Chaplains walk into rooms for lots of different things. Many of them are not exactly spiritual. We offer people help with advance directives, like appointing a health care representative. We are notaries. We show up when people come into the ED for accidents and falls and heart attacks and strokes.

I don’t pray out loud for everyone. But sometimes when I ask if there is something I can do, a person will say, “You can pray for me.” And I say, “would you like me to pray right now?”

And then I say, “What would you like me to ask God for?”

If we think about it, it’s a tough question. Beyond the obvious “to get out of here” kind of answer, people are often more reflective.

  • “That my family will have comfort.”
  • “To understand what God’s glory means.”
  • “To not hurt.”
  • “To be brave.”
  • “To understand.”

Church nightThey are honest answers. I think that God is happy to hear honest answers. He won’t always do what we want because he can only do what is good and pure. And we sometimes don’t ask for that. But He doesn’t scold us and mock us for what we ask for. Because God wants us to know him. To have a friendship with him. To know connection with him in a way that is reflected by the most basic human relationships.

In relationships, you want to help the other person. You want to be able to say yes to the questions they ask, to the things they ask for. But when you are committed to their wellbeing, and you know better than they do, you sometimes have to help them learn what to ask for and explain what doesn’t feel good.

For example, from what I understand, physical therapy almost never feels good. But it is always designed to make you stronger, to return you to the best possible functioning. Short-term inconvenience, long-term strength.

During the next couple days, I’ll suggest some answers to the “what can we ask God for?” question.  The answers, and this post, come from a message I wrote from a story about Solomon and a story from Paul.

But while you are waiting for me, what’s your answer? What are you asking God for?

5 thoughts on “Asking.

  1. Jim Hughes

    I’ve often heard chaplains say that the spiritual care part of the visit really doesn’t get started until you ask how they would like you to pray, and I’ve found that true in my visits. It not only serves as prayer content, but often leads to significant spiritual conversations. Thanks for writing about that.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Hmm. As long as we distinguish between the spiritual part (which starts before we walk in) and the spiritual care. I like this as a rule of thumb. Thanks.


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