When Prayer Isn’t Enough

We traveled from Lake Havasu to Crestline yesterday, and on the way I heard a discussion of the very sad story in which a young girl reportedly died from a treatable type of diabetes because her parents did not take her to the doctor, but instead relied solely on prayer.

WESTON, Wis. —  The mother of an 11-year-old girl who died of untreated diabetes said Wednesday that she did not know her daughter was terminally ill as she prayed for her to get better.

Madeline Neumann died Sunday from a treatable form of diabetes.

Her mother, Leilani Neumann, told The Associated Press that she never expected her daughter, whom she called Kara, to die. The family believes in the Bible, and it says healing comes from God, but they are not crazy, religious people, she said.

There are varying opinions about this case. Some experts believe the parents were just ignorant and that they truly did not know how sick their daughter was. Others believe they are criminally guilty of child endangerment. I found it enlightening to note that the child had not seen a doctor since she was three years old.

I have mixed feelings about this incident. I believe in prayer. I believe in supernatural healing. But I have lived long enough to observe that not everyone who is prayed for is healed. That’s just a fact. Lay it down to lack of faith, sin or any other theory, but not everyone who is prayed over is healed. So in our lives, in our home, and in everyone I know who is associated with any churches, we pray for supernatural healing, but we also take our sick ones to doctors. There may be an isolated person or two who decides for himself to trust completely in the miraculous healing of God and to forego medical treatment, but I don’t know any. I have never known anyone who refused medical care for their sick child. So, in that regard I side with those who think these parents were negligent in the care of Madeline.

On the other hand, I respect the individual’s right to choose his religion, and I’m not comfortable with the state’s dictating what I do medically. However, I don’t believe in assisted suicide and I do agree with our government’s stance on that issue.

The deciding factor here is that Madeline was a child. If an adult wants to trust in God’s healing without any intervention by doctors, that should be his prerogative. But when a child is involved, I believe outside intervention is in order. A touchy situation, I know.

Today I pray comfort for the Neumann family, who probably meant no harm to their daughter.

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My devotional blog is here.

17 thoughts on “When Prayer Isn’t Enough

  1. I knew Leilani a long time ago when she was a young girl of 11 years old. I was living with her grandmother at the time who was a woman of great faith. However, she also had a lot of common sense. I remember her chewing out my husband one day because he had worked all night and the next morning wanted to go on an outreach outing with us. She told him he had to use wisdom. His body is the temple of God and it needs rest. Leilani actually helped her grandmother pray with my mom, brother Tom and Sister Carol for the infilling of the Holy Ghost almost 29 years ago. I did not know Leilani’s husband as I had lost touch with her and her family by t he time she married in the late 80’s, early 90’s. My heart goes out to the entire family.

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  2. Aisha Buxton

    Oh my, how tragic. As a parent and christian I have relied on God for healing, and have prayed many times for our children when they have been sick. But really, until I took them to a physician, I wouldn’t have known exactly what to ask God to heal them of anyway!

    It’s just too risky to let some things go, as we now have seen.

    I know of a doctor who was diagnosed with breast cancer, of some variety, and decided not to be treated with Chemo-therapy (sp?). She studied on it and took a more natural, holistic approach… she overcame and is healthy today and still practicing medicine (she was our pediatrician, and in-laws neighbor). Note, that although she did not get chemo, she had MUCH knowledge on the route she had decided to take. And also had faith in God.

    I wonder if the family had changed the child’s diet, or any other pro-active natural approaches for people who suffer from this disease?

    I just can’t imagine. I just can’t imagine.

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  3. You wrote:

    “. . . who probably meant no harm to their daughter.”

    They watched her die. Watched her slip away right before their very eyes. As a parent, I cannot comprehend this . . . How is this faith? It is simply easier to say “God will manifest Himself in even this!” than to ask the harder question – “What does God have to do with it?!” Someone’s beliefs about God contributee to the death of a precious child. And I just don’t get it . . .
    I don’t get it either, and as a parent, I also cannot comprehend this. Having said that, though, I believe there are people who are sincerely misguided, and tragedy results from their decisions. Not all such people mean harm, though we all agree, harm has been wrought in this case, and it is utterly sad.

    Thank you for visiting my blog and for commenting.

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  4. As a new convert, I learned that we are to have common sense. Until someone gets details first hand from the parents who I’m sure are devastated, we don’t really know how it happened. Maybe they were ignorant of the severity of their child’s illness. Our times are in God’s hands, but we make choices (in this case the parents) and it changes the course of events? Getting too deep, I’m not able to be clear on what I mean.

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  5. Terry

    Very sad about this poor little girl. I am very curious about the moms comment that Madeline died because the family did not have enough faith.

    How much is enough? How would you know? Why would got not spare this child after her family prayed so hard. Was her death part of his plan after all?

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  6. Kevin

    We should keep the Nuemann’s in prayer; these are trying times for many who want to walk by faith in the Jesus of the Bible; Here’s a link to an audio of Unleavened Bread Ministries called “Questions on Faith, Doctors and Healings Answered” which addresses the topic and comments on Kara’s recent death:

    [audio src="http://www.unleavenedbreadministries.org/audio/studies/03-26-08-questions_on_faith_doctors_and_healings_answered.mp3" /]

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  7. The issue is not as big and confusing as we would like to make it. Scripture teaches that everything is taking place–even the tragic things–to point mankind to Him. There is no event that has more power than Him, such that it took place against His will.

    It takes far more faith to believe in a God that is almost sovereign–One who stands like a cosmic cheerleader, just hoping that Mr. and Mrs. Neumann give their daughter proper medical attention. That is a non-Biblical view of transcendence–a type of deism or belief in a limited God.

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  8. I somewhat understand what breadandsham is saying and it made me think of a message I heard about The Will of God and The Perfect Will of God. In the case of Madeline, it might have been the will of God, but was it the perfect will? Regardless, the story is tragic.

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  9. Sometimes the answer we get is not the answer we want, but it is always the right answer. Who are we to question His authority, right.

    Unfortunately, young Madeline is gone, and may have been spared under different circumstances, but the Truth says that He is strong enough to veto stupid decisions and sometimes He just doesn’t. It’s not as though God is limited by human understanding. More often than not, we ought to be ashamed when we do not pray.

    Truly, you are correct. A prayer must have feet on it, nonetheless, God doesn’t apologize.

    Welcome to my blog, Stephen. Hope you visit often.

    I appreciate what you’re saying, and agree with most of it, but I’m not sure that the answer I get “is always the right answer.”
    While I truly believe God can do anything and that the world is fully under His control–so in that way, our answer is “always the right answer”–I can’t believe that all that happens is truly in the will of God.

    Was it the will of God for Eve and then Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit? Hardly, for they were punished for so doing.

    Is it the will of God that innocent deformed children will be born today? I don’t think so.

    Was it the will of God for Madeline to die? We don’t know that, but I strongly suspect she would now be living had she been given proper medical care. Would that have changed God’s will?

    I surely don’t have the answer to this huge question, and have spent much time thinking about it.

    Again, thanks for your comments.

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  10. Kathy

    I totally agree with you Jana. People say that some doctors are miracle workers. They are actually instruments of THE miracle worker, and do what they do only by HIS grace. My husband has a cousin who learned this too late in life. She lost a daughter, age 8, to the same disease and for the same reason. She was following her husband’s advice on allowing God to heal their daughter and not seek medical advice. Such a tragedy. That was over 20 years ago and I still pray and grieve for them.

    So, Kathy, you have known someone whose child died, as far as you know because they didn’t seek medical treatment. Were they prosecuted? Do you think they have changed their minds over the years or would they do the same again?

    Thanks for your input.

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  11. It seems the family had the means to see a physician but refused. I find it appalling. I, too, believe in prayer and healing, but God also gave knowledge to men to help us in time of need. Without excellent medical help, your husband would surely have died. What some people fail to realize is doctors do not heal. They aid us in managing our health. Only God can heal. I think we should responsibly manage our health and that may include assistance from a medical doctor. What a sad story. I hope the parents don’t allow this to happen to another one of their children.

    There is little question that money for health care is not an issue here. I’ve known dozens of people who had no money, but who were extended medical care. Just last week, I know of a 21 year old–no money at all–who was given emergency care, then admitted to a hospital. These people are from California, where I know for a fact that medical care for children is supplied by the state if the parents can’t afford it. Also, these are middle class people who set up a business. Religion was the issue here, not health care.

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  12. renaissanceguy

    I am stunned by this story.

    I don’t know what to think. Every time I try to write about it, my mind goes in so many directions.

    It is stunning–a difficult case. I could go along with an adult who wants to refuse medical care, but when a child is involved, I cringe to think of their suffering and loss of life when help is available. Conversely, I don’t think the government should dictate my religious beliefs.

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  13. Hi, Karen–

    It’s interesting that you know this family. I’m curious about the father of Madeline? Is he involved, or do you know?

    Edit: I have noted that he supplied CPR when she died. I guess I’m wondering about his religious position. It seems to be the mother who is quoted, and who was having visions that supposedly guided her days. Did the father agree with not taking the child to the doctor? Did you also know him?

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  14. I knew the girls mother, Leilani, and her family in California. I had just learned of this today from my sister-in-law who lives in Wisconsin and also knows Leilani and the Neumann family. Our prayers and deep condolences are with them.

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  15. My first question, when I read that this child had not been to a doctor since she was three is this, Did the family have health insurance? This is not about religion, which everyone can afford, but about the rising cost of medical care that only the rich can afford. Preventive medicine is becoming a luxury. Please consider this child when you vote.

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