Prayer—“but not that!”

Two recent posts (Too Close, Too Hurtful, Too Important and Prayer at the Deep End) call forth another related post on prayer. The prayer that is followed by “…but not that!”

With our older son, the situation got so bad, we had tried everything possible to reach our son and turn him from the destructive path he was on. Then 20 years ago I had prayed a prayer of desperation: “Lord, do anything to reach him!” It was a last gasp of air, a last attempt to salvage a life—from my perspective.

Prayer of trust

And it became my final surrender of what I could do; I had nothing left to give.

Less than two months later, God was answering my prayer. And despite outward circumstances, He seemed to be in control (as if he weren’t already!). Our son and his wife lived about five hours away from us. On the Friday morning before Super Bowl Weekend 1993 (yeah, the day sticks in our minds!), my wife received a call from an ER nurse at the hospital in a city not far from where our son lived. The conversation went like this:

“Do you have a son, named…?” “Yes.”
“Does he have a wife?” “Yes.”
“Is he …?” “Yes”
“He and his wife have been in a serious car accident. He is here in the ER. Oh no, wait! He just went critical! Don’t leave!


Thus began a two hour wait for the next phone call. When she called back, she said that he had a broken clavicle, punctured lung, and pelvis broken in three places. But the critical thing was that his brain began to swell, and they had to remove about half of his skull to allow the brain to expand, otherwise he would have died. She told us that he was in surgery and probably would be for 7-8 more hours.

“Now, wait, Lord. When I prayed a couple months ago, this is NOT what I had in mind.” But it was what I prayed. And so now, his life was on the line. My faith and trust in God were on the line. Did I really mean that prayer? Did I fully entrust him to God? After a long afternoon and evening I recognized that, yes, I really had prayed that prayer, and I really did trust God. But oh, was it hard!

They called us about 5 PM and told us that he would be out of surgery shortly, and we could make the trip. We arrived at the hospital about 10 PM. We met the neurosurgeon about 10:30 that Friday night, and he told us that his condition was critical, such that it might be 6 weeks before we know whether he would live, and up to a year before we know whether he will have full capabilities (speech, walking, etc.). Oh, and the neurosurgeon had been on leave because he injured his hand and this was his first day back, and our son was his first patient.

Well, God, You are in control.

We were able to see him 5 minutes every hour, which we did during that next two days. The doctors finally told us that we could go back home as he had stabilized some. That Tuesday he underwent more surgery, and that next Friday he had surgery again to replace the skull and staple it in place. That following Monday (just 11 days after the accident) he was released from the hospital!

So, who was in charge? God obviously was and is!

Our son still had major recovery time, and he lived with us for a month so I could help him move and perform other care necessities. Did his heart change? At times we thought so, but it wasn’t too many months later that he began drifting back to his old ways. Since that accident he has nearly died 3-4 times.

But God has continued to work. My prayer is still, “Lord, whatever You have to do…” And I am still clinging to God’s work 20 years later. But I no longer follow that prayer with “but not that!”

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

3 thoughts on “Prayer—“but not that!””

  1. We know the pain involved in loving someone through the tough times…..Only GOD can help us to do that. He showed us how when he loved us, in spite of our rebellion, and watched his own SON die so that we might live. “Whatever it takes” prayers are not only hard to pray; they are even harder to endure when we must obey and remember that GOD is in charge. Blessings to you both as you continue to let GOD do whatever it takes!


  2. Powerful post. It is a good prayer to pray… Lord, do what it takes. I cannot pray it without cringing a little, bracing myself, knowing His ways are not my ways and sometimes they are very hard ways…. but… He is good. And so we pray.

    Prayers also for your son today.


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