Pledge to create healing circle of prayer

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I’m a hospital chaplain and the column I write often recounts the inspiring stories of the patients I encounter.

But today, I want to tell you about a patient I’ve never met and probably will never meet. The reason I’ll never meet him is because he’s likely died.

Several months back, I heard this patient’s name on our voice mail. The voice mail was a fairly routine request for a prayer before his surgery.

The problem was when I went to the surgical waiting area to pray with him, he wasn’t there. The surgical staff didn’t know who I was talking about. So, I went back to the surgery scheduler who had left the voicemail.

“Hey, Ken, you got me running around in circles looking for this patient. Where is he?”

“Oh, sorry, chaplain. I forgot to call you and tell you that his surgery was canceled. He’s got pancreatitis — infection of the pancreas.”

“Can’t that be fixed?” I asked.

“Nope. The pancreatitis was only a symptom of the real problem. He’s got cancer, and it looks like it’s moved to the pancreas. He’s done. The docs told him to stay home and just be comfortable with his family.”

“So there’s no hope?” I asked.

“Nope; and the guy’s only 30. I did see one guy recover once. That was a genuine miracle.”

Then Ken added, “I guess you can always pray for a miracle.”

So I left Ken in his office and found a quiet place in the hall and prayed.

My prayer called to mind the words of a song written by Ty Lacy and Steve Siler called “Not Too Far From Here:” Somebody’s down to their last dime, Somebody’s running out of time, Not too far from here Somebody’s got nowhere else to go Somebody needs a little hope Not too far from here And I may not know their name But I’m praying just the same That you’ll use me Lord to wipe away a tear ‘Cause somebody’s crying Not too far from here

And as I prayed for him, I realized this situation was like a lot of situations when we’re asked to pray for the obscure, like someone’s Aunt Sally in Timbuktu.

These are the prayers we tend to slough off because it’s hard for us to focus our prayers on what we see, and rarely on what we don’t see or know. These prayers can be awkward for us unless we know the object of our prayer or unless we’re able to see the closing act of what God has in mind.

The truth is we’ll not always have a front row seat to God’s plans, but that shouldn’t keep us from praying or from being empathetic.

Over the years of working in the hospital, I’ve known an awareness of the collective prayers of people of faith. It’s a healing presence around those who know God. And I suspect if you look back in your own life, you may well have been on the receiving end of such powerful and unseen prayers.

So, on this day, my prayer is even though you may not know all the patients I know, nor do I know every single need that you know, that we pledge together to form the healing circle of prayer that so urgently needs to surround the planet we call home.