Praying Publicly, Part 2

By: Alan Harvey

Posted: July 7, 2014

Category: Daily Devotional

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7 (NRSV)

As a pastor, if I have ever visited you in the hospital you may have heard me use certain petitions again and again. These are not empty phrases to me! I also do not include them to meet a certain word count in my prayers! They are very meaningful petitions that I offer and you might like to know what some of these are and why I use them.

One phrase is that I pray that “the patient may experience God’s presence with him or her, closer than the air that he or she breathes, and the blood that flows through his or her veins.” I wish that petition was original with me, but I read or heard it years ago and it spoke to me. In a hospital when one is surrounded by so much equipment and when one encounters many strange and uncomfortable procedures and tests, I felt that the patient especially needed to be reminded of God’s presence with him or her. It is also clear that one cannot get much closer than the description in that illustration!

I also pray for the doctors, nurses, technicians and others that they “may show the love and compassion of Christ as they minister to the patient.” If the medical and hospital staff does this, then they will be demonstrating the Golden Rule. They will treat the patients as they would like to be treated. They will also endeavor to put themselves in the “gripper socks” of the patients. In that foreign and often frightening environment, I know that the ministrations of these people can make this experience for the patients much easier to bear.

Another petition I regularly offer is that the patient “may know that he or she is upheld in the thoughts and prayers of his or her church family.” Whenever I visit the hospitals, I am going as one of the individual’s pastors, but I also go representing the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven. I want the patients to know that their church family loves and cares for them and that they will be remembered in our thoughts and prayers. If you have been hospitalized, you most likely have heard me voice those petitions and they are part and parcel of my prayers for those in that situation. Familiar phrases, yes, but not empty! Lengthening the prayer, yes, but not just to be doing so!


Gracious God, the words of the Lord’s Prayer are familiar, but they can still be prayed, whether said or sung, as rightly they should be. Grant that all of our prayers never include empty phrases or become excessively wordy, lacking sincerity. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.