The Power of Prayer

Reflections from the Edge of Death 1

It was 10:30 PM on Thursday, February 2. Linda had already gone to bed and had been asleep for half an hour when I suddenly felt pain in my chest that radiated to my back. I ran upstairs and woke her up, “Call 911!”

The paramedics treated me as if it were a heart-attack and rushed me to Mercy Medical Center in Canton. It took a while for the ER doctors to figure out what was wrong with me because all the tests for heart-attack came back negative. They took an X-Ray that revealed the problem: My ascending aorta that leads up from the heart had dissected—the tear had ripped through two of the three layers of the aorta and was threatening to burst, which would result in death. The aorta had ballooned, looking like a football.
I was immediately sent to surgery. Dr. Mark Tawil operating on me from 2:30 AM to 3:30 PM (yes, that's 13 hours!).

Linda had my very good friends Matt and Miche by her side (Matt drove her to the hospital; Miche, a nurse at Mercy, was working that night). Linda made some phone calls at 3:00 in the morning to friends and family and the news of the situation spread like wildfire. In those early morning hours, we were blessed to have many, many people already praying for me. By daybreak, Linda had several friends and family with her—listening to her, comforting her, and praying with her at the hospital.

This is the major news of this ordeal: By the time I had come out of surgery and was placed in ICU, there were more people than we can count praying for my life. People were praying for me from several different churches and several different states. The doctors and nurses I’ve spoken to have all said that I should not have survived. One nurse that was assisting in the surgery said that when they opened me up and she saw the aorta it was “as if somebody was holding it together.” It should have burst. Dr. Tawil stated it clearly: "It was your faith and the faith of your family and friends that saved you."

There is ongoing skepticism that prayer works in healing. Many newspapers are reporting this week about a major study published this month in the American Heart Journal—the New York Times had a front page article this past Friday (March 31) that had the headline, “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer.” The study had total strangers praying for heart bypass patients and monitored the patients’ progress for thirty days. The report concluded that “Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from coronary artery bypass graft, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.”

But the New York Times reported that “Dean Marek, a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a co-author of the report, said the study said nothing about the power of personal prayer or about prayers for family members and friends. Working in a large medical center like Mayo, Mr. Marek said, ‘You hear tons of stories about the power of prayer, and I don't doubt them.’”

I also note that the study did not consider whether or not the prayers were offered in the name of the Lord of healing, Jesus Christ. Christ tells us in several passages (see John chapters 14-16) that there is real power when we make requests to the Father in the name of Christ.

I, for one, have no doubts that it was prayer that moved God’s hand to heal me. God agreed with these prayers that I should remain alive for His glory—so that my wife Linda would not be a widow with three children to raise, and that Joel, Kaira, and Trey would have there daddy to lead them into adulthood. And that I have much more ministry to do with the CCO, the local church, and in various other ways. And that I am to re-develop my relationships with my extended family and with my friends.

This was God’s will. I have a new life to live for God’s glory. Thank you to all who prayed. Praise goes to God for his power to heal.

Next: My Kairos Lesson.


Anonymous said...

I was one of those "unknowns" praying for your recover,which I count as a miracle.
Now all of us who prayed for you need to remember to thank God for his intervention on your behalf.
Karen Spears Zacharias

Mike said...

It must be a comfort to know that God intervened on your behalf. Do you think it has a larger meaning? Is it a reflection on your being well known or do you have some virtue the rest of us lack? Seriously, I would be interested in knowing your thoughts. Was it a matter of prayer? If I paid people to pray for me, would it make a difference in my treatment? If not, why not?

By the way, I'm not asking all these questions to torture you. I'm very puzzled by the meaning and function of prayer. At times, prayer gives me quiet communion with God. At times, prayer uplifts and exults me. Often, it does nothing.

Ted Gossard said...


Praise God! So exciting to hear the details.

Bob Robinson said...

Thank you, Karen, for your prayers. Yes, the praise goes to God. "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results" (James 5:16, nlt)

Bob Robinson said...


Those are some good questions. The meaning and function of prayer is somewhat mysterious to most of us. We know that God wants us to pray. We know that "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results" (James 5:16, nlt). We know that Jesus said that "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14).

But we also know that God is not a "Genie in a Bottle", that, when we make a request, he is obligated to answer the way we desire. He is all-knowing, and since that is the case, we can rest in the fact that if things don't turn out the way we wanted them to, even if they turn out the opposite of what we prayed, that God is up to something that we simply do not understand. My dying would not have been the worst thing to happen. I knew and my wife knew that death is not the end-point of our existence and we await the wonderous hope of resurrection. We also know that in this "time between" (between the first and second coming of Christ) that people will die--every one of us ends up in the grave sooner or later. So the prayers were appeals to God: "Please keep Bob here a little longer...he's got three little children to raise...he's got a wife who will struggle to raise them alone...he's got so much he still wants to do to advance your Kingdom...etc."
These were authentic prayers, heart-wrenching prayers, unceasing prayers. This is why the medical journal's study is flawed. To have total strangers, without any authentic desire for the results of the prayer, pray and then to watch the 'results' seems to me to be treating God like that Genie in the bottle. Why should God answer such prayers? So he can look good in the American Heart Journal? I doubt it.

Mike, if your interested in studying the topic of prayer, I wrote a series on the topic, Lord, Teach Us to Pray. If you want, you can follow this link and print out the studies I've written on the subject.

adam said...

Bob -

It's good to have you back. I, for one, have missed you greatly, and I'd say for certain I'm not the only one.

Oh, and I prayed for you too :)

Not to mention you have been prayed for by the Gannon Community, as you were in our book of intentions.

See you soon!


Brother Maynard said...


It seems rather small to say I'm glad we've still got you on this side, and blogging to boot... but such perceptions of smallness is no excuse to leave it unsaid. ;^)

I linked this post on my blog with a comment or two there as well. Prayers also went up from our part of Canada, to help you out with that "international" component. Looking forward to hear more of this story, as well as the longer one God left you here to keep -wr-it-in-g- living.

(ps. Stupid Blogger won't show a strikethrough properly!)

Matt said...

Bob -

I also was one of those who prayed for you... from just up the road in Warren, OH...

Peace in Christ -

::Matt Thomas

Mike said...

Thanks for the link. I will do as you suggest.