the prayer of a stranger

Upon waking in the recovery room from my recent surgery, I realized that I couldn't breathe. I gasped and gasped, trying to scream to let someone know that I couldn't get enough air. Soon a nurse was at my bedside, placing an oxygen mask over my face, asking me questions about my asthma history that I couldn't answer. Apparently she added a breathing treatment to the flow of oxygen and I was soon able to draw in air without so much struggle.

After about 10 minutes on the oxygen I was relaxed and the nurse was working around me to disconnect the breathing mask. As she stooped by the head of my bed she whispered to me, in such a way that I'm not sure if I was meant to hear it or not.

She said, "I'll be praying for you."


For all of my openness in the blogging sphere, I'm actually a fairly private person in real life. I find it somewhat embarrassing to have strangers take such an interest in my life merely because of my physical disability. Yet at the same time, I'm continually surprised by those like the nurse--or you who read this blog--who are willing to care so much about me.

In the past I've written some posts about the ways I feel pitied and demeaned because of my disability. I still feel that way much of the time--especially when someone's action seems to be more about making themselves feel good than about offering aid. And even as I feel uncertain about the actual power of prayer, I am not ambivalent about the power of human connection. There's something beautiful and courageous, and curiously intimate, about a stranger or an acquaintance offering a prayer on my behalf.

Though I ceased praying in the Mormon fashion quite some time ago, I still spend time each day in silent meditation. Doing so gives me perspective on my life. It helps me to remember what I believe and to put my actions in line with my core values. I can't claim that my prayers or my meditations have improved anyone else's life, even though I think often of others as I sit in silence.

I suspect that I won't ever approach a stranger and tell them that I praying for them. But in my own way I am saying a prayer with each post that I write on this blog--sending my thoughts, hopes, and intentions out into the ether. Hoping that each of you will know that I care even if I no longer have the faith to couch my intentions into the form of a prayer.


Zazzy said...

I'm agnostic and friends have been pretty open about praying for me. Some worry that I'll be offended. I always say that prayers, good thoughts, healing energy, positive vibes and chocolate are all welcome to me. Anything that starts out in the heart with good intent cannot be bad for me.

Jess said...

I moved to Sint Maarten in 1997, and one of the first calls I received was at 7AM from a woman who had called the wrong number. When we figured this out, instead of hanging up, she explained that her son was going through compulsory school exams that day and she was calling to have her friend pray for him. She said she'd be grateful if I would include him in my prayers that day.

I was a bit taken aback to have a stranger ask me to pray for her son, whose name I didn't and would never know. I imagine though that if I had a child I would also pursue every option.

I don't pray, but I tried for her. I am confused about God and unhappy about religions, but I think when you spend energy and attention on something, the object of your energy changes. Perhaps it could help, even at such a remove, I'm not willing to rule it out anyway. So I hoped, as requested.

I found your blog through Dooce, and am very much enjoying it - thank you.

Anonymous said...

I came here from Dooce. I'm a nurse as well and I also say prayers for my patient's. I'm not a Christian anymore, more Buddhist leanings, but it's so nice to know that I'm not the only nurse who does this. I care about my patients. Last week I was hugging a 90 year old man, wondering how long it's been since anyone hugged him. He has no children and his wife has Alzheimers. My patient's always inspire me.

Take care and thank you for sharing.