Tips on Praying with Patients

In their observational research study, Iris Mamier, Carla Gober Park, and Elizabeth Johnston Taylor documented how often and in what ways nurses approached prayer with patients. They discerned a common structure of a nurse’s prayer practice and which nurses seemed most confident about praying. The revealing and useful results of this study are shared in the authors’ article, “How Christian Nurses Respond to Patient Requests for Prayer” in the current issue of JCN.

Included in the article are these tips for offering to pray with a patient.

  • Be self-aware of what’s prompting your desire to offer prayer. Remember the goal of therapeutic caring is to offer what’s best for the patient. Also, remember that health-related crises can prompt a dark night of the soul when prayer may stir up anger—or bring peace.
  • Assess if the patient wants prayer with you. Ask: “Would a prayer be helpful?” which could be less forced than “Would you like me to pray for you?”
  • If the patient says yes, assess for what and how he/she would like prayer. For example, “Is there something you'd especially like me to pray about?” and “Do you have a way you prefer to pray?”
  • Pray according to patient preferences. Their preferences likely reflect not only their religious tradition, but also personality (i.e., an introvert may prefer to share silent prayer from and/or with you).
  • Be mindful that prayer is not magic; rather, it is an encounter with the holy God. It is an occasion to orient ourselves towards God's will.
  • Prayer may launch a spiritually intimate conversation. Prevent yourself from running away if possible. Avoid using prayer to end an uncomfortable encounter; be prepared to offer referral to a spiritual care expert when appropriate.

The Journal of Christian Nursing publishes spiritual care research and practice articles regularly. Read every issue—print and online—as a NCF member. Also access topical article collections such as FAQs in Spiritual Care and Exploring Spirituality on the JCN website.

Check out the NCF’s website for many more resources for spiritual care--for patients and for ourselves as nurses. Discover events such as webinars and TableTop Discussions to strengthen your professional skills, and a weekly virtual prayer gathering with other nurses.


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