and cry my heart out to God. I scream, I yell, I question Him, I doubt, I wonder why and if it is all worth it. But I believe. And eventually His peace fills me and God finds a way to use the bad for a good purpose - to teach me something, to bring me closer to Him, to show me something I need to learn, or just to remind me that I am not in control. It doesn't always happen quickly. In fact, sometimes it takes YEARS for me to reach that point on something (like having a baby, or our adoption that fell through).

I don't know what the reason for Ben's death is. It may never make sense this side of heaven. But I believe that God will use Ben's death for good. He already has. I am not saying that Ben's death was a good thing - it wasn't and no amount of praying will ever make you or anyone else think that it was. It was horrible, and sad, and unfair. But - look at all the good He has used you for since then: this Blog which touches thousands of people each day. Your book. Adam and Kate. This new baby. And it has made you question and think about tough issues like whether God actually answers your prayers, questions which someday, may bring you into a relationship with Him. Those are all GOOD things which have come into your life since God said, "no" to the prayers of you and hundreds of others about Ben. And I can only imagine the good that lies ahead for you and for Adam and Kate and this new baby as well if you let Him use you. And some day, I pray, you'll get to see God in heaven and ask Him yourself why.

Good point. I guess they do it for their own peace of mind. Just in case there is a God, and just in case he might listen, one has at least tried. ;o)

@ CariP: I apologize in advance if I misunderstood you, but you sound like you're suggesting that Ben's death could have been some sort of sacrifice in order to make Tertia a more useful member of the human race, so to speak. I'm not sure I personally like this approach. On the contrary. I think this way of looking at things is actually quite dangerous.

"Belief in a world to come where the innocent are compensated for their suffering can help people endure the unfairness of life in this world without losing faith. But it can also be an excuse for not being troubled or outraged by injustice around us, and not using our God-given intelligence to try to do something about it.

The dictate of practical wisdom for people in our situation might be to remain mindful of the possibility that our lives continue in some form after death, perhaps in a form our earthly imaginations cannot conceive. But at the same time, since we cannot know for sure, we would be well advised to take this world as seriously as we can, in case it turns out to be the only one we will ever have, and to look for meaning and justice here."

(Harold S. Kushner, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People")

I haven't read the other comments so maybe I'm repeating what's already been said......

I believe that God answers all prayers. The answer may be "yes", may be "no", or may be "not right now". I also believe that everything that happens is pre-ordained by God, and then you have the argument that prayers don't make that much of a difference. But I think the biggest point of prayer is to talk to God--and listen to Him.

Now I feel like I'm rambling!

@Tertia: Have you ever read "A Clergyman's Daughter" by George Orwell? ;o)

When I was younger I would have pounced on this question with vigor and would have thought I genuinely knew the answer. Now that I am older and either more or less wise, I would just have to say that it's about hope. When you are ill and pregnant you have hope - enough of it to push away the DBTs. When I pray, which is not often enough probably, I'm reaching out for hope, pleading for it because I need it. I don't know if I sway any outcomes by praying but it helps me hope somehow. Big hugs and NBHHY vibes.

If prayer was for us to listen to God, then why are we doing all the talking?

My nicer, softer answer is that prayer is a way of doing something when there is nothing you can do. It's a form of attempting control, yes, but as humans we struggle with not having control over things. We ask for advice when we know the answer but wish we didn't.

Does it help? Does it make a difference? I guess if it makes you feel better, than that's a positive effect. There's nothing wrong with that. There's no scientific evidence to support it (or there's some vastly conflicting reports, anyway), but sometimes it's not about fact, it's about comfort. If prayer comforts you then do it.

I don't know the answer to your question, but I prayed for my foster/adopt daughter not to die about a month ago. My prayer was not answered. God has given me the strength to survive and I have a sense of peace knowing she is in heaven, not struggling to breathe no more, not sick anymore.

I just felt so cheated dealing with infertility then losing a baby girl that would have very likely came up for adoption.

I think sometimes He lets bad things happen for something good to come of it. My baby girl died, but her biological mom seems to be at a point where she may turn her life around for the better.

It still hurts and is unfair though.

Prayer gets a lot of credit for the work of caring doctors and nurses and the best that medical technology has to offer, but doesn't routinely get the blame when the patient was simply too sick to survive. Prayer and God get the credit when an athlete thanks God for letting his team win, but what about the losing team? The winners weren't competing against the Unholy Infidels, after all.

I believe the "forgiveness of sins" thing is codswallop. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized in prison and supposedly cleansed of his sins. He killed and ate people. Is that forgiveable?

Like anyone, I have had good things and bad things happen in my life, some beyond my control. I daresay that if you compared 10,000 atheists' life events with 10,000 happy clappers' life events (illness, car accidents, injuries, infertility), you would find no significant difference.

Dear Ute - you misunderstand me. That is not at ALL what I was saying. But thanks for the advance apology. :)

In fact I was saying quite the opposite. Nothing will ever justify Ben's death or make it okay. But God has the power to use even the most awful events in our lives for good for us and for others. The events aren't good. The good things don't even directly related to the event. The good things don't take away the hurt of make the bad thing okay. They just are.

What I mean from my own life: 2.5 years ago we had just a horrible series of events in my family's life. DH lost his job, was sued, because of the law suit we lost the child we were set to bring home, our marriage was falling apart, I was severly depressed b/c of it all. It was all bad. Not death of a child bad, but bad. I still have not gotten over the adoption, there are days when I mourn as much as the first day it happened. It will never be a good thing. But good has happened in my life since then. God has used those events and those trials to make me a stronger person. To make me a more faithful person. It allowed me to start writing again and to use my writing to touch other people, mostly through my church but still other people. It has also allowed me to see things in myself that I never would have seen if the events had not happened. The thing itself was not good and will never be good, but God has used it for good in my life.

But this isn't about me, it is about Tertia and her question about prayer so let's stick to that and feel free to e-mail me if you want to chat more.

It isn't about asking for what you want - though you can and should do that - but asking for the strength and understanding necessary in the situation. While people pray for a happy healthy baby, they also pray that if that isn't in the plan, that it won't destroy you. At least that prayer has been answered in the past. You are here and were able to share your experience with us all. I'm so sorry you have had so much hurt in your life, but look how many people you have helped? That doesn't make up for any of you losses, but hopefully makes them just a little less painful. :)

I am a believer (but not a HC) who was raised by an athiest and an agnostic, so I don't have the background others do. I can just tell you how it worked with me. My daughter was the one who lived, whereas just a couple of days before she was born another little girl with the same diagnosis died in the same hospital. Why my daughter, and not Priya (her obit came out the day my Peanut was born)? Both families knew ahead of time something was wrong, and I can't believe I just had more righteous people praying than she did. The man who ministered to us in the hospital before she was born (and ended up baptizing her) was a Lutheran minister who I worked with as an EMT on a volunteer ambulance squad. He and I had both experienced enough in the work that I knew there was no way he would come down and tell me that my baby dying was God's will.

What he said was similar to Kyrstyphysio's priest--that random genetic luck did this. God isn't happy when babies die either. But He is there for us, to help us remember what love is, to help us remember the strength we have inside ourselves to pull through the difficult times and to accept love and kindness from other people when all we want is to shut ourselves off from the world. Prayer helps us focus on the big picture, and to know that however alone we feel, we are not truly alone. And by praying our thanks to Him, it helps us to remember our blessings, even when we aren't feeling very blessed. That made much more sense to me than anything else anyone said, and while I can't say I suddenly felt complete inner peace, it did calm me a bit.

Our due dates are about 4 days apart (V-day present to my husband was a little more than he bargained for). I truly hope and will pray that we both have safe pregnancies that we can enjoy, and healthy, happy babies at the end of them.

I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses. You should ask Rose to show you what the Bible says.

I have faith. I believe in God. Because I come from a Christian background, I tend to use a Christian frame for my beliefs. I have had an experience that makes believe that "something" happens after we die- that the soul lives on in some form. For my own peace of mind, I frame this in terms of Heaven; that there is a place to which we go when we die. I prefer to think that the truly evil (e.g. pedophiles, serial killers, etc.) don't get to go to the same place as the rest of us (and in fact, I prefer to think that they go to a Hell very much like the one described by Dante). But is that a Heaven as described by the Bible? I don't know.

However, I also believe that the Bible was written by men. These are John's, Paul's, Mark's, Luke's, etc. interpretations of God's will. I have a difficult time accepting that it contains the literal word of God. Jesus was a man. He was a very spiritual man who did a lot of good works and revolutionized the way we treat each other. I don't know if I truly believe he was the son of God. So if I don't accept the divinity of Jesus, how am I a Christian? The unsatisfactory answer is that it's by default. I'm not Jewish. I'm not Buddhist. I'm not Muslim. I believe in God, I believe that it is our responsibility to do our best to not harm others while on earth (as Jesus believed), and I believe that there is something after we die. I don't believe that going to church gets you a ticket in. I believe that our conduct on earth, our striving to do better each day, our work (in terms of self-improvement, giving back to others, loving others, etc.) on earth is what gets you to where you're going after you die. I am not comfortable believing there is *nothing* after death. So, by default I embrace the Christian view of an afterlife.

Oh my. What a jumble my religious beliefs are. -sigh-

Tertia. I am dying laughing here. How is it that you can say these things, which I am scared to voice out loud b/c of the fear of lightning strike, and it not only doesn't offend but makes you even more darling?

FIRST - congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable and sooo wonderful!!!

I have lots of HC friends. I have tried to be HC but I just am not. I am way too cynical - I blame my dad, the ultimate cynic!!

Anyway, the way I think about prayer is like this. God is not a Genie, we don't pray for wishes to come true. We pray for faith, for patience and understanding, that we will have the strength to handle whatever happens. But when people say "It is God's plan," I have a hard time with that. When I hear on the news that a parent tortured their child, how can that be God's will? That just doesn't make sense to me. So that is where I struggle in faith. I don't know how the HCs feel about this stuff.


For me prayer is about getting closer to God. Spending quiet time alone talking to God in order to figure things out. My perspective on life is that our situations are predetermined and happen for a reason in order for us to grow and learn. Praying allows any situation in life to flow through your mind and up to God so that the weight of the situation doesn't settle on you. When you pray you relinquish control over the situation and give it to God to show you the lesson that the situation has presented you with.
Every human experiences pain through different situations and God wants us to turn to him. Not everyone will- some people will be angry that he allowed them pain. Other people will realize that pain is what connects us to humanity.
When your baby died it changed you as a person. Perhaps it was to relate and understand others pain better- because you yourself had experienced such pain (forgive me for talking about your emotions)Like any painful situation it teaches us to reach out to others and empathize. This is why Christ died on the cross- to experience human pain to understand humanity. That's why he says come to me in your times of pain- because he can help us understand that pain is a process of growth.
So prayer, in my opinion, is the process of giving a situation to God, turning to him and accepting what happens as an oppurtunity to grow a deeper faith in his love for us.
Sorry for the ramble...

As other posters have said, in my view prayer is about communiion and relationship--praise first, confession and then intercession. it's easy to get stuck on the intercession and abandon the first two (because hey--we want what we want). When my mother collapsed from a pulmonary embolus and I called the ambulance, you'd better believe I was doing a lot of intercessory prayer. Well--three hours later she died in my arms, at age 52, an otherwise healthy person. I was baffled by God. Slowly--very slowly--i came to accept that for whatever reason this was part of his plan. I thought it was a bloody thoughtless plan, but in time (this has been nearly 6 years) I started to trust that there was some sort of reason for it. And that reason I know I will NEVER know here on earth. That's one of the hardest things about situations like this--the 'faith' bit. having faith that there's a reason. it is not easy.

As for what the point of intercessory prayer if it's all preordained....I think there are two things here I'm not a theologian so i'm sure this is ripe for ripping apart, but I think there are two aspects: first, 'in God all things are possible,' so I express my faith to him that he really can remedy the situation--even though I like to lobby hard on 'my' side, and second, that by drawing nearer to God I can more easily understand 'why' something may happen the way it happens--to gain a sense of peace in a terrible situation. I think one of the most powerful requests from the disciples is 'teach us how to pray.' Pray with faith that things will occur. And I've seen things become possible after I prayed for them. I don't always get what I want, but many of my prayers have been answered--immediately, or after a day, a month, or several years. And I don't understand this, either. Why some, but why not the one about my mother? I think God wants to communicate with us and hear what we have to say. it's just that he will, in fact, do what he wants to do [maybe like a parent: you want to hear what your child's opinion is--or at least most parents do--and you love them and want them to have what they want, but sometimes you have to say 'no' even though it's difficult to explain to them why you're making that choice].

As an aside, i've never once clapped in church except at a wedding or when someone makes a very happy announcement like 'we're getting married!' but i'd still count myself as an hc--I suppose my heart is clapping even if we're too presbyterian to do it in church--too proper.

Studied philosophy in college and never understood faith that people had. eventually i realised that all faith is 'blind faith'--we can't always know or explain it all. I don't necessarily like that, being an inquisitive sort, but I can accept it now.

i view prayer as a relationship... while i would LOVE to be able to put in my "order" to god so to speak, i know it doesn't work like that, or i would have been pregnant a long time ago. :) i have always been skeptical about prayer, too... with the same questions you have... but what it has done for me is draw me closer to god - like a friendship... if you talk to someone everyday, you become friends with them, closer and closer... you can lean on them in hard times, etc. so, prayer is like a friendship with god. the more you get to know eachother, the easier it will be to lean on him in hard times, recognize blessings, understand the way you should go, etc. i prayed and prayed for a child... and now we are adopting. it's not the way i expected god to answer, but because he knows me well, it's the perfect answer for me. without prayer, i wouldn't have had the peace i have about our infertility, adoption, marriage, etc. and i don't think i would have realized he was blessing me if i hadn't been praying about it...

I think prayer benefits the person praying...it is good for our mental health. I also think that putting positive thoughts out there into the world somehow does help, but can't help in every situation. Sometimes things will just happen the way they are going to happen. I think of God as energy, but also as a being I can communicate with. But I think when we die we will find out that it is more complicated and yet simpler than anything we can imagine here on earth. I think our religions are created so that we can put God in a context we can understand. But I believe God is a force that exists beyond our comprehension.

And I think the person who posted about prayer actually hurting people was wrong. It seems to me I have read about studies that say people who pray and who are prayed for recover better from major surgeries and illnesses. It's the hope that helps, I believe. And maybe also God.

Tertia, thank you for posting about a sometimes touchy topic with such respect and sensitivity, while still retaining your trademark wit. That is a rare gift amongst bloggers.

To answer your question, what is the point of prayer: That question is perhaps answered differently for everyone. For me, the point is peace of mind. It gives me that more than anything else. Helps me think more clearly, helps me feel closer to God, helps me be able to hear Him. Helps me to accept my life more gracefully. Helps me turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to negative influences. All of those things give me peace and a quiet contentment. Nothing else gives me those things.

To address another comment of yours: "Her and people like Tess are proof that Lordy types can be fun, funny, witty normal people." Yes, we can be! My perception is that there is a perception amongst many hard-core non-HC'ers that HC's are self-righteous, close-minded idiots. To that, I say, "pot... kettle...." HC'ers don't have a monopoly on that personality type. HC'ers (funny term, by the way), can also be snarky, dry, introspective navel-gazers, logical and skeptical thinkers, wine-drinking, tacky-joke-telling, practical-joke-playing social butterflies, and most certainly, open-hearted lovers of all things God made. We can also be crunchy. We can also be wild in the sack.

Re: predestination and fate: I would think most HC'ers would tell you we don't believe in these things, or I should phrase that differently because I hate the phrase "I don't believe in...". It's so dumb when someone says, for example, "I don't believe in bottle-feeding". What, you don't believe bottle feeding exists? I digress. Most HC'ers think God does not predestinate (is that a word?) our every move. When the Bible says, "God made man in His own image", notwithstanding what God physically looks like (which I don't know), He made us with free will, just like He has. Free will pretty much throws predestiny out the door. Fate is a human-invented concept so I have no opinion on it.

Re: Why don't you always get exactly what you ask for when you pray? I have no idea. I don't always pray for a thing to happen or not happen, but sometimes I do. I put myself in the "can't hurt, and might help" camp on that one.

Good post.

I pray a lot. I pray when I happy, I pray when I'm sad, I pray when I'm worried (a whole lot) and I pray for my friend and family. It's my way to talk to God and I usually feel better after praying, so I know He's listening.

I think you're being pulled by the HCs and the Holy Spirit myself. Sister Mel, don't you agree.

Great post! Very thought provocing! Kind of hard to put my answer into words - so I just kept it simple.

Hi Tertia,

I've read you for a while, but I think I've only commented once.

Really? Seriously? Prayer for me is all about belief. It's about returning to the constant. I'm Muslim, but was raised as a Protestant.

Prayer, when asking for things, is approaching God as a child. Like your daughter tugs on your skirt when she wants something. In the case of Ben, may he rest in peace, prayer would be you (and everyone else) holding him up to God, asking Him to take care of it when it gets to the point where we've exhausted the tools He gives us to handle these things. See? Belief that He can do what we can't, and willingness to ask him to do so. And also asking for comfort and peace and the ability to go on no matter what happens, because He is the ultimate reality. It's like, some things? You have to give them to another person. Like hip surgery. I don't know a clue about it. But the surgeon knows. And I know the surgeon, so I trust that he can take care of it. Unknowable, life beginning and life ending things? I know God (that's the one process of prayer, getting that connection established so you can truly trust God), and I know/believe He knows all about it, so prayer is really about leaving what I'm not capable of predicting/affecting/foreseeing up to God and asking God to help me be okay with that.

I know that doesn't help at all, I just had to comment, do you get to read all your comments? I'm praying for you and your child and your family.


I've struggled with this question SO many times over my years of infertility. As a person who has always strongly believed in God, it was hard for me to understand why, no matter how hard I prayed, and no matter what I tried, still nothing would work. It makes you wonder if you're praying *wrong* somehow, you know?

Ultimately, this is what I came up with. First, we're praying for our own benefit, not for God's benefit. He doesn't need to know what we want, he already knows. He doesn't need to be swayed by our pleadings somehow- like if we beg JUST hard enough, he'll cave. I think, for me, prayer is more of a two-way process- a way of aligning what WE want with what God wants. Sort of a way of saying, "hey God, this is the way I want things to go", and then finding out if the same thing is on his agenda. Not to say that suddenly I prayed and God would say, "hey, chill out, on your 3rd IVF attempt you'll get pregnant". But I did eventually work my way into a sort of peace about it. I finally started to understand that there is a real value in vocalizing your hopes and desires, to a God who you have faith in to make it okay. And also realizing that God's version of okay might be different than your version of okay.

I don't know. It's much easier to have moments of clarity about all of this when the moments of crisis have passed, you know?

I have all the hope in the world for you and this pregnancy. And, for what it's worth, prayers and crossed fingers and anything else that might help too.

i'm an atheist, so take what i have to say with a grain of salt. still, i find it surprising that so many people are saying God has no power over events, but can help us through them. I don't think you can have both those things. Either God has power or He / She doesn't.

honestly, though, these interpretations of faith are among the chief things that make me disinclined to believe that there really is a God at all, beyond a figment of the imagination, imagined differently and for different purposes, by each person, or wishful thinking / belief that the universe makes sense.

the universe does make sense, and it doesn't. things like the arrangement of the block-like cells in a plant are perfect examples of symmetry, form and function, the beauty of a wholly physical, scientific process. similarly, the galaxies arrange themselves into beautiful spirals--for practical reasons, but they form patterns that suggest order and logic.

but when it comes to humans...you have the Holocaust. you have the current situation in Iraq. they are, like the cells of a plant or the spiral of a galaxy, the natural outcome of the behavior of organisms (humans) and organic matter (bombs, guns, dogs, etc.). they make sense from a cause-and-effect standpoint, but not from a moral or spiritual one.

i don't find the idea that some intelligence has meant for those fucked-up things to happen comforting at all. i can't call on a God i believe has agency without believing that same God had the power to make a situation not happen in the first place. i don't believe in divine wisdom or a divine will--I've seen too many completely fucked up things happen to totally undeserving people, both good and bad, to believe it. it is more comforting for me to think scientifically, to believe that our human consciousness is an accident of evolutionary development, than to think there's actually someone up there overseeing all this mess down here on Earth. in my mind, if there is someone / something like that, He / She has some MAJOR fucking explaining to do.

Hello other HC's. Ok, hello everyone! I love all the HC comments written with love and wisdom. What I find amazing is that even people who do not believe in God, will pray when faced in desperate circumstances. Look at sportsmen, they will look up in a gesture of thanks in a victorious moment in a game.
My relationship with my Dad and my kids helps me understand God a little better. We love our kids unconditionally, it doesn't matter what they say or do, we just love them. We would die for them in a heartbeat. Sometimes we see them do things we know will cause them pain. It is a consequence of their behaiviour. I often think of God looking at me just shaking his head (thunderstorms and lightning up there) at the stupid things I do and then knowing the pain I will have to deal with later.
Anyway, back to the question I too have asked. When Tertia phoned to say Ben was about to be born I was sobbing and crying and I closed the bathroom door and actually got on my knees. I phoned every HC I knew. For those 10 days I prayed constantly and believed a 100% he would come home. It rocked my world when he didn't. For a long time I used to go to church and just sit there. I was really pissed off. He just waited patiently and loved me anyway. His ways are not our ways. We just don't know. I deal with stillbirths on a weekly basis, holding grieving mothers in my arms asking me why. I don't know, you don't know. I do know though that he does work all situations around for good. He doesn't cause bad things to happen, but He does allow them to happen. Ben dying was tragic beyond description but look at what He has done with that situation and Tertia's life.
We pray because we talk to him and we want him to chat back. Because we all need help. Because we know He exists. Because he tells us to in His word (bible)
I have been accused of using my faith as a crutch. Duh? Hobble around exhausted or use some help. He created the entire world, thats very impressive. Of course I want him on my side. I pray because I love Him and would miss Him way too much without chatting to Him every day.


I should also have mentioned (and you've probably heard before) that just as you approach God, God approaches you (that's why Jesus' (as) prayer saying "Our Father" is such a great image for many people ), as one who knows better. Sometimes, through the pain he knows we're feeling, the answer is- no. Or, "in a little while" (did anyone pray for you and Marko to be fertile?). And for me, prayer is about getting mad and telling Him about it, while realizing that I adore and worship Him as the ultimate reality and my beloved. I get upset, I grieve, I go through major upheavals and try to blame them on God, when I know that we've got free will and He's still my God to pray to and to follow and to trust. Returning to the consant.

I'd better stop there, I love talking about prayer and the nature of God , I don't want to start preaching.

InshaAllah (Lord Willing) that helps.


-please read only with open mindness. if i quoted your words back at you, please do not act as if it is an attack of any kind. it is simply my view, and i'm trying to express it.-

@Sister Mel, your words brought tears to my eyes. I don't understand this world sometimes. I truly don't.

On another note, from a very different view point, I'm a person who wavers frequently from atheist to agnostic, depending on the level of optimism for the day. I think it's wonderful there are HCs out there, I think it's great people can have a crutch if they want one. I hobble and I do so because I think that being an HC isn't right for me. Hobbling for me is about trying to become one with myself, understand myself, find the best route, explanation, solution for myself.

Mands I believe wrote some points about prayer:
(4) We have God's promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we don't receive specifically what we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27).

(5) He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15).

So according to John, we will get things we ask for... if we ask for the right thing. God determines the right things then. This seems to me like that teacher who would ask a question, and classmates would volunteer an answer... which would seem right to me. Maybe not the best right answer, but would be right in their own way, perspective or situation. But the teacher would hold out for the right answer, the right answer as s/he perceived it. I always hated these types of teachers, who thought they knew best, who thought their situation or answer was best always. I would never answer any question this teacher asked. Because what was the point of volunteering an answer that would be wrong anyways?

I apply this faith and principle to prayer. Beause what is the point of praying for a thing you want badly if it's not in accordance with god's will? And if, as others point out, prayer without getting the thing you aksed for is a way of letting god know what you want, what is the point of god knows all anyways? The only way I can understand the point of prayer is if you use it as a form of communication and bonding with god. There is no point in asking for anything in prayer, because obviously god will give it to you (if he so deems it correct) or will not. He will do either if you don't pray too.

I am an athiest who does not believe in the supernatural, and so, I do not understand prayer in the form of requests for divine intervention.

But, Tertia, this is amazing. You have created a web site, and a community where people can discuss this issue, and feel comfortable talking about the world's toughest questions. You are indeed gorgeous and divine. Is that a pun? Did I just call Tertia God? :-)


I have to say that I'm pretty new to most religious thought, and while I was headed there a while back, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a HC.
When I was starting on my road towards Judaism I came accross something some great sage wrote. I read that when you pray for healing you are really praying for the strength to face the healing process.
Over the years I've really taken this to heart. I try hard to not pray for miracles, I don't think my faith could weather the kind of disapointment that goes with that. Instead I pray for help in finding the strength within me to deal with whatever is happening at the time.
So I guess I think that if things are pre-ordained, prayer is the thing that will give you strength to survive.
Hope that helps...

See, that's why I can't buy into any supreme being religion. I don't pray, but I do try to send good, positive energy out into the universe in hopes that it will attract good energy to me. Other than that, I have to believe that things are not pre-destined but happen based on circumstances, not force of will. The good energy thing can only put my mind, body and spirit into a good place and then you have to hope for the best knowing you're doing things to help make it happen.

My mom is a HC and we've finally come to a comfortable stalemate where she prays for me and I don't object. ;)

My personal idea of prayer is praying for the "Lord's will" or the "best possible outcome" to happen, and for God to grant me (or whoever I am praying for) the strength, patience, wisdom, etc to get through what is happening or what will happen. To me it is not a wish, and it is very short-sighted to pray for specifics every single time. (Not that I haven't done this). Mostly I pray for graceful acceptance of a situation or the courage to fight my way through it.

Prayer is about being in relationship with God. How can you have a relationship with someone you never speak with? So prayer opens that line of communication. Faith is about continuing that relationship when God says no. Just because you pray doesn't mean God will give you what you want. It's not about being so good that he will tell you yes every time you ask for something. It's about asking and knowing that his ways are better than ours and when He says no that it's part a larger purpose than we can understand.

You know that story about the Monkey's Paw where the people get these wishes and they all come true in a way that completely bites the people in the ass? I'm always afraid to pray for something specific because it might just come back to haunt me. I pray for happiness and comfort for others, I pray for safety for my husband, I pray for strength for myself. Does it make it happen? Damned if I know, but it makes me feel better. I believe everything happens for a reason, but that I may never know what the reason is. Small comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

I consider myself religious and spiritual. Prayer is a big part of my life, but I do understand the question about why we pray, if there is a predestined outcome. I have thought about it myself many times.

To me, it is important to acknowledge God and His role in this universe, and specifically in my life. He is responsible for everything that I am blessed with. I use prayer to express my gratitude to Him. I also pray to be close to Him. It brings me great comfort to know that He knows and cares about my struggles.

I also pray to ask for help in certain situations. Especially as a mother, I pray for my children when they are sick, or when I feel that we need certain blessings. As you mentioned, I do believe that it requires faith on our part in order to be blessed, but the faith is not a belief that God will do exactly as we ask, but faith that He knows what is best for us. It is a harsh and cruel and imperfect world we live in. God will not make our lives perfect, but if he doesn't take away the problem you are facing, I believe that he WILL give you strength to endure it.

I wish you all the best.

I am constantly asked how I can believe in something "like the Bible", because it's "just a book written by dead guys". I let my faith rest upon the fact that I not only have a personal relationship with Christ, but in the proof the Bible contains. At more than 10,000 manuscripts, there are more copies of the Bible than any ancient writings. Stunningly, we take the word of less than fifteen manuscripts regarding several of Plato's writings and deem them official - they are gold. 10,000 of canonical scripture and it's questioned.

So, what exactly is this Bible thing? The majority is a compilation of Jewish sacred writings. The OT is full of their history, their plight, poetry, songs, and essentially the biographies of the fathers of the different Jewish periods. Take a 400 year silence and then enter the NT, which is full of Christ's life and teachings. The accounts of his life were written by some of the people closest to him: the disciples. After which, a doctor named Luke wrote the entire account from a historical perspective. Then you have multiple accounts of churches, letters amongst them, etc. that are primarily concerned with building the church since Christ's departure. It was not an easy task and cost many of the early members their life.

For me, prayer is not the granting of wishes. Prayer is one form of communication with God, while the Bible is the other. People - Christian, Muslim, Agnostic alike - seem to call on God when they need something. But truly, it should be used as a regular form of discussion, just as the Bible should be used for the purpose of teaching and understanding His plan more.

So, the question most people ask is: why didn't He give me what would have made me happy? But perhaps it is deeper than that. Is God subject to either "causing" something to happen or "allowing" something to happen or is the world working on its own accord? I, for the most part, say it is this third option. At the fall of man, God took a step back and told man he was going to have to be more independent, because he CHOSE to be. The whole idea is that God did not want puppets, so we can scratch the concept of causing. On the same token, because of that independence, he let man endure their own cause and effect in this world, thus eliminating the allowing.

When the world lost its perfection, "bad things" entered in. They came with the freedom of leaving perfection in order to know of life and death, good and evil. It's as if in that moment the world began to spin. Now, we have the ability to know of death, and must all experience it. We are living in a chain reaction, and while God has the power to intervene (hey, He sent His Son to die for us!), that is not always the case, not because He does not love us, but because man chose to understand good and evil, and God is upholding His word to let man both live and die.

I do pray, and I do ask for things, and often, the answer is "no." And that is very hard sometimes. But the reason that I pray is because we have been directed to pray (Christian bible; not sure what other religious texts say). I do try to talk with God about everyday things, but I don't pray as often as I should. Need to work on that.

Chiming in -- just from the Christian end of things -- Christian theologies are not all of one mind on the subject of things being predestined, or of how to use the Bible as authority, or what prayer means or should be. So, there's not a simple answer really, which is no disrespect to the excellence of the questions. I like what people have said about talking to God, bringing our concerns and sorrows and pain. But it is so true that things do not always come out for the best, no matter how hard we wish or hope or pray. I do not think our prayer "controls" the outcome of things because there is so much, even so much in the world, that is outside our control. And I don't think God always chooses to intervene; why, I don't know. Just my own belief, though--I think that God grieves with us when we suffer, and stands with us, and cares deeply about our pain. I think we get to thank God, ask God, and even yell at God in anger when life is painful and when we wish for divine intervention that did not take place. I think God yearns for connection with each person and can cope with being yelled at. And I also think that one thing prayer does is to knit together, on the earth, a web of concern and caring that reminds us that we need each other and are needed, and that caring for one another matters a great deal. I'll shut up now!

I stand in awe of you guys. Your grace is spectacular. You are a good bunch of friends to have, and I am so glad to have you in my life. HC's and non-HC's alike.

The following excerpt, entitled 'How God Answers Prayer' was written by our current Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)
"Why is God silent? Why does he withdraw? Why is it that just the opposite of what I wanted is happening? This distance between what Jesus promised and what we experience in our own lives makes you think, every time - it has that effect in each generation, for each single person, and even for me. Each one of us has to struggle to work out an answer for himself, so that in the end he comes to understand why God has spoken to him precisely like that. Augustine and other great Christians say that God gives us what is best for us - even when we do not recognize this at first. Often, we think that exactly the opposite of what he does would really be best for us. We have to learn to accept this path, which, on the basis of our experience and our suffering, is difficult for us, and to see it as the way in which God is guiding us. God's way is often a path that enormously reshapes and remolds our life, a path in which we are truly changed and straightened out. To that extent, we have to say that this "Ask, and you will recieve" certainly cannot mean that I can call God in as a handyman who will make my life easy every time I want something. Or who will take away suffering and questioning. On the contrary, it means that God definitely hears me and what he grants me is, in the way known only to him, what is right for me."

Best of luck to you with your pregnancy!

AS someone who has always struggled with my faith, this has always been a misty area for me, as well. My husband is an HC and he is marvelous. It took us quite a while to "agree to disagree" after just a few months of marriage, we thought we had figured out why God put the two of us together - I am in his life to show him that there are other ways to live and to teach him tolerance. He is in my life to show me that sometimes faith means believing without seeing. In lieu of that, DH has also enabled me to have what little faith I do. He "prays" for me all the time. I personally haven't talked to God in just over a year... I had a loss and after that, felt sort of like you did - if everything it already predestined, what is the point? I guess I can't help you much on this one... I will think on it a bit and probably wind up posting something in a crude attempt to organize my thoughts...

DH thinks prayer is a way for people to get closer to, and have a better relationship with your god. He believes God already knows what is in your heart, but that prayer is a chance to express it for yourself. He believes that everything happens for a reason, good or bad, and that we may never know the reason. We just have to trust that God knows what (S)He is doing.

I'm not going to clog up your email as much of what I would say has already been said, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for YOU, Tertia. You are a wonderful person!

you've got lots of answers, but I have a feeling, that is not what you are looking for. Why do you ask? :hug:

I am skipping the mountain of comments above, so if I am repeating what others have said, I am sorry. From my own perspective, prayer, as you mentioned you know if communication with God. The point of prayer is that we tell Him what we want/need, even though He can read our minds and all of that. We humble ourselves and submit ourselves to His authority by asking. Like a child asking their parent for a cupcake/toy/piece of bread. If you know that Kate loves cupcakes and you know she wants one of the ones that is on the counter, you wait until she asks for one before giving it to her (for various reasons, such as you don't know if she's currently hungry, etc.). God knows all (omnipotent), but He wants us to ask.
He has a perfect plan - it is incredibly hard to remember that in hard times and times of loss/grief. But somehow, He knows what is best. Prayer is part of faith and part of the faith process. And personally, I only believe in predestination to a point. I believe that God helps those who ask. I believe He won't save you if you don't ask Him.
And so i pray for you, Tertia. And I pray for your baby. And I pray that he or she is a miracle child, a gift. And I also pray that if God has another plan that He gives you and your family the strength to get through whatever comes.

My question is: what is the point of asking for something through prayer if the end result is predestined / preordained anyway.

To my simple mind, I figure it is a way for us humans to say what we can't say to another person.

And in my simple mind, if a G-d answered all prayers for healing, then there would be no faith, because we would know for a fact that G-d existed and then what would be the point of faith?

I read this post this morning and although I didn't have time to respond just then, I've been thinking about it all day as I've spent time my son, Walt, who is almost exactly the same age as Adam and Kate. And I've come to the conclusion that my relationship with God (particularly in the area of prayer) is strangely similar to my son's relationship to me. I think God gave us two-year olds to help us understand Him! (Why else would he have invented the "terrible twos"?) I'll try to explain, so please bear with me.

On the days I'm off work and am spending the whole day with Walt, I get up with a plan for the day. It's not that I have every moment or every single activity planned out, it's just that I know that we need to do some errands, have some playtime, Walt needs a nap, we need to eat, etc. Over the course of the day, Walt asks me for things. A lot of things. And because I love him so much, it makes me happy to see him happy, and so I might say yes, you can watch Sesame Street right now. It wasn't specifically in my plan for the day, but it's not going significantly alter the course of our day, and it will make him happy. So, sure, let's watch Elmo.

And then there are other requests, like "Can we go to the park right now?" when really it's time for lunch and a nap. Being the mom, I happen to know that right now it's cloudy and cold and that there are 200 schoolkids at the park having their field day. I can try to explain that to him, but he's not mature enough to understand that the experience of going to the park will be so much better this afternoon when he's fed and rested, and the sun is supposed to come out and the big kids won't be there to crowd the playground. He's unhappy that I say no, and while I hate more than anything to see him unhappy, I know that it's for his own good that we wait until later to go.

I think it's the same way with God. He sees a much bigger picture than we can see, and while He loves us so much and wants to give us good things (even more so than we want to give good things to our kids), He won't give us something just because we ask for it if He knows that He has something better waiting for us. And then sometimes, He says, "Sure, go watch Sesame Street for an hour -- it's not going to change the course of your life and it will make you happy!"

And then I thought about all the suffering you've gone through with the loss of your other children and how that could possibly fit into my analogy. And I realized that it still does. We never cause our children whom we love pain, but sometimes we do allow it. When I take Walt to get his vaccination, I know that it is going to hurt him, and that he's going to cry and wonder why I would stand by and let him experience that pain. He can't understand yet, but I know that even though it kills me to see him crying and in pain, the vaccination is designed to keep him healthy. That temporary pain is preparing him to go through life as a healthier person. God does not cause us pain, anymore than I am the one who sticks the needle in Walt's little leg, but sometimes he does allow it because He knows that ultimately it will make us stronger, healthier or wiser people. It would not have been possible for you to touch all of the people you have through this blog or your book if you had not gone through the experiences you have. Was it "worth" it? I don't think any of us can answer that because we, like a two-year old, can't see the big picture, but you know the wonderful impact you've had on the world, and much of it has come as a result of your suffering.

As for giving up your "sinful, self-indulgent ways", I doubt that any of the HC's (including Mel!) would tell you that they have given up those things themselves. Even those of us who've been "Lordy" for years can't stop wanting to please ourselves anymore than a two-year old wants to stop playing and go take a bath and go to bed. But even though Walt pitches a fit, dawdles through getting undressed, and colors on the wall on his way to the tub, I can't help but love him just because he is my child. And despite our sinful ways, God still loves us just because we are His children. And on the flipside, no matter how "good" we are (going to church, doing good deeds, etc.), God doesn't love us anymore than he does when we're sinning. Do I love Walt more when he scribbles a picture for me? No, while I am happy and pleased that he gave me the picture out of love, I love him just as much in that moment as when he's coloring on the wall! I just can't help myself, and that's how I think God feels about us.

As our kids grow up, they start to understand more why sometimes we have to say no to them. They still don't always like it, but by the time they're adults (and maybe particularly when they have their own kids!), we hope that they'll understand that every single time we said either yes or no to something they asked for, we did it because we loved them. The further I get down my path of trying to understand God, the more I understand that He wants only the best for me in life. The more I listen to His direction and have faith in His love for me, the better able I am to realize my fullest potential.

I really hope this didn't come across as condescending or anything -- it just makes a lot of sense to me to look at my relationship with God in terms of how I parent my own child. (Fortunately God does a much better job in the parenting department than we do!)

Sorry this was so long, but like I said, I've been thinking about it all morning!

Maybe God is doing CIO?

That's perfect, Belen! A MUCH shorter way of getting at what I was trying to!

T you know I am not a HC. This is what prayer means to me:

Belief in yourself, that you are a strong person and a good person. Hope for the future. Faith that good things will come your way.

I am praying in my own little way for you.

i never post comments like this but as i just had a similar conversation with someone i had to respond instead of just lurking

my new way of thinking about this is to think of god as a parent

and sometimes, even when there isn't necessarily a good reason, a parent has to say no

perhaps saying no was hard for god but it's what had to be done

feel free to disagree, but for me that made me feel better...

all the best on the couch accident :-) i'm rooting for you!

OMG - i didn't check your blog for a few days and suddenly you're all knocked up and asking about prayer!!!!

Firstly - am sooooo thrilled for you guys and am hoping and praying for that live baby in eight months.

And about the prayer thing... I am a Christian (not an HC), but also a friend to many other faiths. The best description I've read about the prayer thing comes from a Buddhist nun. She describes prayers as a fertilizer. She says in order for something to come about all of the necessary karmic conditions have to be there (seed, nourishment, etc, etc). Prayers then act as a fertilizer, further increasing the chances that the seed will grow and flourish. The prayer itself doesn't cause the thing to happen, it just creates a better environment in which the seed may grow. Does that make sense?

Another fascinating angle in this vein is the possibility of altruistically bequeathing one's positive karma to another. An example of this was in Lord of the Rings when Arwen wished for her good graces to be passed to Frodo. Likewise, Jesus atoning death on the cross is of similar nature. But that is a more heady and complicated karmic/theological discussion for another day. ;-)

p.s. - i use the expression 'knocked up' in a loving and positive manner - please don't think i meant anything disrespectful by it :-)


I just blogged about this exact subject, right here, http://nomatterhowsmall.blogspot.com/2007/03/choices-humans-make.html

But to sum it up, God gave us free will and all the intelligence and brilliance to figure out how to save children. Humanity has made a concious choice to let babies die, to refuse to save the most vulnerable among us. Instead of buying guns or researching better ways to kill each other, we could be researching maternal fetal health.

When humanity lets babies like Ben or my children die, God weeps. This is not in his plan.

He isn't to blame, we ALL are. I don't pray to God anymore to save my children, I pray to God that politicians and drug companies will listen to me, and do the right things. Make the right choices, instead of the incredibly bad ones they do now.

I pray that moms like you and me will be heard by the world and not ignored. But I don't rely on God alone, I yell at the bastards myself. God gave me a voice to tell them off and fingers to type.

He gave them to all the women reading this. Maybe we could choose to use them to make someone save our kids?

i wouldn't say that prayer is primarily about asking god for stuff. i would say that prayer is primarily about trying to be in relationship with god. in that sense, it can't fail.

I was raised in no religious tradition, and I have always considered myself an atheist. I have never found a satisfactory image of God, but I did always yearn for a faith in something that made sense to me and felt right and good.

I have explored the Quaker faith, and I am now going with my children to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I am also reading a lot and practicing Buddhist meditation. I feel like I have a lot of questions, and not very many answers, but I feel driven to continue to learn.

I know this: it is an incredible miracle when a child is born, when that child smiles at you, when springtime comes and flowers and baby animals appear seemingly out of nowhere... Is there a scientific explanation? Of course there is... but that does not make it any less incredible and wonderful. How did it all get here? I respect why some people believe in an entity called God. But then who made God? Where did God come from? There are just so many questions.

It is a terrible tragedy that Ben died. And we are all going to die someday, as are all of our children, though hopefully we will live good long full lives. All we can do is take care of each other as best we can, try to do good for ourselves and others, and try not to hurt anyone. If anyone treats us badly, I feel it is important to not compound that by treating them badly in return even if that is "fair." All world religions counsel peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood, and justice. All world religions ask people not to judge each other or hurt or kill each other. If we could all just practice what we believe instead of worrying so much about what other people are believing, wouldn't that make such a difference.

So, Tertia, what do YOU find sacred, holy, or incredibly important and truthful?

I've always found my own view on God's role is similar to the guy who wrote "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" which sounds awful but is actually quite helpful (he wrote it after his son died of a lengthy terminal disease). His view is that God has bound himself to the laws He created, so for example, if the laws of biology are that you need oxygen to breathe and you don't get some then you die. And that God's role is not to change this but to be present with us in those times.

So I don't really pray to God to /change/ things; I would pray more for something like "help me find the inner strength to do what's right for my daughter." And I find that comforting, and I think comfort is a large thing.

I admit that my judgmental view is that people who pray for things to happen specifically like praying for a new car or whatever (and I include The Secret in this) to be like, from some other universe where they can actually /believe/ that God listens to them about their car and not to say, Rwandan slaughter victims. But that is me.

Prayer makes no sense to me. Especially related to infertility and death. it particularly irks me when infertile women who finally find themselves pregnant say "God has answered my prayers," because if that is true, God is either ignoring the prayers of 1000's of other women, or they simply aren't praying hard enough. And if they are praying just as hard as the woman who succeeds, are we to assume that God just likes them better, that they are somehow more deserving? And what about the infertile atheist that get pregnant. If prayer does work, then God is picking and choosing whose to grant. Nice. If it doesn't, there are a few billion deluded people out there. I know, I know, God works in mysterious ways, and we can't always understand his plan for us, but that doesn't cut it for me.

The other one that gets me is the professional athelete that thanks God for his team's win. What, are we really supposed to accept that God likes the Yankee's better than the Mets so that why they won, or that more poeple on one team prayed than on the other so God said OK sure, you can win? Nope, I just don't buy it. There are an awful lot of people in this world for God to concern himself with the minutia of every life and a ot more important things going on than a ball game.

But I can't buy the predestined thing either. No if there is a God, he didn't make you lose all your other pregnancies, and if we assume that, he won't make or break this one either. It's all a big crap shoot. The good news is, evolution has had several million years to perfect itself, and in the end, people have been wildly successful at reproducing themselves. So the odds are on your side.

Being a HC from birth (sorta) to 16, I've thought a lot about that subject. If God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, no matter what I ask for, he knows what will happen. And if he does in fact have a plan for me, that he knew of since birth, then what's the point of praying or supplicating for the outcome _I_ want?

I've redefined how I think of prayer.

I think it should be asking for reassurance, regardless of the outcome, that "it" will work out for the best, even if we can't see it. That we know there is a reason, even if it's nigh impossible to see it. To ulitmately know that we are not alone and worthy of whatever challenge that is laid before us.

All of these people have such wonderful things to say...

Personally, while I pray I'm very afraid of prayer. I'm afraid if I pray about something I'm afraid of God will make it happen to teach me a lesson. My mother assures me that isn't the way God is, but... I'm terrified of God too.

A question to all of Tertia's worthy readers:

Knowing that God knows all that S/He does, knowing that God is presumably all-powerful and can send you to Hell, how are you not scared of Him/Her/It?

I don't see any reason to think that good things will end up outnumbering bad things, or that good will triumph over evil, or that there is anything good in the death of a child, no matter what ends up happening after that.

But I still love life and the universe. I am happy that we exist, and that Ben existed. I believe in the potential for even the most evil person to decide to embrace good.

These reasons are why I don't see God as a kind of magical, omniscient, omnipotent human-like consciousness. The word and concept "God" do not work for me, but I am glad they work for some people and give them a way to express their spirituality and find peace. I'm not sure yet what word to use in place of God... maybe Truth? What an interesting journey life is...

"Knowing that God knows all that S/He does, knowing that God is presumably all-powerful and can send you to Hell, how are you not scared of Him/Her/It?"

Kris, I am no spiritual authority or anything, but my belief is that hell is simply the absence of God or a relationship with God. So basically I think that it's like there's an opportunity to have this sense of connection to God (and to God in all of us, so to humanity in general, which is why I think most major religions link 'kindness to others' with 'being spiritual'), and if we don't take it in -any- way (like kill people or rape children or something) then that's hell. A living hell, actually.

In that book I mentioned above the author says you can either believe God is good/kind/loving, /or/ you can believe that he is omnipotent, but it's very hard to believe both because if he were how could he let children suffer? And I mean no disrespect to others but I do not believe "God's Plan" can /possibly/ encompass people being brutally raped as children or perishing in the Holocaust or any of these things.

So personally I have chosen to believe that he is good/kind/loving, but that he has constrained his own powers.

And as for a hell then I personally don't think it's God that decides that (using 'God' loosely here; I don't believe in a great white bearded guy) but us as individuals. If we truly back away from everything that is good, then that's hell.

To me the very nature of God is that s/he is always ready to be there and /not/ judge, actually. I /personally/ believe that if we look back through history the most evil has always sprung from judging others. And I think that speaks way more than certain quotes people use from the Bible (or other religious texts) to hammer at others, etc. etc.

I'm not sure myself what I think about an afterlife. I'll worry about it when I'm dead. :) Obviously this is all opinion and I'm not sure why I'm nattering on about it. That's just what I think about that whole judging thing. :-)

This is not about prayer, but it's a common spiritual practice that can help you calm down and silence all those "dead baby" thoughts. Sit down somewhere, comfortably, and just watch the breath. Think in on the inbreath, out on the outbreath. If your thoughts wander, bring them back to the breath. If you can manage, there's also a technique called "progressive muscle relaxation".

Great questions! In my church (Lutheran) the issue of predestiny is a hotly debated one and all I can boil it down to is that until we know which it is, prayer needs to continue. We are instructed in the Bible to pray, and I can honestly say that my prayers aren't always (or even predominantly) good things like world peace. Sometimes I pray that my boss won't notice that I walked in late because I couldn't drag my ass out of bed or that the shoes that I really want are on sale when I get to the store. I think God would rather be included in all our prayers than just the ones that we deem worthy of him. That would be like one of us mommies telling our children that they could only ask for things that are "good" when really they ask us for anything and everything and we'd rather they ask us instead of the internet or their play yard buddies. I think that God always answers prayers but not always the answer we want. Sometimes the answer is no, sometimes yes, sometimes it's "I'll get back to you on that, please hold." The biggest problem I can see with human faith is that God is so big and we are so small. With infinite knowledge even the tragic things probably make perfect sense, but with human knowledge almost nothing does. I think prayer is great (even though I've never managed to give up my bad qualities, cursing, drinking blah blah blah) and serves, if nothing else, to keep us in contact with God. Even if I never get the answer I want (I do sometimes, promise!) I can keep talking because I know He's listening for me, imperfections unnoticed.

I'm far from an HC but I do believe in God and prayer. I've struggled with my faith at times but I eventually came to the conclusion that God is not Santa Claus. We don't get to sit on his lap and ask for what we want and expect to find it under the tree all wrapped up for us.
I believe God is more like a truly loving parent. He loves us unconditionally and wants us to be happy. However, just as we sometimes tell our children "no" for their own good even if they don't understand the reason, sometimes the answers to our prayers is "no" or "not now". I don't understand why that's the answer sometimes and it makes me angry or upset sometimes, but in the end, I have to trust that God knows what is best for me, my family, my life.

I'm a godless heathen, so I don't pray at all.

According to my father's church, however, you don't pray to get what you want, but to help you accept what you get.

In my experience and practice, prayer is a way to listen to God and to notice God moving in my life. While I will put requests before God (e.g. people who are sick, etc) I don't do so as a way to request something like a shiny new bike so much as in the manner of a true request: God, here is something that is worrying me. Please help.

I like the idea that Anne Lamott writes about, that all prayers boil down to two things: "Thank you!" and "Help me!" This very much fits with what I have experienced.

In many ways, prayer is also very close to meditation. It is a period of slowing down, centering, being present and conscious of God. It is very much about the process, the experience - not the outcome. I do not prayer in an attempt to get something from God. :)

On the subject of predestiny, God always gets what he wants and when your prayers are inside the constraints of his will you also get what you want and your faith gets strengthened and you get to know God. If your prayers have been for something outside God's will you might become frustrated.

As for the HCs. Remember when Jesus made a whip to clean out the temple? Some of the moneylenders who got whipped must have been closely associated with the Church, yet Jesus took some time to make a whip and chase them out of the temple. It is about living a Holy, Godly life, not the association that comes with it.

In my own life I have found that God doesn't like to be dictated to, He has the power to crush and the power to heal. When I have been most arrogant and ready to "do it myself" if God doesn't deliver, I have seen God's tough side and it wasn't pretty. When I was down and out and had nothing left in me to fight with he picked me up. I never felt God while staring at the sunset, or meditating, or contemplating. I found him in my room on my knees when I had nowhere else to turn.

As for children, even as we have children we have to give them up to God and even be prepared to choose God over them. It is when things don't go our way that our faith should be strongest. God even sacrificed his Son for us.

As I read parts of the comments, I feel sad that the same word is used by many people to describe "god" when the description does not fit the God that I have come to know. Even as I say that, I don't feel ordained to speak about God here, cause even though I have met God, he has never been my buddy, but he has always been my God!

>>My question is: what is the point of asking for something through prayer if the end result is predestined / preordained anyway.

Because some things have been assigned to you to look after. Pretty much like a job. If you need a new laptop to fulfill your responsibilities you need to ask your boss for a new laptop. Your boss will eventually give you a laptop if you need it without you asking, but you asking is taking responsibility. You need to know what the company's purpose is though, cause asking for a laptop is not going to work if your job has nothing to do with computers. You will always have what you need in order to fulfill your purpose.

Interestingly, I just posted yesterday on my blog a post titled "answered prayers in the blogsphere". And this morning, I landed here (I was curious who the blogtopsite no 1 is so I visited your blog). Could it be God that lead me to this blog :) Here's the link to what I posted:


Yes, I am a Happy Clapper :)

I admire your sincerity in asking these valid questions. One book I highly recommend that I believe will truly answer your questions is the book called "Papa Prayer by Larry Crab".

Keep searching ...

For all those saying that prayer is to help you accept the answer you get, to bring you closer to God, to give you a chance to hear God's will, etc., etc: what, then, is the point of asking others to pray for you? And how do things like the "Power of Prayer" play in (like the studies that claim to show people being prayed for had better results)?

Personally I think the real point of prayer (whether praying for yourself or for someone else) is to a) make you feel like your are doing something constructive because things are now out of your hands (cos most people who aren't HCs don't pray if we could be instead actually changing the situation outselves) and b) help you accept the eventual outcome as being the "right" one even if it was not what you wanted, enabling you to deal with it better. Therefore you do not have to believe in a God to get the benefits of praying but it will deliver those benefits better or easier if you believe, or if you change your idea of prayer to be more in line what whatever you do believe.

I am not religious but do something similar to prayer which is more of a kind of meditation of acceptance, and involves acknowledging that no matter how much you don't want to be here you are here and there's nothing you can do about it, no matter how bad things are, or get, they could still have been worse but aren't, that no matter what happens you will get through it somehow (or die trying), and that yes you don't deserve whatever is happening, but neither did anyone else who had it happen to them and you are not more special than they are so if they could suck it up so can you, and to start to plan for every outcome, especially the bad ones. Although "the worst" in a situation may happen, if you have a plan to tackle it then it becomes just that little more surmountable and loses some of its intimidating power of fear over you.

I know my way sounds depressing to alot of people, but when a Pollyanna tells me that they just KNOW things will work out ok because they just HAVE to, I just wanna smack that smug ignorance off their face because life has taught me time and again that actually things don't HAVE to work out this time or ever and in fact a whole lot worse shit could fall on you at any time. So, to me, acknowledging that shit happens, but hey it's not picking on you personally and, well, it could be worse, and you can get through it, you have to get throught it whether you like it or not, so start planning for picking up the pieces afterwards, all that helps me to calm down and accept whatever disaster is happening and get on with both the immediate situation and with the fallout and consequences.

Just thinking or hoping things will be ok or that someone else will miraculously fix things doesn't work for me anymore, but realising that I actually don't have the worst situation imaginable (even when you think you have infinity you can always + 1) so what am I going to do about it, does help me a) feel like I am doing something constructive and b) accept and deal with the outcome when it arrives.
Ta Da! As good as prayer - for me.

Obviously my take on the purpose of prayer is influenced by my opinions on the purpose of religion, so YMMV.

Sorry, it didnt seem so long in the little comments box! Bloody hell that was a big ramble!

@ Kris:

"Knowing that God knows all that S/He does, knowing that God is presumably all-powerful and can send you to Hell, how are you not scared of Him/Her/It"

Because He sent Jesus who wiped away all of our sins with His death. There is nothing to be afraid of (awed, humbled, appreciative, reverent, loving, respectful, etc., etc. yes). Jesus' death on the cross changed EVERYTHING. His grace is enough. I can never earn it, I will never deserve it, I will never be able to do anything to be good enough to win salvation, but yet...there it is.

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV)

i trust god but i feel he has failed me i wanted to get pregnant prayer doesnt work 5years having faith phooey

It makes me sad to see those who have given up on faith. I really don't believe there are unanswered prayers, simply prayers not answered in the manner you expected. This only goes to prove that their is a God and He is in control. There are many things that we are unable to comprehend or understand because we have a limited view. God is omnipotent and he knows what is best for us. Yes, he has given us abilites and the power to make our own decisions. We are not to sit around asking for things we want and having them given to us. Sometimes it is that simple but often it is not. I do not believe things are predetermined but God does know the challenges and trials we need to give us the oppotunity to become the best people we can be. Without struggle and strife we would never have the oppotunity to become better. There is opposition in all things. The bad makes up appreciate the good. It is not faith to believe that what you want to happen will happen. True faith is in God and that you have confidence in him and his plan for you.

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