A little over a month ago Christy’s mom had a massive stroke. She was in the hospital for a few days and is now in our home on hospice care. As I watch my wife and our daughters care for her mother, and as I try to help as I can, I find myself praying often. It is certainly not the first time I have prayed for a dying person. There have been many similar situations in our family and that has been multiplied many times over in the families I have ministered to during my lifetime of ministry. In this brief column I am reflecting on those prayers and answering a question I have been asked in the past: “How do you pray when someone is dying?”
First and foremost, I pray that the dying person knows Christ as their savior. They are on the brink of eternity and that will either be with the Lord or in torment apart from him. The account of the thief on the cross reminds us that it is never too late to trust Christ so I pray that the dying persons trusts in him alone and rests in the assurance of his grace. I also pray for the believers who have contact with the dying person that they would not be afraid to talk about eternity.
I pray for healing. That healing can happen in this world (which delays the dying for a later time) but it will happen in its fullest when one is in heaven with the Lord. As we see someone in pain or frustrated with the inability to move well or to communicate it is appropriate to ask God to relieve that suffering and bring healing to their body. Heaven is far better than our best day here, let alone those hard days of pain.
I pray that God’s purposes will be fulfilled in and through the dying person’s life. It was John Wesley who said; “Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done … I go to be with Jesus.” There are almost identical statements made by George Whitfield and Henry Martyn. I truly believe that if a person is still in this world there is something that God is still doing. He is still molding and shaping his child into the image of his son, but often he is using the dying person’s struggles to accomplish his will in the lives of their family, friends, and caretakers. I desire that God make good use of our pain to accomplish his perfect plan.
With that in mind, I pray for those who come in contact with the dying person. May they have the grace they need to cope with someone who may be difficult. May they be aware of their own mortality and look to Christ. May their hearts be soft and compassionate when the tendency may be to distance themselves emotionally. Those prayers include the nurses, aids, workers in the nursing home or hospital if that is where as person is, as well as family and friends.
I pray that the dying person would rest in the reality that God can care for those they leave behind. That is particularly hard for someone like the mom in her 40’s who was leaving her children behind who I prayed with often many years ago. But it can also be hard for someone old who has just always tried to be there for their spouse, their family, and their friends. I pray that the anticipation of heaven would overcome the sorrow of leaving.
Every one of us will have those we love die. I trust that those experiences cause you to turn often to the Lord. He loves us; He is wise; and He will do what is best for us and those we love as we ask Him to work.