There is a little girl in Georgia, Ashley, who has recently received the worst kind of news. She is not healthy. She is in dire need of all sorts of medical resources, the intelligence of doctors, the expertise of surgeons, the wisdom of counselors. She needs her parents' unfailing love, unflagging support. She needs hope.

I have long feared that prayer, the way I knew it when I was younger, does not actually work. There was a time when I absolutely believed that God listened when I spoke, stroked my hair when I needed Him, and, on very specific and memorable occasion, shut the power off at summer camp when I yelled at Him. We had a dialogue going every day. I believed in the power of prayer to soften hearts, to make the meek strong, even to heal.

For several years now, though, I've fallen into a simple chatting-style conversation with God. When moments are dark, as they were with Mom's illness in January, I'll ask for help. But it doesn't always come. And when help does come, it often manifests itself in ways that are not of my understanding, or even to my liking.

Where will the help blossom in Ashley's life?

Her parents have been so optimistic, the picture of patience and faith, trusting God to guide them through this time, to touch the hearts and hands of the doctors involved in their child's life-or-death case.

Some people will pray for miracles, for the cancer to vanish overnight.

Some people will pray that God's will be done, even if it means the death of a little girl named Ashley and the breaking of her parents' hearts.

I cannot do that. God will do what he needs to do regardless. Or rather, if you don't believe in that sort of thing (as I sometimes don't), He'll allow to happen what he put into play, long before the world was set spinning in the universe.

I call myself a Christian. I call my happy life a blessing. When children become sick, my heart hurts, and I wonder about God's plan along with the rest of the world. I'll pray for what I needed when my mother was sick. Hope. I pray that the light of hope doesn't go out while this family is searching for it. A lighthouse. A nightlight. A hearth fire. A beacon. Anything that will defend against despair. God promises us eternal hope, anyway. So, perhaps my time would be better served praying that Ashley and her family don't forget to look for hope, even when it doesn't fall immediately into their empty, waiting laps.

In fact, that's an awfully good prayer for the world in general.

TGBTRD Entry No. 200 is dedicated to Mom, Mike, Ann & Ashley