Our guest blogger this week is Tyler Jones. Tyler lives with his wife Autumn and 2 daughters, Summer and Sutton, in the Oklahoma City area. He is a member of the Edmond congregation where he is stretching his Elders legs as a new Co-Pastor. He is a doctor trained in internal medicine and works as a hospitalist (he only sees patients in the hospital setting). His time is packed full of kids activities, but any free time he gets he enjoys going to movies and binge watching TV shows.
So, there I was, sitting in the intensive care unit as I do every morning when I work. I was talking to a patient who we’ll call John. John, who was well into his 70s, had been in the hospital, more specifically, the ICU for over 3 weeks battling a disease that was causing his kidneys to shut down. He and his wife, who was always by his bedside, were listening to me talk about trying to change our approach to fight this sickness that was destroying him. He had struggled on and off of the ventilator for weeks and had been undergoing daily dialysis treatments for his kidneys.
John was tired, but not only that, he wasn’t getting better. I could see how tired he was. As I finished my explanation of what we wanted to do next to try to help him, I stopped. I moved closer to him so I could be sure I would be able to hear him as he was very weak. “Do you still want to fight this”, I asked. “Do you want us to continue to keep trying new things, or are you wanting us to stop?” I leaned in close as he told me how tired he was. He didn’t want to keep going. He was ready to die.
Working in healthcare, and especially in the hospital, means that I am tasked with caring for people in some of their most vulnerable moments. It’s often said about those in healthcare, that we see people on the worst days of their lives. Death is just a part of my job. Not an intended one, of course, but one that is unfortunately unavoidable.
As humans, we seem to reach out in prayer more often when times are hard. I know I pray far more often when I’m struggling than when times are good. Prayer is especially strong in hospitals. We have employed chaplains whose sole job is to help provide counseling and spiritual assistance to people who are suffering. Sometimes, as the ones taking care of the patients, those directly involved in the decisions about people’s lives, it is easier to just let the chaplain and pastors take care of the spiritual needs of the patients. I know it saves time. It is hard to pray with patients. It’s hard to pray with people in general sometimes, especially strangers.
I often feel this internal conflict when it comes to praying with patients. On one hand, do they want me to pray with them? Believe it or not, some patients aren’t very fond of me, or their doctors in general. Doctors are the ones who give bad news. We are the vehicle of sorrow and despair. I often wonder if I’m the best person to be praying with people after giving them terrible news. This may not be a legitimate concern, but I wonder none the less.
On the other hand, if not me, then who? I am often placed in unique positions of vulnerability with patients and families. When I pray with people, for people, there is a shared moment of connection through God and the Holy Spirit. It becomes deeper than just a patient doctor relationship. How can I pass up the opportunity to share in that connectedness with someone who is longing for peace and comfort?
When praying for the sick most pray for healing. Sometimes this can be difficult. Do I pray for healing in patients who I know are never getting better? I’ve heard prayers where preachers exuberantly command the sickness to leave the body. They cast out cancers and disease with confidence and fiery passion. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that miracles can happen. There are times when I can’t explain why or how certain things happen, but I also know that those times are limited. People want miracles, but sometimes I know all too well what the future holds for people. I’ve seen it too many times before.
So what do I pray for when I pray with patients? Peace. Comfort. The presence of the Holy Spirit to rest with them and their families and loved ones. Instead of casting out sickness, I ask that worry and regret are forgotten. I pray that the love that God has for them will burn in their hearts and that they know that they have a God that cares for them deeply. I ask that whatever the outcome, whether it be good or bad, that they know that they are not alone. They will always have the love of their family, friends, and the peace of Jesus.
People fear the unknown, and there is no greater unknown than death. As I sat in the ICU with John and his wife, I took their hands and asked if they would like me to pray with them. As I did then and have done since, I became vulnerable with them. I opened my heart to them and they to me. We shared in a moment of connectedness and devotion that I will never forget. I never saw either of them after that prayer, but I know that the peace of the Holy Spirit was with both of them as it is with all of us if we allow ourselves to be open to it.
A big thank you to Tyler for sharing with us his unique perspective and powerful ministry. Please post any comments you have about the article as we would love to hear them!
This week take a risk by opening yourself to the moments you are placed in. Connect with those around you and be vulnerable to divine grace.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.