Surgery and Prayer.

Sleep wasn’t an option last night, but a gesture. You see, my daughter undergoes surgery in two hours to have her tonsils removed. I fear needles, blood, and anything hospital-related. My wife is a nurse and so even the low probability of some horrible error runs ramped through her dreams. My daughter, well, I cursed her with my imagination. Luckily, her blanket, “Pooh,” is by her side.

We are all on edge. What options are there for situations where we have no control of the outcome? Many suggest prayer. Since I do not have a particular faith this month by which to guide my spiritual perspective, I thought I’d use all of them.

That covers me, but what about my daughter? Aside from Pooh blanket, what can she do to bring a restless and worried mind to peace?

I invited her to wake early with me this morning to meditate.

Me: “Focus on your breath. Try not to think of anything other than your breath.”

Daughter: “Can I still breathe?”

Me: “Well, yeah. You’re just thinking about your breath instead of the surgery.”

Daughter: “I wasn’t really thinking about it until now.”

Me: “Oh…Okay, so, are you ready to meditate?”

Daughter: “Sure.”

She set Pooh blanket aside, crossed her legs, and joined me in silent meditation.

I listened to her breath as we sat there in the haunting silence of the livingroom. The birds weren’t even awake. Her breath was a little forced, but with eyes closed, and her hands in her lap, she seemed focused. I just watched, listened. I remembered when we brought her home from the hospital, how “colicky” she was and the incessant crying…I could barely stand it. There was no inclination for prayer in those days, no Project Conversion experiences to choose from. I was helpless.

Here I am again, helpless in the path of this surgery. As we sat there in meditation, I realized that I was more worried than her, that I wasn’t meditating at all–only watching–either oblivious to or simply at peace with her lot. Am I being worried for her, and if so, would she want me that way?

Two minutes into the meditation she opened her eyes and asked if she could return to bed. “Sure,” I said, “Thanks for meditating with me.”

She said okay, swept Pooh blanket into her arms, and left me on the floor to worry.

Of course this got me thinking about prayer. What is it and what good does it do for us? Over the last few months I’ve come to think of prayer in many ways. We could say it’s mediation between the world and the divine. Others insist it’s a conversation with God, while some declare prayer as nothing more than wishful thinking.

Studies have shown that, in general, folks with a religious disposition usually fare better during times of stress than those without such a connection. Is there something there, an umbilicus between ourselves and the divine when we pray or meditate? Or are we experiencing a placebo effect wherein we think God is listening and caring for our worries, and therefore experience relief?

I don’t know. I don’t know if prayer works or if meditation is best. What I do know is that I have had several unique experiences over the last few months that, to some, prove that a subtle dialogue with the divine exists. Another thing is that, whether it’s true or not, prayer and meditation makes me feel better. There is a release, a catharsis associated with the practice.

So I ask, if the feeling is there and the desired effect reached, does it matter whether or not it’s true?

I posted a short story earlier this week called “The Siege” in which a family refuses medical treatment for their child because they believed so much in the power of prayer. In the story, the child dies. What the story suggests is that we can go too far with anything, even when praying.

What is prayer for you? Do you believe in the power of prayer? In light of so many religious traditions and as many prescriptions on how to pray, are any of them right or wrong? Do we pray simply because we feel helpless?

Meanwhile, whether you pray or weave good vibrations, I ask that you take a moment and send them our way for my oldest daughter. But don’t let me fool you. The prayers aren’t for the fears of a little girl, she’s asleep without a care, but the worries of her mother and father.


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  • Beth Irwin

    I’m one of the people who believe it is a conversation with our Creator. Listening is a bigger part than talking. It seems like some people only check in to beg for things. I like to share my appreciation for things I observe and check for guidance. And with practice, the guidance is there. I certainly have enough reinforcement in my life to firmly believe this. The obligatory prayer of my Faith is there to make sure I don’t skip those conversations or fall out of the habit.

    I am grateful we have modern science, but also aware that science isn’t the answer to everything, nor does it hold the answer in every case. If religion doesn’t match science, it’s simply a tradition or superstition rather than true. Yet science cannot encompass all the things Faith has shown me. And periodically we are shown that the “truths” of science are wrong or not absolute.

    The tough things in life are tests that prepare us for things to come. If we never had difficulties, how would we change or grow? Plants have to be pruned to come in thicker and heathier. So with our lives.

    We are hardwired to seek our Creator, just like plants seek the sun and animals seek food and water. Why else do humans all over the world, in all times, turn to a higher power. We can choose to do without and stunt our spiritual growth. Or we can bask in the joy of Creation and bloom.

    Your search is teaching your children how to look outside themselves. What a wonderful lesson! Give your daughter a hug and a kiss from someone looking forward to hearing more about her journey. And let her in on a great secret of the adult world – we had our “wubbies” when we were little, too. The former owner of a stuffed bunny says hello!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Beth! She’s appreciative of anyone who shares a love for those little comfort items. I think you’re on to something regarding this hard-wired seeking. Somedays, I’m not sure what it is. Maybe the divine is waiting for me to settle down in this journey, or maybe this is just how we roll. Either way, I think there is more to this than meets to eye. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  • Kathryn Darrah

    Oh, you dear man! I’m so glad I can’t sleep and decided to check in.  Personally, I think they’re essentially the same. I do both.  I feel your concern for your precious child so my prayers this morning are for you and your lovely wife.  I’ve had “miracles” from prayer.  Example:  I was supposed to be labor & delivery coach for a friend. At the last second, staff refused me entrance to labor room. Mom had NOT done her exercises and was completely hysterical. I found myself in a lovely atrium with a statue of the Virgin Mother.  I’m not Catholic but I asked her to help my friend. Within 10 mins. Papa was there to say Baby Girl suddenly popped right out!  I was so thankful.  Another time I went to church & lit a candle, sobbing my heart out. It took a little longer, but eventually I realized everything I asked her about that day had been answered, and in the most surprising ways. I’ve witnessed lots of connections like this – from both prayer & meditation.  I do believe, no matter the form we choose, the Divine is always attentive.  As for your darling daughter, I wonder if she’s like me … I was 6 in 1961 when I had mine removed. On waking afterward I was sooooo disappointed!  Doc had promised me I could take my tonsils to school for show & tell, but they were so rotten they just disintegrated.   I remember standing up on the wooden chair in my classroom & telling all about it. All I remember now is lots of jello & ice cream.  Yummm!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Kathryn (awesome way to spell your name, by the way!). Our prayers can be full of surprizes if we pay attention.

      Yes, the little one is relishing the ice cream!

  • Tina

    Sending peace your way ~ Tina Parish

  • Kellynn1231

    Great post.  I’ve always found the idea of prayer interesting.  Many times it seems such a vain practice to me.  I am going to pray for my father, my mother, my, my, my. . .or those poor little poor people. . .
    And then the thought always stikes me- doesn’t God know my every thought already?  Doesn’t he know my wants and desires, as well as everyone else’s.  Including those who may conflict with mine? 
    Maybe it is the meditation of prayer that is so beneficial.  I have found myself to be less of a prayor and more of a meditator.
    Either way, as always.  Thank you for the conversation.
    Positive energy being sent to you and your family, and I hope your little girl is enjoying a popsicle by the end of the day.

    • Anonymous

      I too, at this point, prefer meditation. If we think of ourselves as created children of a divine source, then I have to imagine that–like our interactions with our own kids–the relationship is different for everyone.

      Thank you for being a part of this journey.

  • ChrisH

    strange, I’ve never tried to describe prayer beyond a definition, and now that I try, I find that I can’t decide which words work the best. I suppose it’s a lot of things, frankly. I will certainly be praying, and I know you’re about to get an avalanche of prayer from this bunch of people.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for contributing another snow flake to the wonderful avalanche that is the Project Conversion community.

  • Editor B

    I have a friend who insists on offering “Agnostic Prayer Equivalents” or APEs in situations like this.I will keep it simpler and say I’m sending good thoughts your way. It’s not that I believe in the efficacy of such “action.” It’s just that I can’t help myself. I’ve come to know you and your family (in that weird virtual way) and so I care and when I read about this anxiety my heart goes out to y’all. Hopefully by now everything has been resolved most favorably. I do sincerely hope so.

    Something to think about in October: Is magic a form of prayer? Is prayer a form of magic?

    • Anonymous

      “APE’s”. That’s awesome. Like goodwill currency.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Editor, you’re a pal. Great question for October indeed!

    • Kitsune

      Heyo. Im totally going to answer this, hope you dont mind. :)

      Yes and no, depending on how you look at it and whether or not you involve a deity (or four). Magick is typically thought of as manipulating the energy that is present in everything to “tweak” the Universe to make your desired outcome possible (this is simplistic, though. There is more to it than this, but I dont feel like getting into quantum physics and String Theory atm). It may or may not involve deities, however. Prayer is typically thought of as sending a deity your wishes and desires and hoping for an outcome or an intervention from said deity. There are people in Wicca who send their spells to their deity of choice and believe that said deity will do something, and this would be considered a type of prayer to me.

      For me, magick and prayer are two separate things. I do my magick, normally, without the aid of a deity and I get results just fine. However, i do pray sometimes, without doing spells or rituals, and they are answered just fine as well. /shrug/

  • Tina

    A sobering questions regarding the subject of prayer was posed by Karen Armstrong:

    “I find it very difficult to ask God for things in the way that I was taught as a child. Do I believe God is going to take away my illness when he turned an entirely deaf ear to the 6 million Jews who went into the gas chambers?”

    I find the older I get, the more I am not afraid to ask such hard questions of the religious perspective. It seems to me that prayer is greatly comforting for some and a heartbreaking, empty experience for others. Your thoughts?

    Peace, Tina  

    • Anonymous

      I’m a huge fan of Karen Armstrong. I think she presents a valid point here, one that folks across many faiths must consider. As for my thoughts, this is where our concept of the divine comes into play. If there is a God, is it all-powerful, all-knowing, etc? If not, does it deserve worship?

      We all know these lines of questioning, and only our individual faiths can offer comfort or answers. I know of a few people who have abandoned faith because of those very questions. In the end, I don’t think we’ll ever find answers (at least not on this plain), only belief one way or the other.

  • Kitsune

    “Do or do not… there is no try.”

    Trying is what prayer is to me. It is an excuse to say “this is all that I can do” and do nothing beyond that. In my faith, we have spells and rituals which serve to be a mean to an end, but we dont stop there. Say that I do a spell for weight loss. Well, I must reinforce said spell by eating right and exercising and not just believe that the Gods will give me what I want without working for it. And sure, we send energy, but its up to the person we are sending it to to use it, like a reservoir.

    Your daughter will be fine. Tonsil surgery risks are fairly low nowadays, and your daughter is young enough to be resilient and old enough to have the highest chance of coming out of this groggy but otherwise perfectly fine. That surgeon has, most likely, trained for a good 8 years just to be able to do what he does, if not longer. However, I can totally understand that internal fear of your child leaving your sights for even a moment. “There’s this feeling when they [your children] are out of your sight – it takes your breath away until you see them again.”

    Nonetheless, ((((hugs)))) for your wife and yourself, and healing energy will be sent to your daughter so she may recover quickly.

    • Anonymous

      Good point. A popular scripture reads that “God helps those who help themselves.” There are many ways to take this, but either way you go, individual action and effort usually lead the way to results.

      Thanks for the hugs!