I've been praying a lot lately. Holding the hands of young and old, strong, weak, even paralyzed. "Know your audience, know your purpose," my CPE supervisor/teacher/role model, Rev. Dr. Strong Love, instructs.
Audience: Catholic? Then I will pray Father-Son-Holy-Spirit. Baptist? Thank you, my evangelical seminary, for giving me my Baptist trinity, "Our Creator, Our Redeemer, and Our Sustainer." Jewish? Y'varekh'kha ADONAI v'yishmerekha, I offer.
Purpose ... it is not mine to decide the purpose. I have learned to ask the person who wants the prayer, what is most on your heart right now? Upon what do you want me to focus this prayer? Sometimes, what they say aligns with what I assumed -- Please let the surgery go well and let me be healed. Often, though, it's different. No matter what happens, let my family be okay with it.
Together, we pray for peace. I ask that doctors and nurses be given wisdom and skill. I pray that the person feel God's presence.
Occasionally when I am guest-preaching somewhere, a person will come up and introduce themselves and reference this blog. (And thank you for that -- I love meeting you in "real life.") Last year, this stunning young woman did that, then left me with a remarkable gift, telling me that something I had written about prayer affected her, and helped her.
We share our journeys, rarely knowing how, or if, our struggles will affect someone else's journey. We just never can know ... you know? I have a CPE classmate who is normally rather quiet, but when he speaks, his words often offer wisdom I can use. I am greedy, which I have told him, and I want more. Even if it's not profound, even if it's 'stupid' ... because the Spirit uses all sorts of things, significant and trivial, to take root in the psyche of another.
I only pray when the patient or family requests it. I have no interest in a perfunctory "this is what a chaplain does" sort of thing. You allow me into your room, I give you a prayer (whether you want it or not). Be sure and tip your nurse on the way out.
But they do request it. A nurse starts to come into the room. "Please give us just a moment," I tell her. The family, or I and just the patient, bow our heads and attempt to connect with each other, and with something outside ourselves.
I went to follow up with a patient I'd had a good talk with the day before. The transformation in her, this day, was stark and heartbreaking. Like a child, she was curled up on her side, her head flat, no pillow, in the dark. I crouched down so our faces were just a few inches apart. "They opened me up. There is cancer. I don't want to talk. I don't want to talk. Just, please, pray."
I prayed. My two hands around the one that she extended to me, I prayed with everything I had that she feel Spirit, that she receive comfort, and peace. Yes Jesus, she murmured at certain parts, please God, at others. Amen, we said together, our voices faint whispers floating off like the smoke of an extinguished candle in that dark institutional room.
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Power of Prayer ... Three Years Later
Praying Out Loud