When it comes to helping the sick, every prayer counts. Here's where to start.
I don’t know what your prayer list looks like, but if it’s anything like mine it’s full of people who need prayer for cancer, depression, heart troubles, lung issues, headaches, persistent coughs, fevers and the list goes on. Some name will rise to the top because of something urgent like a trip to the E.R. All the while I’m waiting to hear about the results from someone else’s MRI, blood test, X-ray or CT-scan.
I look at my list sometimes and feel a bit overwhelmed. How do I pray?
Having recently been in a situation where I was really sick and hospitalized for two weeks, I can honestly say I was grateful for every prayer uttered. I don’t doubt they led to my recovery. At times I felt a sort of buzzing in my head urging, “Get well, be well, be strong, you’re loved.” So if you’re praying for someone who’s sick, try these six guiding principles:
1) Pray with hope.
No matter how bad the news, no matter how terminal the case, no matter what the doctors and tests say, bring hope to your prayers. That’s one of the best gifts you can offer a person, even someone who is terminally ill. When I was in the hospital, my biggest battle was the fight against despair. As long as I could hope, I could tolerate any treatment.
2) Pray with love.
Pain and illness can be isolating. When you’re sick, your thoughts circulate around every ache in your body. But to feel loved and know you’re loved helps take you out of yourself. When I logged on to Facebook or email I was reminded again and again that people loved me, cared about me. And I didn’t even have to look that far: sitting by my hospital bed there would be my wife, my sons, my brother, my best friend.
3) Share your prayers.
Send a note, a card, make a comment on Facebook, call, leave a message on voice mail, put your prayer in an email. There were times when I couldn’t focus on a message and there were many times when I didn’t have the energy to reply, but to see or hear a prayer was a balm to my spirit. Don’t expect a response to your messages. I feel like my best prayers are a mirror of God’s unconditional love–they come without strings attached.
4) Be the stand-in for prayer.
When I’m sick I find it hard to pray for myself. I’m too ornery, distracted, worried, tired, foggy, gloomy. It makes me especially grateful to know others are praying for me. I can coast on their love and compassion, knowing that when I’m better, I’ll be able to pray for them.
5) Pray with trust.
I think we all get that helpless feeling when a loved one suffers from cancer or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or a heart attack or a stroke. I’ve said, “I’ll be praying” to a loved one with the fear that it sounds weak and helpless. But powerlessness is part of the power of prayer. You’re putting your trust in the highest power of all.
6) Give thanks.
I just heard from a friend whose father had to be released from hospice because he got too healthy. Or there’s another friend who wasn’t given a year–that was five years ago. And a friend who just got back her blood tests–she’s cancer-free. Hallelujah. I give thanks.