Building Faith in Children Who Pray for Life but are Disappointed When Death is the Outcome

Children can be so thoughtful, I am continually amazed. I had one of those moments Sunday afternoon during a Confirmation of Faith Class around the dinner table at my home. Each Sunday during this time of the year, for ten weeks my wife and I host the 12-year-old youth in our church to dinner and conversation in preparation for full acceptance of the children as official members of the church. My associate minister, Rev. dr. Georgia Hill assists me during the Confirmation of Faith classes.

Sunday was the first class. I have led Confirmation of Faith Classes for 40 years, so I have it down to an orderly routine. I personally lead the class because it is a tremendous opportunity to bond with the children. On the first session, my goal is to loosen the children up and make them comfortable with me and the concept of being in the class. I ask a series of questions that go like this: What is your name? How old are you? Where are you enrolled in school? What is your favorite class? What is your second favorite class? What do you want to do when you grow up? What kinds of food do you like? What are the foods you do not like?

After these basic ice-melting questions, I “turned the corner” spiritually and asked two simple questions: “When do you pray and what do you pray for?” The answers through the years have been predictable: “I pray before I go to sleep or before a test…” Sunday, two of the children took me to the roof when they each said they had prayed for a relative or friend who was around their age or even younger. In both cases, the person they prayed for died. One had prayed for a classmate who was in a severe car accident. The other knew a victim of child abuse and another person who died as part of a targeted execution. In each case, the child prayed for life, but only death followed. As the two girls recounted their horrific experiences and the prayers of hope that they lifted up to God, all I could think of was what could I say to help them to maintain faith in God and confidence in prayer?

After the two girls shared their true-life stories and the prayers of hope that ensued, only to have their prayers dashed in disappointment, thankfully, one of the boys in the class shared that only a couple of weeks ago he had survived major brain surgery to remove tumors. I was familiar with his story because I had visited him in the hospital the day before the operation. Rev. Hill also visited him later that day. At the conclusion of my hospital visit, I asked his mother, brother, and a former teacher who came to visit him, join me in a circle of prayer around the boy. I prayed a “hard” prayer to the Lord that the operation would be a success. As it turned out, the operation went well and the young fellow was released to go home a couple of days later.

Right there at the Sunday dinner table we had two outcomes in prayer. For the two girls, their prayers of hope ended in disappointment. In the case of the boy, his prayers were answered in a way that filled him with hope.

I found myself circling back to the girl’s prayers of hope that ended in disappointment and asked the provocative question, “What help can God give us when we are disappointed in prayer?” The kids were right on the money when they said that even though they were disappointed in prayer, they still believed that God gives strength and comfort.

I agree with the girls that God gives us strength and comfort, even in the difficult times. One of the great scriptures in the Bible that speaks of this strength and hope that only God can give is found in Psalm 46.

Psalm 46

God’s Defense of His City and People

To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. [1]



Question for Reflection:


  1. How do you maintain and build faith when you are disappointed with the response to your prayers?


Prayer: Lord, grow my faith. Help me to hope in you, trust in you, and love because of you. Lord, strengthen me in my weakness. Grant me a faith that can transcend disappointment. Walk with me and talk with me. Reassure me that when people and systems disappoint me, that you will be my refuge and strength and grant me the power to overcome. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.


Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

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[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 46). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.