Why it’s spelled foreword. And afterword. And more.

At the beginning of a book is a foreword.

It’s not a “forward”, as in moving ahead. It’s a word at the fore, at the front. And the afterword is a word after the rest of what you have read.

For “God. We Need You.” A Year of Prayer in a Hospital Chapel, I wanted before words and after words from a couple of people from more liturgical backgrounds than mine. So I asked two of my friends to consider writing for us.

Brian Spahr is a Lutheran pastor, Father James is a Catholic priest. As pastors and chaplains, both have sat often with people in the moments when all we can do is pray. And praying doesn’t seem to do the one thing we want: to bring back life. People who have faced those hard moments are good people to be in a book of hospital prayers.

Brian writes out of one of the most excruciating moments chaplains face with others: a nearly full-term stillbirth. And that in the middle of personal loss.

Father James writes out of the soul-draining experience of a priest and nurse working to save a life, and then sitting with a family when it doesn’t work.

What is striking to me is this: for both of my friends, talking with God brings strength to the one praying. As we offer our lives on behalf of others, as we offer our words on behalf of others, God is often present with us.

Not that it’s ever easy. As Brian writes, “But prayer often remains hard for me. It’s not only when I’m struggling. I’m a pastor and a hospital chaplain, so I pray all the time with, and for, people. I know what to say and what not to say. And yet, most people never notice when they listen to me that I don’t always have confidence in doing so. I often struggle to find language that matches the prayers of my heart. I get too stuck in my head.

Which is why I’m grateful for the prayer Father James leaves us with at the end of the book: “So often we do not know what to do for others in their trials. To be present with others in times of need is to be your presence. Help us never forget that the smallest gesture offered in love can bring hope to someone’s life.

Thanks to the Pressbooks online version of “God. We Need You.”, you can read Brian’s Foreword and Father James’ Afterword.

But I’d love for you to consider buying the book for yourself. Or someone else.

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