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When we can’t pray, sometimes others must pray for us


Robert Lawton - CC

Colleen Duggan - published on 08/22/16

If God allowed my child to die — after I begged Him not to — how would I recover?

One afternoon, when my son Patrick was 3 years old, he awoke from a nap unable to walk, the right side of his body paralyzed. I burned up the road to the emergency room. Patrick was admitted to the hospital and the doctors performed every kind of test imaginable—CT scans, MRIs, spinal and blood tests, and EEGs. We stayed for a few days and before they discharged us, a neurologist explained to us Patrick had had a seizure. She pointed to a film of Patrick’s brain and said,

“The MRI demonstrates an abnormality on Patrick’s left parietal lobe. This here, I assume, is causing Patrick’s difficulty walking. It might be an infection. I don’t think it’s a tumor, but I’m not sure. In any case, this likely caused his seizure. I’m going to put him on a round of steroids to reduce a possible infection in his brain and I want to follow his progress.”

Then she discharged us.

We went home and began an intense year decorated with hospital stays, tests, medicine, and many unanswered questions. Patrick’s episodes and condition worsened. We enrolled him in multiple therapy sessions to help with his development. We saw neurologists, oncologists, and other specialists to determine the root cause of his neurological issues. None of them, despite their best efforts, could tell us what was wrong.

About eight months into our search for answers, Patrick underwent a brain biopsy to rule out the worst (things like cancer, tumors, etc.). All tests proved inconclusive but he continued to experience seizures. I had more than one doctor explain they had never seen a case like Patrick’s before and they couldn’t identify what was wrong with him. They acknowledged Patrick’s suffering, but nothing they did seemed to help.

I started to despair.

Was Patrick going to be OK?

Were these seizures and short-term partial paralysis causing permanent damage?

Would we ever identify the real issue?

Some days the weight of Patrick’s illness immobilized me and I couldn’t pray. I was afraid to ask God to heal Patrick because… what if God didn’t? If God allowed my child to die — after I begged Him not to — how would I recover?

It was impossible for me to utter the words “Lord, please heal my son.” I was well aware that a miraculous healing might not be part of God’s plan. When I couldn’t pray for Patrick’s healing myself, I asked others to pray for me.

I’d call my friend, Katie, and tell her I was having a bad day. I’d ask her to pray the words I couldn’t, and she would. Then, Katie would get on the phone and solicit prayers from others.

Patrick’s prayer warriors served my family in a way that still humbles me. Friends organized rosaries, donated money to his medical expenses, fasted for his improved health, and babysat my children when I had to go to appointments. Our parish donated Knights of Columbus dinner funds to pay off a rather large medical bill. A good friend of mine, who also once had a severely ill child, slipped me a hundred dollar bill. When I shook my head no to communicate that I couldn’t accept it, she said,

“Use this to buy you a book or something sweet at the hospital gift store. You’ll need a little spending money for yourself when you’re having a bad day. I remember what it was like living in a hospital, honey. Don’t tell me no. Just give me a hug and leave it at that. I pray for Patrick every day,” she said.

When I felt like I was drowning, God flooded my home with people who did what I couldn’t—people who cooked, babysat, went to the grocery, and sent money. When I was scared and distracted and sad, my friends lit candles, knelt down, and stormed heaven on our behalf. They brought it all to Christ for us. Of course, He listened. He always does.

Patrick did get better. In fact, I’m convinced these prayers helped us eventually determine a special diet was the key to eliminating Patrick’s seizures. Once we implemented the diet, Patrick’s seizures mostly stopped and he has been relatively healthy ever since.

But Patrick’s sickness taught me an important lesson in faith.

It taught me that when faced with life’s dark times, it’s OK to ask others to carry us. Just like the men in the scriptures who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof so they could get him to Jesus (Luke 5:18-26), my friends carried Patrick and me to the Lord and asked for our healing.

When Jesus saw their faith, he couldn’t refuse their request.

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