Prayer of the Abandoned
Hospice Chaplains can recount that many of their patients ask the questions, “Why this?” “Why me?” “Why now?” Some feel abandoned by God. Consider the words of Jesus Christ, God’s Son: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) For that patient that thinks the heavens are as brass and his prayers go no higher than the ceiling, “I call all day, my God, but you never answer.” (Psalm 22:2) These words of Jesus and the Psalmist are poignant and profound. Allow your Biblical knowledge to come to your aid by remembering the painful experience of Elijah or the tears of Jeremiah as he was lowered into the well, “Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (Jeremiah 38:6). In the midst of their feelings of forsakenness and abandonment their feelings of aloneness in their struggle with their disease drives them to silence in their suffering not daring to pray. The emotions are too raw and their words too pointed. They feel that if they told God what they were thinking that the wrath they believe he is pouring out on them would get worse. This is where the skilled Chaplain provides great comfort.
The Chaplain can place a name on this experience: “the dark night of the soul” (St. John of the Cross). David, the Psalmist, cried out, “How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
Before I proceed… Herein is one significant benefit of Clinical Pastoral Education. As the Chaplain you bring your spiritual beliefs and experiences with you to every patient. This means your successes and failures, your spiritual highs and lows, your prayer blessings and prayers unanswered, and your own set of beliefs about prayer which could cause you to stumble and utterly fail in discussing prayer with your patient. The emotionally intelligent, emotionally elite Chaplain will not let his/her own journey in life trip up the process of spiritual support with the patient feeling abandoned by God.
Keep in mind, the physical, emotional, and spiritual drain of the disease process can leave a patient feeling exhausted. Exhaustion is not good for spiritual strength. Show the patient the reality of life by reading to them the struggles of David, the man after God’s own heart: “O God of my praise, Do not be silent!” (Psalm 109:1 NASB); “But I, O Lord, have cried out to You for help, And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
O Lord, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 88:13-14 NASB) Unless you are not honest with yourself, you have experienced your own dark night of the soul. Your suffering patient needs your strengthening hand and loving heart. Keep in mind there are always miserable comforters that judge and condemn the suffering much like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Job’s ‘friends’. [visit my blog, embracedbytheheartofhospice.blogspot.com for the article Horrid and Cruel Counselors] Encourage your patient to attempt to pray and be honest with God about her feelings of abandonment and aloneness. You can be of great help.