Susan Hill

Praying for patients

Praying for patients
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I once wrote in the Spectator about my near-death from a wasp sting. What I didn’t mention was that as the ambulance raced up to A and E the paramedic told me he had said a prayer for me on the way.

I was in no fit state to object, I needed all the help I could get and in any case, I was a Christian.

I still am and if I was in the same situation I would be just as grateful. If he were a Moslim,  Jew or Hindu I would be equally happy.

So why do I feel uncomfortable about Nurse Caroline Petrie offering to pray for patients?

Oddly, it feels less of an intrusion to be told  ‘I`ve said a prayer for you’ than to be asked.  It’s a done deal and where’s the harm ? It’s also less of an embarrassment.  Many medics routinely pray for their patients and say nothing about it.

But Nurse Petrie did something rather different.  She asked if she could pray and handed out a prayer card for the patients to use. Evangelical Christians, among others, believe their faith is the only way to salvation. The prayer card required the patient to subscribe to this particular view of Christianity by confessing that they were sinners, thanking Jesus for dying to save them, and asking Him to come into their life. I would have been offended by such a card. Proselytising is not the same as offering intercessionary prayer. Trying to convert a patient to one’s own brand of Christianity  - or indeed any other faith – is not simply praying for their recovery or peace of mind.

Suspension from duty was harsh punishment for a well-intentioned, if mis-guided action, but a reprimand was in order.

I hope Nurse Petrie will continue to pray for her patients. But that is all she should do.