What should we ask God for? How should we say it? In our ...

Prayer for the Sick

I. PRAYER: WHAT IT IS.

Russell L. Dicks: JESUS believed that it is possible to commune with God through prayer. He did it. He did not tell his followers how or under what conditions a man can best pray. In the gospels we see that there were times when prayer and the effects of prayer seemed to be stronger than at other times. Jesus's teaching about prayer was to give his disciples a prayer. His instruction was to pray in quietness and humility; from the mystery of quietness would come a knowledge of God.

The use of prayer in the sickroom by a second person, the minister, is a method whereby the patient may be brought into touch with God. The minister plays a secondary part; he is the sufferer's representative; he fastens his mind on those whom he would bring together: patient and God. Prayer under such conditions is a learning-teaching process. The patient is the learner, the minister teacher, God and the ways of God the subject matter. The teacher often learns more than the taught. The good teacher knows both his student and his subject matter; so the minister must know both the needs of his patient and the resources of the universe which he may bring to the patient's mind.

Does God answer the prayer of the sick? Yes, but not any prayer. The contents of prayer in the sickroom should be like the contents of the patient's food tray. Steak smothered in onions and French-fried potatoes are not given a patient in his early convalescence, however much he may desire them. He is given broth, tea, soft-boiled eggs, toast, or a similar meal. So with prayer in the sickroom. The patient who prays, "God grant me strength to endure this pain," and "Patience to find through this handicap a greater understanding of Thee," receives his answer more directly than the patient who prays, "God, take away the pain," or, "O God, I cannot endure to be injured, let me die." Pray for that which the patient most needs in the light of his condition, spiritual and physical. The answer may not come in the terms of your prayer, but time and time again one ultimately recognizes a deeper fulfillment.

II. THE TECHNIQUE OF PRAYER IN THE SICKROOM

Among the questions which ministers must consider in the use of prayer in the sickroom are: Does the patient accept prayer as a potent factor in human experience? Does he use it? Does he accept the beliefs upon which it rests? If not, is prayer the next step in his spiritual growth? Can you introduce it at this stage of your work with him? One patient we knew became greatly embarrassed at the mere mention of prayer because she associated it with the disasters of her childhood. Certain imaginings and disappointments had to be cleared away before prayer could be used.

Another patient whom we knew liked to read beautiful prayers, but did not accept the fact of a personal God and the Christian belief in immortality which he associated with such a belief in God. Religion for him was "love of one's neighbor." His love of prayers was the same as his love of poetry or music. There was in him a reaching out, a yearning, a desire for infinite good. In that sense his inarticulate desires were prayers, but one could not go to him and pray with any obvious result until he had worked through the emotional reserves which he called "agnostic beliefs."

Other points which have to do more definitely with the way we pray in the sickroom might seem trivial in the light of our object. By their very littleness they become stumbling-blocks. Here are some of them. If the patient is in a room with others or in a large ward, should we pull the curtains round the bed or ask for a screen to be set up? What should one do if visitors are present? How can we use prayer with the patient in an oxygen tent? With one who is physically uncomfortable? A patient may be restless, turning from side to side, or he may have been given a drug and be drowsy. Suppose the nurse is present and does not offer to leave? These are situations which the minister will face sooner or later in the sickroom. What shall he do about them?

In a large ward we find it helpful to pull a curtain or ask to have a screen set up about the bed. The patient prefers this and we find it easier to accomplish a feeling of the presence of God by closing out the bustle of the ward and the curious, if longing, eyes of other patients. If visitors are present, do not hesitate to ask them to wait outside for a few minutes, in case the patient does not suggest this. A question to the nurse in regard to the patient in an oxygen tent will usually bring a practical suggestion as to how to overcome its difficulty. Sometimes the flap may be lifted for the time you need without any detriment to the patient. Be certain to let such a suggestion come from the nurse or doctor, but do not hesitate to persist in such a situation.

Under such conditions one must be careful not to seem hurried. With the person who is restless or uncomfortable from physical needs, you may either wait until he is made comfortable or go ahead if he insists. But do not fail to be alert to such signs and to inquire if closed curtains or a closed door mean that the patient is busy. With one who has been given a sedative and yet is not asleep, prayer may be used to even greater effect than when the mind is active. If the nurse does not offer to leave when you arrive, you may assume that she had better stay. She will understand your office and her patient better if she stays.

When should we pray in the sickroom? Some ministers think they should pray every time they see a patient. Our comment is that they must either limit their sick calls to highly selected persons or that they do not understand the use of prayer in the sickroom. We do not use prayer in every instance, even with patients whose religious lives we know well. Prayer should be varied from time to time with other methods. It is to be used especially in times of acute need. There will be times when we should pray even though the patient's mood does not invite us. The old divines call it "being led to pray." The younger minister goes by the same signs and arrives at the same end - he simply calls it by another name.

With a patient who is not one's parishioner the question when to pray becomes more difficult. We believe that prayer should be used for a definite need seen in the light of our understanding of the patient's spiritual development. I (R. L. Dicks) found a note on my desk one evening asking me to see a certain patient unknown to me. When I arrived I spent ten or fifteen minutes talking with her quietly, or rather having her talk to me. She told me that she was to have an operation early the next morning. It was then about half-past five in the evening. This was the second operation she had had since coming to the hospital some weeks before. She was concerned about the outcome of this one, as it was to be more serious than the first. She had been a member of a Baptist church for twenty years; her own minister was sick or she would have sent for him. From that story one can draw one's conclusions. Here is a woman who has led an active religious life; she has attended church regularly; her own minister is sick; she is facing a serious operation, the outcome of which she believes to be doubtful. She sends for a minister hoping that her confidence in God may be strengthened and her spirit quieted. We know that she desires and expects prayer, and we understand what our prayer should contain. The minister may be certain that whenever he is sent for as a minister the patient needs and expects prayer.

The patient whom we get to know casually in hospital visitation is one we must understand before using prayer. If he is an active church member and if religion means something to him in his illness, we may be certain he will welcome prayer. If his own minister is coming to see him regularly it is somewhat presumptuous to use prayer unless he invites it.

The great number of unchurched patients who come to our hospitals have spiritual needs which are as great as those who are active church members, perhaps greater. They have not the initiative or the imagination to diagnose the source of their restlessness, their loneliness, their despair. One gets to know them easily in the hospital ward; one may get to know them in the private room if one offers one's services to the hospital superintendent and comes regularly to the hospital. To leave one's name with the superintendent or a clerk is not enough. Neither the superintendent nor the clerk is in direct touch with the patients.

With the patient who is not an active church member one must use methods which will be acceptable to him from the start. The minister may be of service in helping him through a definite crisis, but still leave him far short of becoming a person whose religious life is actively growing, and in contact with the organized machinery of religion. It is not the purpose of the minister to seek out the sick in order to enlist church membership; but the sick present needs which religion has resources to meet. It is the minister's privilege to put the sufferer in touch with these resources. He must be certain not to take advantage of that privilege by attempting to enforce upon a sufferer his own ideas, which he may mistake for the resources of religion. Start with a patient where he is, move with him in his growth. Anything short of spiritual maturity to the point of prayer, and an active working relationship with God, is insufficient.

In the use of prayer with a given individual, we have found the writing of prayers a good check upon the ground covered. Without this check we cover the same ground, include the same petitions, use the same analogies, repeat the same phrases from day to day. There is need both for repetition and for new emphasis to stimulate a breadth of religious thought. Writing notes and prayers for this purpose has the effect of holding both patient and minister to the task before them.

III. WHAT PRAYER IN THE SICKROOM SHOULD CONTAIN

Prayer in the sickroom should monopolize the attention of the minister and of the patient. Sometimes this is not so. The minister prays off the surface of his mind, especially if he uses memorized prayers. Or he is nervous, hurried, or conscious of the physical conditions under which he is working. Then satisfactory prayer is impossible. Full attention on the part of the minister is essential. By his own concentration the minister may command the patient's attention, even when he cannot do this by himself. Attention is possible in the sickroom, as elsewhere, if prayer contains the following elements: quietness, application, reach, and the language of religion.

We distinguish the use of quietness from the use of prayer, but our description of quietness shows that it contains the elements of prayer. It is unarticulated prayer. It is the raw material out of which prayer is made. We have observed that quietness is invariably present before or during the time of satisfactory prayer in the sickroom. We unconsciously attempt to establish the conditions of prayer by being quiet before it if only for an instant. Quietness is the fertile soil from which prayer, living contact with God, arises. It remains as one leaves the room.

Prayer must have application. It must recognize the facts in a given sickroom. It must recognize the sufferer's needs and express his thoughts about them. If he has formulated no conscious or satisfactory conception of his needs, the minister may express his own thought about them in his prayer. The patient then makes the minister's expression of his need a part of his own thought, providing that this expression is near enough to his "growing edge" and to his recognized beliefs to be acceptable. Let us be specific: a patient whom we have mentioned before held her doctors responsible for her pitiable condition. The fault, if there was any, was hers. She should have come to the hospital earlier in the course of her disease. To have prayed with her for "a spirit to forgive those who have tried to help us," would have been going beyond the patient to a point of probable rejection on her part. But to pray for "a quiet mind, that we may know Thy will and Thy spirit within us," would be more apt to prepare her mind's soil for a new plant of forgiveness - a plant which, when it blooms, will be the healthier for having been her own discovery.

By the particular applications in our prayers we may relieve certain elements of concern in the patient's mind, such as worry in regard to family or friends. One young woman said, "I hate to go, it will be the first break in our family." In my prayer I remembered "those whom we leave behind; we know they are soon to follow." In less than six months after her own death the patient's mother died also. Another patient was concerned about the financial condition of his family, but he was beyond the point of being able to help them. Our recognition of this fact helped him to accept the experience he was facing.

One should recognize not only the patient's needs but other elements which are poignant in his situation. "In the long night watches" is a term that belongs rightly in many a prayer. To recognize the weary hours of pain in the dead of night, broken only by the quiet coming and going of a nurse or the calling of a patient, is to identify oneself with the sufferer, and to speak as one with authority. Again, "the stillness of the evening," "the quiet of the morning," are references to what every patient knows.

By application in prayer we may strengthen the patient's confidence in the doctors and nurses. His confidence in the surgeon, for instance, is of vital significance. Patients usually have an attitude of reverence for the men in whose hands they are absolutely helpless, upon whose skill and knowledge their lives depend. To dedicate that reverence to God is to stamp it with even greater authority. "Surely God is in this place, in the physician, in the nurse," says the patient. A phrase we frequently use in prayer is, "We remember him who is to operate and those who are to serve as nurses. We know that we are in worthy and capable hands."

Application in prayer also implies that one should stay within reasonable limits in one's petitions. Some prayers ask for perfection, to be freed from all sin, to be washed clean. A moment's reasonableness must show us that such petition cannot be granted. If the patient is a reflective person, such extravagant demands may convince him that your understanding of God and of human nature is of the hothouse brand, lacking both experience and humility. "God, grant us patience to endure that which we cannot understand," is pointed to relieve the patient from confused brooding, and to concentrate his attention upon patience and fortitude.

Prayer in the sickroom must have reach. It must point beyond the immediate experience. In a following chapter we speak of the need for perspective in illness. Reach is perspective in prayer. The patient's world is falling to pieces. Former interests and values are losing their significance. This is often true even of the patient's religion. One woman said, "All my life I have been an active Christian. But now I seem to get no help from my religion. I pray but I get no satisfaction from it." Another said, "My husband and son are out of work. We have no money. I am sick and I improve very slowly. But when I turn my mind to God I am quiet and peaceful." Both these women had been active members of the church for years; the one had grown into stability of religious life, the other had not. For one God stood beyond the heat and confusion of her illness; she could transport her thought beyond the immediate. The other could not. The minister may bring perspective to a patient through his prayer. Prayers must have an application but they must go beyond the immediate so that the patient may feel the permanence of God. Presently we shall cite a prayer for sleep, which seems to have this element of reach, to bring to the patient's mind God's completeness.

The degree of emphasis upon what we call reach must be determined by the sufferer's need. Reach is not motion in prayer, it is emphasis and perspective. Reach gives leverage to prayer. To illustrate: a woman requested the minister to pray that her pain might be relieved. Here is his prayer:

Eternal God,
Thou Who dost bear us up in our travail,
And who dost comfort us in our moments of weakness,
Be Thou with this one as she suffers;
Grant her relief from this pain,
And give her patience and fortitude to endure to the end.
Wilt Thou give us peace in Thy presence,
In the quiet of the evening may we come unto Thee,
And in the still morning may we dwell in Thy presence.
As Thy glory shineth in the morning sunrise
May we reflect Thy presence by our faith,
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This prayer applies to the patient's need, known through her request. Is such a prayer answered, and if not is it justified? It is not answered in the sense that some of the conditions of pain are not removed. It is answered in that the patient's concentration upon her pain is broken. The prayer contains reach at the place it points beyond the present moment: "In the quiet of the evening may we come unto Thee," and "In the still morning." By the use of the phrases "morning sunlight" and "reflect Thy presence in our faith," the patient's attention is centered upon what is known to be a stable part in her life, namely, her faith in God.

Prayer in the sickroom, like all prayer, should be cast in the language of religion. Our Bible contains the language of religion at its best, especially in the Gospels, in certain of the Epistles, and in the Psalms. We frequently include a scriptural verse to be certain that the strength of religious language is brought to the patient's mind. In this respect the prayer book has advantages. The language of religion at its best is poetry; it is simple, straightforward, rich in meaning, and association. It suggests dignity, patience, fortitude.

IV. WHAT PRAYER IN THE SICKROOM SHOULD ACCOMPLISH

We have suggested that prayer at its best, as used by the minister in the sickroom, contains an element of teaching from the minister's point of view and of learning from the patient's. The subject matter is God and His eternal relationship to man. Our aim as ministers in such a situation is to assist God in His Creative Process; the physician has the same aim. The physician never cures a patient; he assists nature by removing barriers or by stimulating a natural process. As ministers we attempt to place man in a more active relationship with God, that God may not only heal his body but his spirit. The physician and the minister, using different methods, work side by side toward the same ends.

Prayer is the minister's most effective way to put the patient in touch with the ongoing plans of the universe, which we call the Will of God. Such a relationship is hard to maintain; we know that well; but it is still harder to establish.

The following prayers are prepared for the sick and many of them have been used with patients. The patient himself should be encouraged to express his own prayer. While it is always the aim of the minister to make his people as independent of himself as possible, still he must not overlook the special situation of the sickroom. Some patients find difficulty in expressing their needs; others, even those who are religiously mature, are helped by the prayers of another; still others who are not able to concentrate upon formulating a prayer themselves will pray with you and receive help from a formal prayer. Always the minister must work in the light of the needs and condition of the patient.

Rest, sleep, patience, confidence, growth of the spirit, are some of the qualities most needed in illness, both for the recovery of health and for the acceptance of death. Here is a prayer for rest which contains quietness, application, reach, and the language of religion. Note the element of repetition and suggestion in it:

A Prayer for Rest

O God, I am weary with restlessness,
Make me to be still.
Make me to be at peace in my soul,
And my muscles to give over their tension;
Make me to know that as I rest upon my bed,
So I rest in Thee and in Thy support;
In Thy Peace I would abide all the days of my life,
In Thy House would I lie down unto deep slumber
As a guest rests after a weary journey;
And I would dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Amen.

Here is a prayer for sleep which varies from the above only in point of emphasis and metaphor.

A Prayer for Sleep

Eternal and Everlasting God,
In the growing quietness of the evening and the deepening shadows of the night,
Grant us sleep and rest.
With the stilling of the day's doings, and the end of coming and going about us,
Make us to be sleepy with heavy eyes and tired limbs.
As Thy creatures are lying down in the wood,
As the bird is quiet in its nest
And the wild thing in its hole,
As the stream is still in its bed
Reflecting the great expanse of stars above,
May we in our sleep reflect our confidence in Thee,
And our assurance in Thy constant Peace.
In our sleep give us that deeper communion of our souls
With Thee which restoreth unto health.
In His name. Amen.

One of the aims which, as above said, we consciously work to accomplish through the use of prayer is to establish or strengthen the patient's confidence in the physicians and nurses. Here is a prayer for this purpose.

A Prayer Before an Operation

Our Father, grant us thy peace,
Thou who dost wait upon us when we are restless
And who dost grant us courage when we are fearful.
Grant us quietness,
Grant us confidence,
Knowing that at this hour and in the days that are to follow
We are in worthy and capable hands.
Strengthen him who is to operate and those who are to serve as nurses;
We give ourselves into Thy sustaining presence;
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
From whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord Maker of heaven and earth;
From the strength of the hills may we gather strength
And take unto ourselves their patience;
As the shepherd guardeth his sheep, so wilt Thou guard this one
Now and in the days that are to follow.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Another aim toward which we work through prayer is to maintain the patient's confidence in God. It is the task of keeping the patient from slipping back religiously. We have heard many patients say, "I never doubted God until this experience." The loss of one's God in illness is far more serious that the loss of a limb or one's eyesight. Here is a prayer directed toward loneliness.

A Prayer for Companionship of the Spirit

Eternal Father,
Thou who art the companion of those who need Thee
Be our companion.
Pass with us through the valley of loneliness
And stand with us beyond its turmoil.
Stir us to find heaven in common things
And friendliness in the commonplace.
Make us to be friendly.
In the weary hours of dark nights
And the drudgery of slow turning days
We would remember Thee;
When others forget us in their business
Thou wilt not forget.
Build Thou within us a new companionship,
A companionship of the spirit.
As the sea is to the ship,
As the air is to the bird
So art Thou unto us in our meditation.
So we would know Thee and Thy ways of working
For the sake of Jesus. Amen.

Here is a prayer directed against bitterness.

A Prayer for Understanding

Eternal and merciful Father;
Thou who dost wait upon us when we are distraught,
And who dost welcome us when we are discomfited,
Give us understanding.
Make us to be humble; make us to be as little children;
Still our spirit in its restlessness,
And make us to be generous with those who have misused us.
Forgive Thou our shortcomings,
For we know we are even more imperfect in Thy sight than we are in our own.
Make us to be understanding;
Broaden Thou our intent to forgive;
A lamp set in the midst of bitterness cannot be seen,
But a lamp of generosity gives light unto others.
We thank Thee, our Father, for understanding. Amen. Amen.

One frequently hears a patient, usually suffering severe pain, say, "Why does God send this suffering to me," "What have I done to deserve such suffering," or, more forcibly, "Why am I punished." For a long time I accepted this question as one of those Old Testament ideas with which we are frequently confronted. I have now come to believe that such a statement is often a symptom of a sense of guilt. You will note the above questions are not followed by question-marks. They should not be, for they are not questions but statements. Most people who make them know several reasons why they might be punished. To attempt to brush away the question by saying, "That theory was exploded long ago," is to leave a thirsty spirit unwatered. If patients suffer from a sense of guilt, whether they are guilty in your eyes or not, is of no great importance. They are guilty in their own eyes and you must accept them there. Your task is to hold them up to the purifying Person of God as revealed in the New Testament, where God is forgiving. This can best be done by prayer following a form of confession which serves as a catharsis; this kind of prayer is the nearest the Protestant minister ever comes to pronouncing absolution.

A Prayer for Forgiveness

O most merciful Father,
Thou who art ever more willing to forgive than we are to ask,
Pardon us our transgressions.
In the lonely hours of forgetfulness
We have been unmindful of Thee
And of Thy commandments;
O God forgive us, we pray.
In our indifference we have been unfaithful to those we love,
And to Him who didst open our eyes to Thee,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
As a child plays and is burned,
As a child stumbles and falls,
So we are hurt by our willfulness:
Make us whole;
Give us strong limbs for walking,
And strong wills in the places we are weak.
Reward those we have hurt,
And make us strong to reward them ourselves.
We rejoice in the warmth of Thy affection
And in the peace of Thy forgiveness.
To Thee and to Jesus Christ, Thy son,
Be honor and glory, world without end. Amen. Amen.

In almost every sickroom we find physical suffering. Patients behave toward pain in various ways. Some chafe under it, some are restless, some weep, some curse, some endure it quietly. Doctors have various methods of combating its deadly and persistent onslaught. These methods work better with some patients than with others. Probably there are few patients who suffer great pain for very long who do not pray in one way or another. Their prayer is, frequently unsatisfactory because of the difficulty of gaining enough perspective for the poise which makes prayer effective. One of the needs of the sufferer is to accept his pain rather than to struggle against it. By accepting pain we mean overcoming one's fear of it, relaxing physically and mentally under it; a most difficult state to accomplish, and one which most of us can attain only after much suffering. Here is a prayer which may be used with a patient who is suffering from physical pain.

A Prayer to Accept Pain

Eternal God, whose days are without end, whose mercies without number,
We lift our minds to Thee in our stress:
Make us to be still before Thee,
Make us to fasten our minds upon Thy quietness;
Give us strength, O God, for the task which is ours.
Thy servant suffers from the pain.
Give him strength to endure;
Make fast his mind in Thee
And cause him to be strong in his endurance.
Thou art the water of life,
Whosoever drinketh of Thee shall not thirst;
As the tired sheep drinketh of the cool water
And rests beside the stream;
So we drink of Thy peace
And rest in the coolness of Thy presence.
In the name of that great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Patience to Overcome Handicap

O God of mercy, comfort us in our time of need;
We are bowed down in our misfortune.
We cling to Thee in our despair;
Thou who art with us when we are lonely,
Thou who dost forgive us when we are bitter,
Make us to have patience.
We bless Thee for Christ who did suffer upon the cross,
Yet was he lifted above his suffering;
Make us to know the meaning of the cross for ourselves.
Our friend doth suffer handicap
We know not why;
Make him to know that beyond the cross there is the resurrection, Beyond the suffering of humility and imprisonment there is the new-won freedom of fortitude, of patience, of triumph.
Make him to turn his suffering to Thy glory
And the world will give praise for his devotion.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer is considerably longer than the others but one feels justified in its use for the handicapped person who frequently does not suffer acute physical pain. The above prayer is an effort to put some meaning into such a condition, perhaps the only meaning possible in the light of the Christian conception of God.

Another use of prayer, perhaps the noblest of all its uses in the sickroom, is with the patient who is facing death. We believe the minister should consider it his duty and privilege to be present at, or as near as possible, the actual end of life, whether the patient dies in coma or not. The Protestant Church has been grossly neglectful of this responsibility. It should teach its people to expect such ministration. In another chapter we discuss some of the deeper problems of ministering to the dying, but we include here a group of prayers for such an occasion. The following prayers were written for and used with a thirty-year-old nurse who knew that she was dying. In this instance the patient had asked to see a minister before she was operated on; she lived about two weeks after the operation. The first prayer was used on Easter Day, after the patient had talked with the minister of dying. She had said she was not afraid.

A Prayer for One Dying on Easter Morning

Our Father, we are grateful for all Thou hast given us;
We thank Thee for the lessons of life,
For the friends we have known and the family we have possessed.
And above all we are thankful for Thee,
And for Thy abiding and eternal mercy unto us.
On this Day of Resurrection we lift up our eyes unto Thee,
Thou who art near in life
And who art ever with us in death;
Unto Thee we remember our family,
Wouldst Thou abide with them and comfort them.
Unto Thee we commend our spirit,
Take us unto Thyself and comfort us
Thou who dost transcend life and death
And all things therein.
In the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.

A Prayer in the Evening

I am the resurrection and the life,
He that believeth in me shall never die
But shall have everlasting life.
Eternal Father, we lift up our eyes unto Thee in the quiet of the evening,
As the birds of the fields seek Thee for shelter,
As the ship sails upon the sea and comes to harbor,
So we come unto Thee and are comforted,
Knowing that underneath are Thy Everlasting Arms.
Give us rest in the night and in sleep envelop us,
And finally bring us unto eternal life.
Now may the Lord Jesus be and abide with us
In His grace, mercy and fellowship. Amen.

A Prayer in the Morning

I am the bread of life.
Whosoever drinketh of the water I shall give him shall not thirst;
But it shall become a well of living water, welling up unto eternal life.
Our Father, we have drunk deeply of the water Thou hast given us
And have felt its pull unto eternal life.
In the still of the morning give us comfort, ease us from the pain
And quiet us in the turmoil.
Thy peace be with us, the peace of the Lord Jesus and communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Prayer in the Afternoon

I am the resurrection and the life.
Whosoever believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live.
I will lift up my countenance unto the Lord, yea unto Thee, Our Father, I would be lifted up,
That in Thy comfort I may dwell forever and in Thy peace have everlasting joy.
In Thee we are comforted and in Thee do we trust.
Thou who dost light the mysteries of the day,
And who dost sweep away the horrors of the night;
We commend our spirits unto Thee and unto Thy keeping. Amen.

A Prayer for Death

(Following the patient's request that I pray she might die that night.)

Eternal Father, hear this humble prayer of gratitude:
Wouldst Thou, in Thy great mercy and affection
Take this one unto Thyself,
Relieve her from the pain and the weariness.
For her great courage and endurance we are truly thankful;
In the quiet of the night may she go unto Thee,
And in her going may she not regret leaving her loved ones;
May she know they will come presently,
For we are all soon to follow.
But if it be not Thy will that she come unto Thee tonight,
Give her strength to complete the race so nobly thus far run.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with thee,
The communion of the Holy Spirit uphold thee,
The love of God the Father possess thee,
And give thee peace. Amen.

A Prayer of Triumph

For so great a peace we are eternally thankful,
Our Father. Thou hast been good to us.
Wouldst Thou ease our weariness and give us rest eternal,
Thou who hast brought this one unto so noble an end.
May she now begin anew that which is without end,
The new life in the new day.
We commend her unto Thee;
In the name of Him who doth bear us up in the hour of our great need,
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Some of the above prayers were used with members of the family present. We feel that this is desirable whenever it is possible. Much depends upon the family and on the attitude between patient and family. We believe that the minister should always acquaint the family with his ministry to a patient who is dying, for they may receive great comfort from knowing of the patient's attitude.

We have found that patients who are dying especially like the use of the benediction. A benediction, words loaded with a new richness of meaning in the face of death, seems to place a final stamp upon the past and point the patient toward the future. If the minister arrives just after a patient has died we believe that he should pronounce a benediction.

In the final analysis, adequate and effective prayer in the sickroom must grow out of adequate and effective prayer in the church. Occasionally we find a person who is ill and who has not had experience with prayer in the church; yet we not only use prayer effectively with him but teach him to pray himself. This is occasionally possible; but we believe it to be rare. Our most effective use of prayer in the sickroom is with those who already have an intelligent understanding of it, and who expect its use when they are ill. This understanding of prayer and its uses may be taught in the church school, in adult study classes, from the pulpit, and above all through prayers in the regular church services. Prayers should be said in church for those who are sick and for those who wait upon the sick, for doctors, for nurses, for the researches of science, and for the devotion of scientists to their work. Thus confidence in medical science will be maintained and practitioners of medicine will be reminded of their high task.

Chapter 16 from "The Art of Ministering to the Sick", Richard C. Cabot, M.D., and Russell L. Dick, B.D. (1936)


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