Praying with patients (and others)


I have often been asked how I prayed with my patients before their operations.

I must admit it was not always easy, but it got easier the more I practiced it, and obviously one prays and asks the Holy Spirit to lead. Here are a few things that I did, which can be applied to other settings, not just the hospital:

Firstly, I tried to establish some kind of rapport.

·         I asked them about themselves, their family, how they were feeling about the operation etc.

Secondly, I looked for clues as to where they were spiritually.

·         What kind of book did they have next to their bed?

·         What sort of things did they talk about?

Thirdly, I tried to identify myself in some way as a believer.

·         I wore a lapel badge with a fish or a dove.

·         I mentioned church or prayer in the conversation.

If I got positive feedback from these clues, it made it easier, but even if I didn’t, I was asking God, as I was speaking whether I should pray or not. For the most part, my attitude was that I would try to pray unless I received a “No”. Sometimes it took a bit of courage and sometimes it was easy. And I didn’t always get it right. I backed off, sometimes, out of cowardice, (usually when my relationship with the Lord was rocky) and discovered later that they had heard that I prayed with my patients and were looking forward to that.

I finished with the medical side of things first. Then I would just witness, with something like, “I just want to say that I am a committed Christian and I have seen how faithful God is to respond to us when we put ourselves in His hands. If you’d like me to, I’d love to say a prayer with you before your operation.”

The ‘macho’ men were the hardest, because I never knew what they were thinking. I remember one particularly gruff monosyllabic man who hardly responded to any of my attempts to establish a relationship. Still, I offered to pray, and he gave a grunt of acceptance. Yet when I went to see him after his operation, he greeted me enthusiastically and said, “You’ve no idea what that prayer did for me. I felt such a calm assurance that God was in control.”

It is easier in South Africa than in other countries. In the UK a nurse was suspended for offering to pray with an elderly patient. When I was doing locums in England,  I still wore a subtle (hopefully, to those not in the know) sign that identified me as a Christian — a dove or a fish lapel badge. In the course of conversation with my patient I  tried to identify myself without trying to seem to pressure them with a response. I’d say something about going to church or praying, and just see if they did respond. Some of the patients then identified themselves as Christians and it was easy to offer to pray with them.

On a couple of occasions, though, I just followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was easier for me, however, because if they had kicked me out, I would just have come home prematurely to my job here in South Africa! (It never happened, and I had some VERY  appreciative patients.)

As we come nearer to the end times, no doubt the kind of persecution that is starting in the UK and America will increase. Nevertheless, we need to persist in our witness for Jesus. One of the most powerful ways we can do this is by praying with people and opening the door for God to respond to our prayers.


2 thoughts on “Praying with patients (and others)

  1. Wow…important stuff Dave and so true – we do need to persist in our witness of Jesus, particularly where God places us. Thanks for a great blog

    • Thanks, Gill. I find I am having to re-orientate myself now that I am no longer in the hospital. Still need to bloom for Jesus, even though I’m planted in a different environment.

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