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.”
They 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, 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?
This is from a year or so ago. As I am sharing it again, I aware that there are very many people who are very anxious and angry and despairing today, as we read of war and earthquakes and viruses, and as we can say the names of people recently troubled and in trouble.
As I fall asleep on Sunday night, I will be saying those names to God. As I go to work on Monday morning, I will be aware of more of those names.
And I will be aching a little.
And I know that there are very many people who will be starting things today: school, life with the baby, life after the babies moved out, cancer remission.
I will remember some of these people as I ask God to “shield the joyous.”