This summer, I spent my days interning as a hospital chaplain through the Clinical Pastoral Education program. Throughout the summer, I encountered requests for “prayers for miraculous healing”–requests that made me a little nervous and a lot humble.
Prayers for healing can be high-stake issues, both theologically and pastorally. If a prayer for healing is offered and answered, the patient or family may feel very blessed for “answered prayer.” The flip side of that coin, however, implies that those whose prayers are not answered are not blessed, or at least not to the same degree; if one patient lives and another dies, is prayer the deciding difference?
The Psalms provide us with examples of the extremes of raw human emotions expressed to God through prayer; in times of extreme anger, sorrow, joy, and thanksgiving, the psalmists turned to God in prayers. Job prayed to God in his most desperate moments, daring to express the basic human question, “Why?” The gospels give accounts of Jesus turning to God in prayer, too, for prayers of healing, solace, or anguish. Without doubt, we are called to talk to God in prayer as a part of a life of faith.
We often hear about the “power of prayer,” and I do believe that prayer is powerful. Prayer provides us with a sense of connection to God. Like the repeated liturgy in the Psalms, common prayers provide us with a sense of connection to one another, a ritual action which can be a source of comfort and strength. By expressing our worries and reminding us of the presence of God, prayer can provide spiritual and emotional healing, which often aids physical healing, as well.
Below is my own, brief prayer for healing, a prayer which sprouted, shaped, and grew through the course of the summer. This prayer seeks to acknowledge that, while God’s healing and medical healing may not always coincide, we seek the peace which surpasses all understanding.
“Hear [name]’s prayers for healing, and heal her in the ways that only you can.
Heal her mind, that she may know your peace.
Heal her soul, that she may know your wholeness.
Hold her body in your loving arms, and work through the hands of doctors and nurses to provide the best care possible.
Let their hands be your hands.Let their care be your care, and let our love for one another be love that comes from you.”
May it be so.
Peace be with you. [And also with you.]