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When the Mountains Don't Move

Professor learns hard lessons in the school of prayer.
2005This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Journalist Patricia Raybon, a faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has written articles on family and faith in The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. But the writing challenge reached a new level when one of her daughters embraced Islam, another became pregnant out of wedlock, and her husband faced life-threatening health issues. So did the spiritual challenge, which Raybon examines in I Told the Mountain to Move (Tyndale, 2005). Stan Guthrie, a CT senior associate editor, spoke with her.

Why did your daughter become a Muslim?

I have two grown daughters. My youngest daughter, Alana, has always been the nonconformist. During high school and in college, she began to question her faith and ended up in the Nation of Islam.

Later in college, Alana encountered friends who happened to be from the Middle East. They criticized the Nation of Islam as not valid, and she left it. The next thing I knew, she was declaring Islam to be her faith. It was an intense crossroads for me. But as I prayed, I felt God was saying to me, "Trust me and love her." That was a key starting point.

What kind of Christian home did you have?

I grew up in a strict home. For us, that meant going to church every Sunday. For my girls, that meant youth activities, choir, that whole profile. Clearly, I wasn't introducing my children to Jesus. Once you know him, you don't walk away from him. What I introduced them to was institutional church, to organized activities under the roof of a church.

Whatever I did, I thought I was doing the right thing. It did not turn out that way.

There are no guarantees for anyone.

But even more riveting to me was that my prayers didn't move these mountains. I thought, I'm a good Christian, but my household life doesn't ...

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