As a pastor I’m very accustomed to both visiting people in the hospital and praying with all kinds of different people in many different moments of life. The other day I was visiting someone from church in the hospital who has trouble hearing everything but loves to chat. We both did our best and at the end of our visit I held her hand, bent down closer to her good ear, closed my eyes and began to pray. I was coming to the conclusion of my prayer saying something like… “Gracious God, touch this one with…..”
In the middle of my sentence this lovely woman spoke over me and as quick as a cat pouncing, said, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I’ve been around for a while and I knew this prayer was over, and so I immediately also said, “Amen.” I opened my eyes and she was looking right back at me with a smile and a gracious thank you for the prayer.….
I didn’t say anything to her. Walking out to the elevator I was laughing to myself. Waiting there, I had some time, and I began to wonder if she had heard a single word I had prayed. (It was a pretty good prayer as I remember it.) And then I thought you know, it really didn’t matter that she heard a word. What mattered is that she felt my hand and that we closed our eyes together. I think her saying “ In Jesus’ name, Amen,” prematurely was less about wanting the prayer to be over and more of a desire to let me know she was in that moment with me.
This morning I’ve been thinking about how is it that I am so predictable in my prayers that a lady who is hard of hearing and lying sick in a hospital bed can still guess when I’m about to say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” This led me to think about why I say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” in the first place.
I don’t think there is anything enchanted about this phrase: As if God would not listen to our prayers unless we first clarified who it is or how it is we have come to pray to God in the first place. Neither do I think that we need to say it in order to prove ourselves to the one who is doing the listening part of the prayer. At least for me, I end my prayers, “In Jesus’ name, Amen” because I need to recognize what happens to me when prayer is genuine, authentic… real. And what happens is that, well… Jesus shows up.
I experience this often in these intimate settings where life and death seem to hang in the balance. When the veil between God’s kind of time and our moment of time is very thin. When these moments occur and we utter this phrase, it is less a habit that we unconsciously tack on at the end of a few sentences and more an exclamation, almost of wonder. In that sacred intention, in the holding of hands and the closing of eyes, or however it is that we create the space between people praying, Jesus does show up. And although we cannot be as sure of the outcome of our petitions, we can trust the same presence we experienced together in whatever happens next.
Keep the Faith,