When her 14-year-old son drowns in a lake, a faithful mother prays for him to come back from the brink of death and be healed.
When he was 14, Smith drowned in Lake Saint Louis and was dead for nearly an hour. According to reports at the time, CPR was performed 27 minutes to no avail. Then the youth's mother, Joyce Smith, entered the room, praying loudly. Suddenly, there was a pulse, and Smith came around.
- John Smith (Ruiz) is a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy raised in Lake St. Louis, Missouri by his adoptive parents, Brian (Lucas) and Joyce (Metz) Smith. Though they are openly loving and supportive towards him, John struggles with feelings of abandonment from his birth parents as he goes through puberty and self-discovery, and starts rebelling against his parents and teachers.
One day John and his class are given an assignment, where they're to give an oral presentation about their family background. On the day he's called to recite, John admits he didn't do the assignment because he didn't have time. Word of this gets back to his basketball coach, who had promised him a starting position on the team. He warns John that if he gets a failing grade, that he will be benched. John later returns and gives a half-hearted presentation, saying that everyone pretty much already knows he's adopted and doesn't know much about his true background.
Not long after this, John and his two friends Josh and Reiger (the latter goes by his last name because his first name is also Josh), head onto an iced-over lake near their neighborhood. A nearby resident tells them to get off the ice because it's not safe, but they refuse. The resident leaves to call the police and a short time later, all three fall through a weak spot on the ice. Rescue teams soon arrive and the two Joshes manage to swim to the surface and are rescued. Two first responders get into the hole to try and find John. As they're about to give up, one of the rescuers, Tommy Shine (Colter), hears a voice telling him to go back. Thinking it's his chief, he tries again, and manages to lift John to the surface.
With no pulse or breath, John is taken to the local hospital, where a team of medical professionals work frantically to save his life. After John still fails to register a pulse, the attendant physician, Dr. Sutterer, gives Joyce a chance to say goodbye. A weeping Joyce enters the trauma room and cradles her son in her arms. After a moment, a faint pulse begins to register. With renewed hope, Dr. Sutterer recommends transferring John to another hospital better equipped to save his life, citing Dr. Garrett (Haysbert) as an expert in cases like John's.
After John is transferred and put in a medically-induced coma, Garrett warns Joyce and Brian that he has little hope for John's recovery, citing that if John were to pull through, he would most likely be in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of his life.
Throughout all this is a subplot involving Joyce and Jason Noble (Grace), the new liberal pastor at the family's church, with whom Joyce frequently clashes. Joyce slowly warms to Noble after he shows up at the hospital upon learning of John's accident. Like Joyce, he regards John's progress as divine intervention.
Later, John shows some signs of consciousness, as his ability to hear Joyce and Pastor Jason, responding with squeezes to the hand, and a tear trickling from his eye as a crowd gathers outside his hospital window to sing and pray for his recovery.
Joyce turns John's possible recovery into an obsession, constantly harassing the health care professionals into making John their only priority, alienating those around her, including her own husband. During a heated moment, Joyce tells Brian that if it wasn't for her, John would be dead, completely forgetting her Christianity which had long been the foundation of her character. After a brief and hurtful rebuttal, Brian storms off.
Coming to the realization that she can't control John's outcome, Joyce retreats to the roof of the hospital to pray, asking God for forgiveness and submitting to His will. As she concludes her prayer, it begins to snow, which she believes is an answer. She and Brian meet again with Garrett, who tells them that the drugs they have been administering to John during his medical induced coma are becoming toxic to his system and may be doing more harm than good. Joyce, who had previously been adamant about saving John's life at all costs, suggests stopping treatment and bringing him out of the coma, stating that she's ready for whatever fate brings. Garrett agrees.
Garrett administers the drug to bring John from the coma. His body begins to convulse and he slowly begins to regain consciousness, where he re-lives the accident where he fell into the water. He hears his mother's voice and opens his eyes, with full cognitive ability. A few days later, he is discharged from the hospital and returns to school.
However, John's return, while welcomed by many, is met with some resentment by others, who question why John was spared while their own loved ones had died. This weighs heavy on John's mind and he returns to the lake in search of a possible answer. He sees Tommy Shine sitting on a bench looking out over the lake and thanks him for saving his life. Tommy counters by admitting that he did not believe in God until after a series of protracted events since John's accident and that all Tommy did was pull him from the water.
John reconciles his survival with a renewed sense of purpose in his life and rebuilds his relationships with those he had been alienating earlier. The movie ends with an epilogue that John is pursuing a career in ministry after graduation from high school.