When we visit a patient in a hospital or a shut-in at home, how do we draw prayer and music into the experience? Note I did not ask “Should we?” Music and, especially prayer, are important ways to minister to the suffering. (Click here for the first in this series on visiting the sick.)
Prayer during a hospital or shut-in visit
Christians want to pray about visits to those who suffer because we want to minister in the Lord’s strength and not our own, to the Lord’s credit and not our own. In addition to daily prayers for the patient, pray shortly before your visit. That might mean before you leave home, in the car on the way, or before you exit the car to walk into the facility. I’m sure that all three would be fine, too. Ask the Lord for wisdom to assess the situation so that you are sensitive to the need of the moment, that the Lord would guide the conversation and your own words, that He would use you to encourage this person.
During the visit, ask the person for prayer requests or be alert to identify needs or troubles on her mind. Keep these in mind or even write them so as to remember to pray about them. If you include them during your prayer with the patient it communicates that you listened and that you care.
Ask permission to pray. Besides demonstrating respect it prepares the other person for a time of prayer.
Don’t use the prayer to preach or it won’t really be a prayer.
Pray specifically. Instead of “God, undertake for Fred” make it, “Lord, You care about Fred and control all things. Please encourage Fred to stronger hope in You by bringing Scriptures to his mind, by moving people to say what will encourage him, and by providing grace by Your Holy Spirit.”
Pray realistically. Rather than, “Lord, heal Janet,” make it, “Lord, although we ask for immediate healing, we know that You have a purpose for Janet’s present state. Please give wisdom to everyone involved, make the treatment effective, and while he waits for healing remind her over and over of how much You love her.”
Keep it short. The patient may be tired. Even if he isn’t, an interminable prayer by one person demands extra effort from others to listen.
What do I pray?
You can pray the gospel. Admit our human frailty and God’s holiness and goodness. Confess our sinfulness. Thank God for His compassion and mercy, for Jesus who took our penalty and then rose from the dead so we could have His righteousness.
You can praise God for His character. Sovereign, He is in control even in our afflictions. Omniscient, He knows all that we suffer, knows more than the doctors do. Omnipotent, He can provide what we need and nothing can harm us without His permission. Omnipresent, He never abandons us. Faithful, He keeps all of His promises. Loving, He cares for us with compassion. Trust in Him is well-placed.
You can thank God for His promises. His promises are priceless jewels, valuable for comforting those who suffer. He promises that nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:39)! God promises strength and protection. He often describes Himself as a refuge, a place of safety and strength in difficulties (Ps 46:1; 59:16). He promises to supply all that we need to live godly amidst our trials. And God is not a minimalist. He supplies not just the minimum required for spiritual subsistence, but “according to His riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19).
Music during a visit
Music is a wonderful gift from the Lord. It lifts the spirit. It comforts. It expresses thoughts and emotions for which we don’t always have words. It leads us into thanksgiving and praise even in the times when we don’t feel like praying.
Choose a song or hymn full of solid doctrine. The use of music in a visit is not just for fun; it should minister to the mind as well as the emotions, to renew and build faith.
Choose a song or hymn that the person is likely to know. Many people enjoy singing along. Even if he can’t sing he may be cheered by listening.
Can’t carry a tune? Carry some music on your electronic device specially selected for your visits. Ideas include: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Alone Yet Not Alone” sung by Joni Erickson Tada.
Be considerate of roommates.
Sources: See end of this post.