So what should actually do when you visit someone in the hospital? What actions will encourage and comfort the person you are visiting?
Here are three steps. They each start with “P” to help you remember.
1. Presence. Just being there is a tremendous encouragement. Years later, the person will not remember the conversation you had. But she will remember that you were there.
Being present often means that you listen. I do the least amount of talking when I visit someone in the hospital. Often the patients are so pleased to have a visitor that they talk my ear off about their grandkids, their years of involvement at the church, and their healing progress.
2. Passage. Read a passage from the Bible when you visit someone in the hospital. If you want to belabor our “P” alliteration, you might even read from the Psalms.
But don’t stress over picking just the right passage to match their disposition or needs. If one comes to mind, that is great. Odds are that if you read psalm, there will be something in there that will resonate with the person you are reading to.
3. Prayer. Finish with a prayer for your congregant’s physical needs and spiritual needs. I ask for requests before I pray, and often get more requests for worried spouses and prodigal grandkids than for the patients themselves.
Each of these steps is intentionally God-centered.
By simply being present, you admit that you can’t manufacture spiritual encouragement. You are faithful to visit, and trust that the Spirit will work through you.
By reading the passage, you recognize that your words are not the most encouraging words the person will hear. God’s word is the balm that sooths a hurting soul.
Through prayer, you demonstrate that we don’t trust ultimately in doctors or nurses, but in God.