Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | January 25, 2010

The Power of Prayer

This is for all those fundamentalist atheists (who are just as intolerant and hateful as all other fundamentalists) who scoff at prayer. Not prayer in lieu of taking actual action; that’s just stupid. Demanding logical consistency of religion, an endeavor properly undertaken (and believe me, I quite understand how frequently through the eons religion has been used improperly, to say the least!) to comfort inconsistent humans in times of pain and suffering, is trivial and irrelevant. Yes, it is possible to thank Gd for allowing some to survive, without holding Gd responsible for those who perished, just as I thank DS for taking the trash out without berating him when he forgets. Remember that bit about foolish consistencies and small minds.

What brought this rant thought to mind?

I received an open letter from a surgeon at my community hospital who was on his way back from Haiti after spending a week there, hip-deep in relief efforts. He describes hospital scenes:

Many [patients] had their original dressings on, their wounds filled with dust and debris. Some no dressing at all. Within the next 24 hours there would be 18 rooms labeled Post Op with close to 80 – 100 patients who had had their surgery but were receiving little or no care. External fixation devices everywhere. Amputation stumps with dressing that had gone unchanged. IV sites that were occluded, bottles empty. Some patients crying, some quietly resolute. Occasional screams. Post op orders written on sheets of paper, no charts. Most orders not being carried out. No way to know if someone had gotten pain meds or antibiotics. No blood pressure cuffs. Only your hands and a stethoscope to determine pulse and blood pressure. Very little oxygen, no ambu bags, no suction, no ventilators.

and this:

I can’t remember all of their names, but I can see their faces. I can also see the face of the mother who had just delivered whose baby died within her sight as [an ER doc from Miami] and I tried to resuscitate him without a laryngoscope, pediatric endotracheal tube, oxygen or even an ambu bag. Or the patients in Post-op room 18 who watched as we coded a young woman who had had her femoral fracture reduced, had been lying in bed for 3 days without heparin prophylaxis, and upon her likely massive pulmonary embolus, no crash cart, not even an ambu bag and no oxygen. Then they watched as we wheeled out her stretcher, and out in the courtyard, those waiting for triage watched as we put her in a body bag and carried her to the makeshift morgue outside.

But here is his closing paragraph:

Finally, please know that I felt the presence of every single one of you each time I knelt by the side of an injured Haitian patient. Because for strength and prayers, because of the support of all of the organizations, I quickly felt that I was there on behalf of each one of you. I had the privilege of bringing care, comfort and hopefully some healing directly to these people, but in truth I was acting through you. You have touched many, many Haitians’ lives. Patients and families. So please do not feel helpless. You have already done so much.

This is what prayer accomplishes. Strength and support for those who are actually doing the painfully difficult work of helping. Relief from the helplessness that comes with being able to do nothing more than write checks. Validation that caring matters.

Could he have done it without “all that sky fairy nattering”? I’m sure you atheists will point out that of course he could, since those prayers weren’t actually “doing anything”. Maybe; but maybe not. Who knows what heights of human endurance can be enhanced by the knowledge that others are keeping you in their hearts and minds?

I was deeply touched by the letter, only brief snippets of which I’ve posted.

That is the true power of prayer.


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