Sunday, October 5, 2008

Caregiving with Prayer

Yesterday was the 2nd monthly Saturday of chaplaincy training with the Zen Center for Contemplative Care. A lot of the day was spent discussing the power of prayer and its place in chaplaincy work. The three teachers (Koshin, Chodo and Trudi Jinpu) had us talk about our concepts of God, since most in the group don't necessarily believe in the Christian version of God, and many are atheists.

The day helped me realize that we have to put the patient's needs and belief system before our own and not get into some self-indulgent philosophizing about our own sense of God or the lack thereof. I have no problem reciting the Lord's Prayer or a Hail Mary if that is what someone can best relate to (12 years of Catholic School has left those prayers permanently imprinted in my head).

A few of my classmates expressed some concern about how to devise a prayer (especially one that reflects a person's anger) and this is how I see it: just imagine a situation where friend A needs to express something to friend B but A has elected you to be the messenger.

Just being with the patient and either addressing the "Lord" if that's appropriate for them, or making a general intention or statement of understanding about their pain can offer a lot of relief. (May you be free from pain and the root of pain...May you be free from suffering and the root of suffering...May you be happy...")

Ending the prayer with some sort of reasonable request (again, just let the patient be your guide) should do the trick. It doesn't have to be poetic or rhymey, just authentic. Everyday language will do just fine.

If you listen enough you can tell what is foremost on someone's mind and what aspect of their life could use a little healing. It's the job of a Chaplain to put that into words and offer some degree of hope to the patient.