Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The tension to pray at every visit...

Many Chaplains feel a tension to pray at the close of every visit.  Is it necessary to pray at the close of every visit?  Where does the tension come from?  Could it be that prayer was the expectation of church members when you were a pastor and you carry that into chaplaincy? 

How do you pray for an atheist?
How do you pray for a Muslim?
How do you pray for a Jewish patient?
How do you pray for a Hindu?
How do you pray for a Sik?
How do you pray for ........?

The list goes on and on.  But, the question must be answered.  Is it ever ok to simply say that "in my prayers I will remember you"?

Would it then be in order to seek the patient's permission to invite local spiritual caregivers of their faith to provide spiritual support along with you? 

There is much to think about when it comes to prayer.  Our study on the Clinical Use of Prayer deals with these issues and many more.  Prayer makes for good discussion, but too often we are more interested in doing prayer than talking about the patient's understanding of prayer and the patient's experiences with prayer.

So...back to the question at the beginning of the article...Where does this tension come from that you experience when you are coming to close of a visit?  Must you offer to pray?  Why or why not?


Edwin L Reese said...

Yes, part of the tension for those of us previously in church ministry is that we were expected to end every visit with prayer. But I think there's another aspect to the tension. Unless you are a chaplain with no belief in a higher power, then the tension is that old saying by the prayer warrior E.M Bounds - "you can do more than pray after you pray, but you cannot do more than pray until you've prayed." In other words, as a chaplain the highest power I bring to my visit is the power of God, and the access to that power is prayer, and so if I do not pray I feel like I did not bring all I could've to the patient because I did not call on that higher power of prayer. In fact, for me, all the active listening and empathizing in the world is but little use for the patient compared to prayer. Hence the tension to prayer every visit. But, as you say, for Muslim or Hindu or athiestic pt's sometimes I have to put aside my desire to bring the power of God into the room through prayer and settle for His power through myself and my words. Besides, I know that I can pray silently for the Pt and because He "knows my thoughts," he hears my prayer the same as if I prayed out loud.

Richard Behers said...

Thanks, Ed. You provide excellent insight.