I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY!
By SARA CORE
Today, one is rarely admitted to the hospital unless it is for major illness, surgery or injury. Therefore, hospital patients tend to be more ill, possibly in pain, and may be looking at a life change. These factors often lead to some level of fear. The patient may be wondering, “Can I care for myself now?” “How am I going to pay for all this?” “What will my test results say?” “What if I can’t work anymore?”
What is the main reason that people often don’t visit someone in the hospital or nursing home? They don’t know what to say. Generally, we who visit hospitalized patients don’t have the answers for the fears they have. But, the good news is, that’s not what they need us for. From us, they need two things: a comforting presence and prayer. Prayer is powerful and effective (James 5: 16b)! And it’s not just the pastors’ job! Every believer who visits someone should offer to pray.
How many of you are comfortable in offering to pray out loud for someone? For those who aren’t, I have help for you from Matthew 10:19-20. Here’s how to partner with the Holy Spirit in prayer:
- Preparation: Read and familiarize yourself with some scriptures about healing beforehand. Do this now, not waiting for the moment you go to the hospital. These are not for you to quote or read to a patient, necessarily. They are to prepare your mind and heart for the hospital visits. As you study them, ask God to give you what you are needing from them.
Mat. 8:16. James 5:14-15a, 16. 2Tim 1:7. Mark 10:19-20
Psalm 103:1-5,8. Isaiah 53:4-5. Mat. 18:4. (& many others)
2. Pray and worship for a period of time before you go to the hospital. Invite Holy Spirit to accompany you, and to speak through you. The Spirit is very gracious and willing to do so.
Besides this, here are some practical ways to be an appropriate hospital visitor:
1. This may be obvious, but be careful of personal hygiene before you go to the hospital. This also means no strong perfume or cologne.
2. Enter the hospital room quietly and reverently. This is a very intimate space, where the patient often feels pretty vulnerable. Respect that this is almost like walking into their bedroom at home. Just as if you were in their home, don’t sit on the bed or touch any of their things in the room without permission. Try to sit down in a chair to be at their level, if possible.
3. Introduce yourself if you need to, and while you’re doing that, assess the situation. What is the atmosphere in the room? Are the patient and family calm, emotional, jovial, fearful, relaxed or tense?
4. To the patient say:
- How are you feeling?
- Express concern for their situation, if appropriate. (I’m sorry you’re ill. I’m sorry to hear about your fall/accident/surgery.)
- If they begin to tell you about their condition, pending treatment, prognosis, listen attentively, but do not express medical opinions! Do not tell them the gory details of other cases of this problem that you’ve known about!
- But DO be positive that God wants them to be healed and is on their side. (Speak here, if you are asked, that disease/injury is not God’s will for them nor sent to teach them something.)
- If their condition means a long term or uncertain recovery, an appropriate question would be: “How are you with all of this?” This reflects concern for their emotional state, as well as the physical. Listen with one ear, and with the other ear, listen for Holy Spirit to guide you.
5. Ask permission to pray for them. Likewise, ask permission before touching them, taking their hand, etc.
- Prepare a short, standard prayer ahead of time, which you can modify as needed, based on what they have told you.
- Ask if they have prayer concerns you could include.
- Jesus taught the disciples to take authority over disease or situations, and God delegates that to us as well. So don’t ask for healing “ if it’s God’s will.” Of course it’s God’s will!
- Include thanksgiving and praise in your prayer. There’s always something to be thankful for. Ask God for complete restoration and healing.
- Pray with confidence. Remember that our prayers are powerful and effective! I believe that when we pray, heaven moves. There’s no hesitation on God’s part to act on our prayers.
6. Your visit should only last 10 minutes or so, and less than that if the person is quite ill or uncomfortable.
I hope that the next time you hear of a friend, co-worker, or neighbor who is hospitalized, that these simple tips will give you a formula for a pleasant hospital visit. The person and their family will be touched and pleased that you took the time to stop by and see about them.
Sara Core is a member of First Central Presbyterian Church, retired veterinarian, and a spiritual director.