After transitioning to full time ministry after 20 years in healthcare I have heard numerous stories and questions about praying for patients. I love hearing the stories of how healthcare professionals pray through their floor or room, or pray for their patients before procedures. I recall being informed of a patient who was seriously injured and in the intensive care unit and someone asked me, as the president of the hospital and a Christian, to go pray with that patient, which I absolutely did.
What I’ve learned over the last few months as I’ve spoken to many healthcare professionals is that the question about prayer in patient care is changing from an academic question, to one that is more practical. There has been growing evidence about the healing power of prayer (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18414311 – one of many research studies on prayer in healthcare). While the ethical considerations of prayer for patients and healing potential could be debated forever, what seemingly isn’t being discussed is the practical HOW question. Moving the question of prayer from “Can I pray for my patients” to “How do I pray with my patients” is incredibly important!
I want to share some practical ways to bring your faith and the power of God into the discussion of caring for your patients.
- Pray for your patient list as you are reviewing your assigned patients – It can be a quick prayer for each as you review their current plan for the day.
- Let your patient know that you prayed for them – This is a great way to break the ice with them and let them know, in a non-confrontational way, that you took the time and prayed for them. I’ve prayed for atheists, muslims, satan worshippers, agnostics, other christians and I’ve not had anyone yet get mad that I said that I prayed for them. They may clarify their beliefs and may reveal they are not Christian, which is helpful for you to know, but almost always they will be grateful.
- Ask what you could pray for – This might sound silly as you likely already know why they are in for care, but you might be surprised what they ask for. Many may ask for healing (a future post coming on this topic), but others may ask you to pray for their family, for financial situations to work out, or for spouses. This also helps you understand what their fears are and what their hopes are. Praying for the fears can be incredibly powerful. May years ago I had the privilege to with Colleen Sweeney who has done a phenomenal job understanding and speaking on the importance of addressing fears of patients. What better way to address them than to pray for them!
- Don’t wait to pray, pray NOW – After you ask what you can pray for, many people believe you are going to pray later. Don’t wait – PRAY NOW! When Jesus found someone in need he acted immediately. When I read the book of Acts I see needs being met with prayer in the moment, not later in the evening. Don’t be afraid to pray right away. I’ve heard a few in healthcare be frightened to pray because “what if it isn’t answered”? Great question, but it’s not your concern – pray and let God figure out the timing and the answer. (This will be a future blog post as well)
- Pray specifically and pray with command, with expectation and with confidence – One of my favorite quotes about prayer is from Mark Batterson “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God”. When you pray, pray with confidence that the God of the universe hears you and wants to show up and intervene. Remember – The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and the situation you are praying for is to bring the kingdom of God into the situation. The prayer doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. Some of the best answers I’ve seen to prayer (in the moment) is from sloppy prayers that I prayed.
The power of prayer in healthcare is yet to be realized!