Praying doesn’t always help

I learned a long time ago not to talk about my religious beliefs. Believers find me lacking in some way for believing as I do; non-believers think it’s all a bunch of hooey, no matter how I might practice my faith. I have decided in recent years that it is no one else’s business. I am not a fan of organized religion, although I do see how much good it can do in the world. I was born and raised Catholic and I have also experienced other Christian denominations, but the one word that best sums up my spiritual life is this: PRIVATE.

Ever since the first diagnoses started rolling in, I have been the recipient of prayers. I have received prayers for healing, prayers for good test results, prayers for strength, prayers for courage, prayers for medicine that works, prayers for no side effects, prayers for answers, and prayers for relief. And yet I am not healed. I do not get good test results. I am almost always weak and afraid. The medicines, all of them, have side effects and they usually make me feel worse than the condition they are attempting to treat and there is little to no relief. Ultimately, there is really only one answer… there is no cure.

People who care, whether they care a lot or just a little, need to have something to say to people like me when we are suffering. Nothing works better for them than “I’m praying for you” or, commenting simply, “prayers”. While that may work for them, it doesn’t do much for me. Everyone is different and many people truly, desperately covet the prayers of others because they truly, desperately believe those prayers will be the instrument of their healing. I am not one of those people. For some people, the act of praying is the single most important thing anyone can do for them. I think it’s an out. It gives people the sense that they are doing something to help me when, in fact, they are not. They cannot. Prayers do not, cannot stop my immune system from producing antibodies that attack my own DNA.


Prayers do not, cannot stop my immune system from producing antibodies that attack my own DNA.

Essential oils, supplements, cannabis, special diets, meditation, yoga, a good attitude, positive vibes, hypnosis, accupuncture, and well wishes fall into the same category as prayers. While they are appreciated , they don’t actually do anything to change the disease process in my body. Want to know what does help? Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Yes, DMARDS help. Biologics help. Anti-malarials help. Immunosuppressants help. Pain meds help. Anti-inflammatories help. Steroids help. Chemotherapy helps. I hate to tell all you anti-big pharma folks out there, but big pharma helps. But prayer? Not so much.

I can hear it now… oh, ye of little faith. Maybe I am lacking faith. Or maybe I choose to place my faith where I can see it working. In research that paves the way for new drug therapies. In medication that can alter the way the disease progresses in my body. In doctors who have been called and trained to treat these specific autoimmune diseases. In my family, who pitches in on days that I simply cannot function. Prayer can give us a spiritual lift, but it can’t change physical realities.

Don’t misunderstand me. I appeciate people caring enough about me to take precious minutes away from their own lives, problems, struggles, and busyness to pray for me. And when someone I know is requesting prayers, I stop what I am doing and I sincerely pray for them. I guess it’s something we do for one another when there’s nothing else than can be done. I just don’t think it actually changes anything, except maybe the heart of the one doing the praying. And maybe that’s the real purpose of prayer, anyway.

Not for everyone, but maybe for me… enough with the “I’m praying for you” and “prayers” comments. I know you are and I appreciate it, but it’s a little like saying, “I asked Santa to put the cure in your stocking.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Miracles? I don’t know. I can’t say I’ve had any experience with them. Maybe they happen, but as of yet, not to me. I would rather hear, “That sucks and I’m sorry you’re going through this.” I understand that many people prefer prayers, but I guess what I’m saying is that I prefer validation to prayer. It is what it is. I would rather face the reality than appeal to the mystical.