The human link hidden in a prayer

Ever wondered what happens when you fill out a hospital prayer request card? The answer is more powerful than you think.

If you pray, you know you are not alone. Yes, your prayer is received by a higher power, but sometimes it goes even further than that.

The Rev. Adam Ruiz sees evidence of this every day in his role as staff chaplain for Norton Healthcare. Read his thoughts on how a simple prayer request can bring healing to more than the person being prayed for:

It happens every day throughout our hospital system without fail. Patients, families, visitors, volunteers and employees write prayer requests on cards and leave them in our chapels.

And every day without fail, our chaplains will pray over the requests that have been left on the altars. Some of the prayer requests are heart-wrenching; some are expressions of gratitude. But in every case, a person is either asking for a blessing or giving thanks for a blessing received.

I often read the prayer requests in the late afternoon, when I’m alone. I try to feel, at least a little, what the person was feeling when they wrote the prayer.

The prayer requests always remind me of the time when I had a brain tumor and would write prayer requests as well. Because of my experience, I can appreciate the great hope that drives people to fill out a prayer card. And while their suffering may be immense, the desire for God’s blessing is greater still.

Prayer cards, I find, link us together. Strangers though we may be, still we reach out to others in the hope that someone will find our card and join us in the great prayer we are praying — whether for ourselves or for others.

And though they will never know it, the prayers written have the power to move the hearts and spirits of those who happen to read them. The prayer of a loving daughter for a dying father can touch the heart of a son who once prayed for a father who died. The prayer of a mother whose baby has just died can touch the heart of a visitor whose own son is dying. And so on.

The famous monk Thomas Merton once told a story about blessing. One day, sitting on his porch of his hermitage, he saw a deer who was badly limping. Feeling helpless to do anything, Merton began to cry uncontrollably. As he cried, he noticed the deer stop and look at him. For a minute they looked at each other. Without warning, the deer took a step toward Merton and then easily and quickly ran back into the woods — his limp apparently healed. Merton was astonished by what had happened.

Reflecting on this experience later, Merton concluded that expressions of compassion for all living things have the capacity to bless, comfort and heal — even for a deer whose leg is injured, and even if the only expression of blessing is tears.

If you find yourself in one of our hospitals, I invite you to go the chapel and pray over the prayer cards that have been left there by an anxious husband or a worried mother or a grateful patient.

If you are not near a hospital chapel, imagine the concerns of those who are being cared for just steps away from you. Join them in their desire to be blessed or in their gratitude for receiving a blessing. In doing so, you will be a blessing and receive a blessing in turn.

Professional chaplains are available to assist patients, their families and guests seeking spiritual, ethical and religious support. Chaplains also can provide prayer and guided meditation to help patients and guests cope with stress or anxiety. Chapels are available in all Norton Healthcare hospitals.

– Adam Ruiz, D.Min.
Chaplain, Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital

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