Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Talk of prayer comes up a lot in the childhood cancer community. I say it a lot as well. To be honest, I never used to pray much. Partly because I didn't really see it as a big deal, but mostly because I would just get bored. I'm far better at the "doing" than the "praying". Kathy says it's only because I have A.D.D., and am incapable of ever sitting still. Well, that's probably true. But I tell Kathy that having A.D.D. is perfectly normal, and the real problem is all those people with A.S.D. -- Attention Surplus Disorder. She then tells me I'm an idiot, and walks away.

A few years back, the boys and I went to Belize. It was a church building project in a village up in the rain forest. The missionary there asked everyone to take shifts praying, but I had no interest in that. I was there to "do", not "pray". Just get the job done.

I took the assignment of building tables and benches. It was not a fun job. The only tools were some old drills and rusted wrenches. My hands were sore and bleeding as I struggled to tighten the nuts and bolts to keep the legs on the tables from wobbling. I had a few choice words for that praying missionary as I drilled a screw through my thumb. Initially I was worried about cussing in a church. But then I remembered Jesus was a carpenter, so I was pretty sure He could appreciate the circumstances.

About that time the missionary walked in and asked if I had any prayer requests. I suggested he pray for my nuts. He said, "Excuse me?" I repeated that my nuts were very loose, and said they were in need of prayer. He just looked at me with an odd expression. So I stood up and said, "I'm serious, Reverend. My nuts are so loose, my legs are wobbling". I then shook the table to show him what I meant. He looked at the table, looked at me, dropped down on one of the benches and started laughing. We became friends after that.

He came by a few more times that week, always asking me to pray with him. I passed, saying I was better at the "doing", and that he appeared suited for the "praying". Finally, on the last day, I was so hot and tired that I agreed to go into the church and pray with him. He knelt at the pew and went through his long list of prayer requests. Well, I assume he did. I actually fell asleep as soon as I sat down.

It was a couple of years later that Tyler was diagnosed. Facing the greatest challenge of our lives, I was very comforted by all those praying for Tyler. Still, I placed more emphasis on the doing than the praying. I was the "doer", and praying was a domain that belonged to others.
Then, late one evening in the hospital, I was sitting in the parents lounge with another dad. He said he did not believe that prayers change things. Rather prayers change people, and people change things. That was 18 months ago, and I have thought a lot about the conversation.

I don't know if that statement fits with church theology (and don't really care). What I do know it that the statement made it easier for me to pray. The more I think about it, the more I believe praying is doing. When I asked you to pray for specific kids, I'm asking for more than lip service. I'm asking that you keep these kids on the forefront of your thoughts. I'm asking that you seek direction from God on what to do about their situation. Asking that you search for answers, actively participating in the fight. I no longer believe that it is a choice between doing and praying. I believe they are one in the same. I believe our prayers develop our priorities, focus our energies, and direct our actions. If they do not, they are nothing more than words.

I believe God has created each of us for a great purpose. But I also believe it is our choice to follow that purpose. Prayer throws us and our decisions into the presence of God and eternity. It is our first step in living out that purpose. If we take that step, and follow through with our actions, miracles occur and all of heaven rejoices. When we do not, children die and all of heaven weeps.

Forgive me if it sounds like I'm trying to hold a church service here. I'm really just trying to explain my words. When I ask for prayers, I'm asking for action. Remember these kids. Do not forget them. Think of them as you walk through your day. Tell others about them. Search for ways to cure or comfort. And most important, remember this: There is a cure. It is out there, and can be found. The easy cures have all been found, and God has saved the hard ones for us. It appears God considers us capable. Please don't try to prove Him wrong. Please remember our children. Please pray for them. Pray in every way, with every word and every action.

Matthew Barr is four years old. He had a brain tumor, and he beat it. As he was leaving for his Make-A-Wish trip to Disney, the tumor returned. The second time has been more of a battle, but Matthew continues to beat back the cancer and stand tall. Last week the cancer moved into his liver. Another reminder that cancer never plays fair. It lies and cheats and steals on every level. Please pray for Matthew. Please pray in every sense of the word.

Tyler Genneken was told in August that his cancer was unstoppable, and he had weeks to live. Tyler made two wishes. First, he wanted to have a bone marrow drive. He knew his own time was running out, but he still pushed for the drive. It was his prayer (with action) that his own battle result in saving the lives of others. His second wish was to see his older brother get married. Doctors said the wishes would not come true, that he did not have that much time. But they were wrong. Earlier this month, Tyler watched as his bone marrow drive registered an all time record number of new donors. The following day he remained strong enough to stand in front of the church, as the best man in his brothers wedding. Tyler continues to fight. His family continues to comfort him. Please continue to pray for Tyler.

Joe Friend beat cancer, and was "set free" from the J-5 cancer floor just before we arrived there. We did not meet him at the time, but heard of his always positive attitude. He constantly encouragement of the other kids, playing the roll of big brother. This past January, just weeks before his wedding, Joe relapsed. Soon he was back at Children's Hospital. As I walked into his room on J-5, I saw the smile that is always on his face. To his right were the hanging bags of chemo, to his left was his wonderful new bride asleep on the couch. Please keep Joe in your prayers. Last month Joe was baptised, and he and Holly moved into their own apartment.

Christina O'Brian is nearing the end of her chemo treatments. They need to stop short of the full regiment, but are hopeful they have beaten the cancer. Christina is a beautiful and confident young woman. And she has faced her battles with incredible courage. Every age group has a unique set of issues to deal with when fighting cancer. I think what the teens and young adults go through is especially difficult. Cancer attacks just as they are developing their own identity and self-esteem. And although I have only sons, it seems to me that the hair loss and physical issues are especially difficult on the girls. And that is just one more thing to add to all the life and death issues these young people face. Please continue to keep Christina in your prayers.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. -- Luke 11:9

You plus God equals everything. -- Zig Ziglar

The bitterest tears shed over a grave are for those words left unsaid and deeds left undone. --Harriet Beecher Stowe

I have come to believe that God put me on earth to get Stage IV alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. Why? So that I could show the world how to have Stage IV alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma—or rather how to handle what is close to the worst thing that could possibly happen to me with as much strength and grace as I could manage. I promise to continue to be the best model I can. --Miles Levin

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. -- Proverbs 16:3

God is not found in the disease, but rather in the response of people, friends, doctors, family to the challenges we face. -- Rabbi Dan Cohen
Words are not deeds. -- Shakespeare, Henry VIII

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day. -- Winnie the Pooh


Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping these kids in front of us.

And I would have loved to be there when you spoke to the missionary!

Steve and Karen

Anonymous said...


I was with you on the belize trip. You left out the part where you were bitten by the shart.

I was in the water with you...I will NEVER forget that!!!!

The funnest part was that you never stopped laughing...and then went back in the water after they bandaged you up!!!

I pray every day for Tyler.

Anonymous said...

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