When I began my role as a family nurse practitioner, my husband and I prayed over each exam room in my clinic. We asked God to illuminate what I needed to see and hear during future appointments.
One day, I had an FNP student with me and we were behind schedule. Feeling stressed and rushed as we arrived at our next door, I silently prayed for God's help. Inside sat a young mother who greeted us warmly. Her chief complaint was depression.
As the appointment progressed, our patient said she had promised her best friend to be honest about her level of depression. When she handed me her phone with permission to read her texts, I saw words that painted a stark contrast to the smiling woman before me.
How would Jesus engage people? I wondered. Often with questions! So I rolled my stool closer, pointed to an explicit word in a text message and asked, “Why did you call yourself this name?” She stared at me, then her face contorted and and she began to sob.
“I had an abortion as a teenager. My mother and boyfriend wanted me to do it. I knew it was wrong. I’m a terrible person. My husband doesn't know; he’s a good man and he hates abortion.”
She expressed a desire to become close to God, but couldn't believe he would forgive her. I gently took her hand as we talked about Christ's love and forgiveness for all our sins—even those for which we’re most ashamed.
We advised her to consider telling her husband the truth. I prescribed medication, counseling, anonymous post-abortion support, and involvement in Christian community. When my student and I closed the door behind us, neither of us was surprised that our next two scheduled patients were “no shows.” We were back on time, humbled by how God had used us in that exam room.
During follow-up appointments, our patient said she’d told her husband the truth. He finally understood the source of her deepest sorrow and loved her unconditionally. She also had experienced healing in her faith and was mothering her three children well. In our final appointment, she disclosed that she had planned to end her life that first day we met.
As nurses, we have unique opportunities to meet people where they are, often at the most difficult times of their lives. How could you bring more spiritual depth to your practice by integrating prayer before patient encounters? Maybe it’s about being open to the Holy Spirit guiding your day so you can more fully reflect God's love and service in your daily health ministry.
This article is excerpted from “Prayer Before Knocking” by Jayne Jennings Dunlap, DNP, APRN FNP-C, in the April/June 2020 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
Want to know more? Access the Journal online.