A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Strange Case of the Missing Prayer

Bill Farrelly

by Bill Farrelly

We are a strange mob, aren’t we? A muddle of contradictions that, in our rational moments, make no sense at all and yet that’s often where we seem to spend the majority of our lives.

I have just been reading an interview with the children’s author whom many of you will know, Mem Fox, who has brought joy to millions, probably hundreds of millions, of children and adults alike.

Fox is the author of such delightful titles as Possum Magic, Hattie and the Fox and Where is the Green Sheep? She has recently finished a tour to promote her 40th book, Baby Bedtime, inspired by her grandson and for whom she has a passionate love as her lyrics (I use that terminology because her words are so beautifully musical) show:


I could eat your little ears
I could nibble on your nose
I could munch your tiny fingers
I could gobble up your toes
Such beauty. Such joy. Such talent.
And yet.

And yet Fox, it seems, is blind to the origin of the gift she shares with us all for she does not believe in prayer. During the interview she discloses that much of her life is dedicated to the care of her cherished grandchild because Fox’s daughter is a single and working mother. And though obviously demanding for her and her husband it is a labour of love. She says: “What’s more important than interacting with that child? For us, nothing.”
Fox also discloses that the other priority in her life is her “gravely ill” sister.
“My sister’s illness and caring for my grandson outweigh anything else in my life,” she tells the interviewer. “If I never wrote again, I wouldn’t care.”
Such devotion. But, sadly, there is something missing. Fox, whose parents were education missionaries, also speaks of a friend for whom she obviously feels great empathy.

“I have a friend with cancer at the moment,” she says. “I wrote to her last night and said: ‘You are constantly in my thoughts but never in my prayers, because they don’t work, and I’ve lived long enough for that to be proved over and over and over again. So I will not be praying for you. Ever’.”

On reading those words I was both saddened and puzzled. How could someone with such an extraordinary gift with words be so dismissive of prayer when – in her own story-telling – she invites us to suspend belief and then takes us into her own magical realm?

Has it not occurred to her that her beautiful creations have an origin beyond her? An origin with a power beyond imagination?

I suspect what Fox is really saying is that the answers she seeks in her prayers have too often been “ignored”. Her response is all too easily understood. Something I read quite some time ago helped change that attitude for me:

God sometimes works in mysterious ways. Perhaps something I regard as a problem (eg, an “unanswered” prayer) may really be a form of assistance.
Sometimes, also, there is just a void and nothing makes sense. We are left desolate. Except that we aren’t – if we dare to embrace hope and faith.
With great respect (and as a fellow but unpublished children’s author) I invite Fox to suspend her disbelief and dance with trust instead.

There’s probably another book in that, Mem.

God bless you and your family and your sick friend.
© bill.farrelly@yahoo.com.au

Tagged as: ,

Comments are closed.