Book Review – “Paul’s Prayers” – A Lesson in Hard Grace

By Kent Heckenlively, JD

I want to give my highest recommendation to Susan L. Anderson’s masterful new book, Paul’s Prayers: A Mother’s Account of Raising an Autistic Son.

For many of us in the midst of the autism wars we are consumed with fighting against scientific, governmental, and pharmaceutical corruption.  But as much as I rage against the epidemic, I also try to be aware of why it might be that God has placed me and so many others in the middle of this battle.

Susan Anderson’s phenomenal book contains passages which will take your breath away and humble you. 

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Here is one such example:

We gather around our dinner table.  Rob suggests to our son, “Paul, why don’t you pray for us?”  I look around at each face, guests and family.  The food is good and hot.  Each person prepares for the long haul of Paul’s prayer.  I note our teenagers’ stirring facial expressions:  What is he going to say?  The smirk, thinking, Here we go, get ready for anything.  As I read the nonverbal clues of each nod of the head, I am reminded that God doesn’t waste anything.  I think of this as the perfect training ground for my kids in learning tolerance, compassion, and humility.  Paul launches with, “Jesus, thank you for this food, and help me know how to talk to people.  Help me make good decisions.  Help us to know what we’re supposed to do about anything.  Show me where you want me to live, and if I can build a house, and how to make friends and how to make conversation . . .”  And he continues.  Finally, we cross ourselves, and agree with “Amen.”  We believe.

There are many such passages in the book, and they speak of a path of hard grace which so many of us struggle with in our lives.

Among my friends who are not religious, they assume that because I try to have faith, that life must be very calm for me.  In fact, it is quite the opposite with me.  I have quite a quarrelsome relationship with the Almighty.  I cannot understand why so much pain needs to exist in the world.

Recently I ran across some writings which compared trying to have faith with the story from Genesis of Jacob wrestling with an angel.  The idea was that faith was hard.  It is an enormous struggle.

I feel that struggle every day in trying to care for a severely autistic daughter, a twenty-year-old now, who is still in diapers, has trouble walking, and cannot speak.  God has sent me a mighty angel with which to grapple.

And at the same time I have a seventeen-year-old son who just became one of the top ten runners in the 100 meter to have ever competed in the forty-one years history of his high school.

Each day is heaven and hell for me, with one child who must constantly be watched, and the other who is more self-sufficient than many adults.

In another section of her book, Anderson writes:

My son suffers.  Sometimes I wonder how long a person can stay in the same season of life.  I wonder how long he can stand this state of being.  Can he go on like this-this restless-this wanting?  I hope for a change in him.  Autism is puzzling.  This wonky-eyed boy who flaps his hands, talks to himself, behaves this way for reasons not seen by the naked eye.  Everything Paul receives through taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing is pronouncedly acute.  For instance, it’s cold outside and we wear mittens.  Paul doesn’t like the bristly feel of the yarn.  He would rather feel the snow on his fingers, to the point of numbing.  The television messing up with static and white noise?  We might get a bit annoyed, but this garbled fuzz sets him off like a firecracker.

When I read passages like that I know the writer had not only captured autism, but also much of what is fundamentally wrong with our world today.  You don’t  have to have an autistic child to feel it in your gut.

What we write about in this blog is the struggle many have with various aspects of the health care system which are not in alignment with principles of compassion and fierce concern for those who suffer.  I know for some our brand of criticism is too spicy.

But what we do here is wrestle with the angel.  I make no apologies for it.

Susan Anderson wrestles with the angels in her book, her great compassion for her son, her dedication to God and family, and a determination that it must all mean something, if not for her son, then for some greater purpose.

To those who have hardened their heart against such stories I ask that you open your hearts to the message of this wonderful book.  There is enormous grace in this story and it will be a tonic to your soul.

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Here’s the link to order it from Amazon:

By Kent Heckenlively, JD

plagueheckiKent’s book PLAGUE was released by Skyhorse Publishing in 2014 and is now available in paperback.  Skyhorse also publishes the work of Mo Yan, the 2012 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature.

The book is co-authored with Judy Mikovits PhD.  It is an indictment of the “Fake Science” we find so prevalent in the US.


Kent Heckenlively is also the author of INOCULATED: How Science Lost its Soul in Autism, available on Amazon and at Barnes&


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4 thoughts on “Book Review – “Paul’s Prayers” – A Lesson in Hard Grace”

  1. Just like the Apostle Paul, whose lessons in grace were very hard. But for those who believe, then this world is not our true home, only the place where God inscribes deeply upon the rock of our souls.

  2. The world is hard because we are on a fallen planet and we are still suffering from the fallout. But mercy is already ours and we have the ability to right the wrongs.

    The world is hard because God gave us free will and does not interfere with our choices and so people create and experience sorrow. It is better to freely choose God rather than be programmed to obey, or else we are no better than slaves.

    The world is hard because remnants of Lucifer’s rebellion are still active. They recruit Psychopaths to their ranks. We need to make a decision, collectively, to eradicate them from power positions on the planet.

    The reason we struggle is because there is no purpose for special snowflakes in the Kingdom. Only character forged from the flame of experience can truly serve God.

  3. And lastly…

    As above, so below.

    The laws we enact on Earth, are recognized by Heaven. This is why Jim Crow and the Constitution were able to coexist. We are free to reap the reward or suffer the consequences. The Creation is vast, highly organized, and ruled by Just Authority, and we have the inalienable right to bring Justice and Order to Earth.

  4. Thank you, Cara and Erin. I couldn’t agree more.
    I am in that constant cyclic realm of grief and acceptance. I rejoice in the strides we make as a family, but I also realize that we are caught in the cross hairs of the culture we live in. I wish I could go back and not have succumbed to the coercion of our health care system’s insistence of so called, ‘Well Baby Visits.’ Knowledge is power, right? If I only knew then, what I know now. But God knows, and I believe that the sufferings of this present age don’t compare to the joy that is yet to come.

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