He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them... Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage. It is I. Don't be afraid."
~ Mark 6:48, 50b
Each day I spend time with patients and their families leading and offering prayer. I never quite know what I am going to be asked to pray for. Sometimes for God to provide a miracle. Others, that God would allow for a peaceful passing. No matter what the prayer, our prayers matter.
I will never forget my first on call weekend at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky twenty three years ago. It was a full moon, and the beginning of the month. For persons who work in the healthcare field, the full moon has significance, and the beginning of the month is when many people on fixed incomes get paid, and so, money is spent on a number of things, not necessarily food. You can almost always count on the ER being busier than usual.
The first six cases that came in by ambulance that night all died within hours after arriving. I was literally going from one death to the next, and comforting families and praying for God's peace. I will never forget the seventh patient that came in. He experienced a heart attack while on the roof helping his son fix their home. The EMT's had shocked the man twice on the roof, and then multiple times in the yard just after they got him down to the ground. The man was extremely critical when he arrived, and the ER doctor asked me to stay close because they didn't believe the man would survive. I just remember going from checking on the family back to into the ER to watch as the team worked to save him.
After about two hours, the patient stabilized. As the doctor came out, he looked at me and jokingly said, "It's about time your prayer for our patients started working."
I looked at him and smiled, saying, "I quit praying for the patients, and started praying for you. I guess that made all the difference."
He just smiled, "I guess so."
Our prayers matter. I will always be grateful that God discerns each prayer for us. Just like healing, God's response to prayer takes many forms. The Garth Brook's song, "Unanswered Prayers," reminds us, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care. Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
Sometimes God seems to be silent, but God is still listening. Prayer is giving words to our hopes, our dreams, and what we would like to see in this world. It is also how we spend intentional time with God. For me, prayer reminds me that there is light in the darkness. That there is healing in woundedness. That prayer allows me to open my eyes and ears to what God wants for me. That prayer works as a guide when I seem to have lost my way. That prayer allows me to see what is really real before me, and to have the courage to face each moment. Prayer is about change.
We pray that "Thy will be done."
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.