How sometimes even prayer can do with a little help ...
It is one of the more remarkable stories of recent times. Fabrice Muamba's collapse at White Hart Lane in full view of TV cameras and thousands of spectators on the premises was one of those shocking moments which makes everyone a kind of voyeur on private drama.
We expect such things to happen at home or in the street or in a hospital bed (or in Belfast in a hospital corridor). We don't expect to be ambushed by it on live TV. What was amazing about Muamba's illness, apart from its dramatic character, was the national response it evoked. In a word, prayer. Full on intercessions on the stricken player's behalf came from managers, fans and most surprisingly from other players on the pitch, dropping to their knees in an instinctive return, beyond their glamorous lifestyles, to their various simple faiths.
Did all the prayers work? I like to think they did. And yet ... what then of those who die alone? Or those, too, like young Matthew Hammerdorfer (17) whose heart gave way during a rugby match over that same weekend in England?
The lack of publicity for Matthew's death may be related to the level of sporting activity and the absence of cameras.
But it can't be true that prayers said by his side were said with any less desperation.
Is it really true that prayer is more effective by volume than sincerity? This isn't to devalue the popular phenomenon witnessed over the last days. But it is to say that, in reality, if Fabrice was to collapse anywhere, a stadium with two advanced medical teams and a crowd with at least one heart surgeon in it was perhaps one of the best places for it to happen. Even prayer can do with a little help.